Over the years there has been a huge immigration wave of Africans from all walks of life to places all over the world mostly perceived as developed in serch of greener pastures.
The local term commonly used to describe this movement is “kyeyo”.
The expression “kyeyo” was used to refer to people who had left Africa in order to sweep the streets and clean toilets in developed countries like England, USA and Canada. Now it has taken on a broader meaning and envelopes all people who work abroad, whether their jobs are considered glamorous or not.
Many people think that the streets of developed countries are littered with gold, diamonds and dollars, but that is not the case at all. They are lined with concrete and sometimes the occasional homeless person, sleeping on the streets with a torn tattered blanket and clothes that were last washed months ago.
Most are graduates who are qualified to do white collar jobs in their respective countries but prefer to go to developed countries for the sake of that elusive pot of gold that is in Europe or America that is supposed to transform their lives forever. Before they leave some sell off their property, perhaps family land, and raise money for a one-way air ticket.
Some leave under the guise of being total orphans children and students while others go as political or economic asylum seeker. However, they have one goal of making a better life for themselves and their families back home.
Many Africans have strong misconceptions about ‘kyeyo’ and living abroad. Their idea of this fantasy and the actual realities on ground are very different. When they speak about the absurd challenges they go through, many who haven’t tasted the water’s of the greener pastures cannot understand.
Doing kyeyo is not as easy at it seems. For instance some countries in America and Europe require work permits. Without these most of African end up doing factory jobs, cleaning other people’s houses, looking after the elderly or looking after people’s children.
These conditions are usually abusive and deplorable. Often times the factories are health hazards, with no windows or decent aeration. The employees are not protected from any potential harm.
Many times the hours spent working are inhumane, sometimes lasting well over 12 hours daily. For the jobs, mostly done by women, they find themselves working hard while extra roles are thrown at them for no additional pay.
Nannies for example; are hired to take care of kids but they find themselves cleaning, washing clothes, cooking, ironing, washing dishes and on top of that taking care of the kids or elderly person. There is a very little difference between these well-educated nannies and a housemaid in any African country.
Most people in these situations are continuously living on the edge, looking behind them and are worried about being caught by immigration officers and being deported.
At the end of the day, “Kyeyo” shouldn’t be the first priority in one’s life because no one understands the world these guys are living in, the joys, the grief, challenges and triumphs are uniquely their own. Africans should think of doing productive work worth their qualifications than going to the developed countries to do odd jobs.