The great African integration is here with the force of an unstoppable storm and it is blowing from the East to the Southern tip of the continent. Starting in 2020, South African pupils will be able to take Kiswahili classes and the move is a pan-African masterstroke. Be that as it may, some quarters have found fault with the move anyway.
Writing for The Conversation, Peter Mose says some of the questions that have been raised are, "For instance, why does South Africa need another language on top of the local 11 as well as the various foreign languages some schools offer? Has the country done all it can to champion local languages before adding another to the mix? And is there space on an already crowded timetable to successfully carry on this project?"
While these are all good questions, the strategic importance of Kiswahili should never be understated. It is the official language of the East African Community and is a national language in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. It is the continent's best chance at creating what VOA calls "a more native connection between African people".
The language is now a recognized African Union language after Joaquim Chissano delivered the entirety of his remarks in Kiswahili in 2004 to the shock of the dignitaries at the summit. The linguistic revolution was always coming and nothing can stop it now. In 2016, Zimbabwe also announced plans to introduce Kiswahili and other languages in the country's schools.
The future of African continental integration lies in creating common ground. The first step in uniting a continent with too many superficial differences is speaking on the same terms, defined by us and not the colonizers. It is unfortunate that some countries still take pride in being labeled "Anglophone" and "Francophone" decades after independence. It is these foreign classifications that unconsciously impede unity. The new generation of South Africans will be one that can go anywhere in Africa, do business, feel and home and converse on common terms with African brothers and sisters all over the continent.
Header Image: SA People