We still have a lot of work to do back home

The death of hundreds of Africans on rickety boats trying to cross to Europe is another pointer that indeed the more things change the more they remain the same.  It is a shame that while our forefathers died in the high seas years ago as they were being taken as slaves, today Africans are dying in the same way only this time they are getting on the boats themselves. 

The death of hundreds of Africans on rickety boats trying to cross to Europe is another pointer that indeed the more things change the more they remain the same. 

It is a shame that while our forefathers died in the high seas years ago as they were being taken as slaves, today Africans are dying in the same way only this time they are getting on the boats themselves. 

The tragedy of Lampedusa and Sicily begs the question of what is it really that compels Africans to do all they can to leave their motherland in preference for a life in the cold parts of the world. 

And let us not be blinded by the CNN/Al Jazeera images of those risking their lives on boats. Many other Africans each year will go an extra mile to find a visa to leave Africa. Many use the various sports trips to go and vanish into a new life. Others leave for studies but never return.

Huge conferences are another window for many to invest in leaving the continent. For the asylum seekers, the options are quite many. Journalists will claim to be persecuted, some women will mention female genital mutilation while some from countries like my own (Uganda) will play the newest valuable card of ‘I am gay and my life is in danger.’

Even those coming from fairly better backgrounds will be found in visa queues trying to leave the ‘dark continent.’ All of the above categories then appear in our faces, on Facebook in pictures where the background is snow, the underground trains station, a famous city monument and of course the picture just outside Manchester United, FC Barcelona or Arsenal stadium. 

Now contrast all the above with the ‘Africa is Rising’ theme that we find in most of the media. Why do our leaders have to spend millions of local currency trying to persuade people to invest back home in Africa yet their own citizens are more concerned with leaving? What should we do back home in order to make it more desirable for people to stay and develop their countries instead of running away? 

The former Portuguese colonies have proved the exception here. There is now evidence that due to the tough economic situation in Europe, many Spanish and Portuguese people are moving to Mozambique and Angola for work. 

In the recent years, Africa has been calling for a switch from aid to trade as the sure way to achieve development. In the same breath, it has been argued that intra-African trade has to increase if development is to be sustainable. 

So far what has been happening a lot is the switch from tapping aid from the West to getting it with fewer conditions from our new friends, the Chinese. But we also need to move away from them as well and look more at ourselves and each other.

How much have we done to ease trade and movement within our continent? We have lots of lakes and rivers but water transport seems not a priority for any government. The only time we are reminded of its existence is when a ferry capsizes and kills hundreds. 

Look in the skies and see how hard it is to travel from one end of the continent to the other. Airport taxes are so high that airlines fear advertising fares without including taxes, lest they are accused of grossly misleading their clients. 

It is still harder for an African to get into most African countries than it is for someone holding an American, French or British passport. Yes they may both get visas at the border but the darker skinned fellow will have more questions to answer. 

That means we are more afraid of each other than of people from far away. Many times we talk about how mobile phones have transformed our lives. What about the current roaming charges once you cross a border? 

We need to work on all these bottlenecks so as to boost trade and make live much more bearable on the continent. Maybe then we shall have less of our brothers and sisters selling their property to book a trip on a rickety boat hoping to find their way to Europe. Africa will only be developed by Africans but first we must respect and love each other a little more. 

Blog: www.ssenyonga.wordpress.com
Twitter: @ssojo81

 

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