Transnational Networks and Regional Solidarity: The Case of the Central African Federation, 1953–1963

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Groves, Zoë


African Studies, Volume 72, p.155–175 (2013)



Regional migration has played an important role in the development of African nationalist politics in central and southern Africa. However, scholarship on nationalist movements has tended to focus on events within, rather than beyond territorial borders. This article highlights the significance of transnational networks and regional solidarity for the African national congress movements in the Central African Federation. Many early nationalist leaders and prominent members of the 1950s revived African congresses first became active in politics abroad. These experiences later shaped the nature of their involvement in politics back home, and facilitated the establishment of strong external branches, and closer connections between individual territorial movements. Created against the wishes of the African majority, the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland was viewed as an opportunity to extend white settler domination north of the Zambezi. Yet, anti-federation sentiment also served to unite African political interests, bringing about a moment of Pan-African or regional consciousness, which reached its peak around the time of the All Africa People's Conference in Accra in 1958. As the congress movements strove harder to link up their struggles for their mutual benefit, the federal and territorial governments resolved to crush their efforts. This in part accounts for the declaration of the 1959 state of emergency in Southern Rhodesia.

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