Saturday, October 12, 2013

Africa: What is so wrong that possible death is an attractive option ?

New Times Rwanda ( opinion )

We still have a lot of work to do back home

                                                                      By Allan Brian Ssenyonga
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. 
That is a perspective I hadn't thought about.
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.
" Others leave for studies but never return."  
These are the people no developing nation can afford to lose on a permanent basis. When I was at university in Dunedin, New Zealand I had one black African friend from ( I think ) the Ivory Coast, he was an engineering student and today he builds roads, sewage treatment plants etc in New Zealand. We have no intention of giving him back. We have invested a lot of time teaching him the rules of rugby. :-)
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.’
‘I am gay and my life is in danger.’
That is a bloody reasonable fear if you are gay and if you are not I wouldn't blame someone using it as an excuse to get away from a regime that has a bill before it's parliament that originally offered to kill you for being gay but I gather has now downgraded it to spending the rest of your life in prison.  Africans accept such idiotic ideas being screamed at them from pulpits and political parties never questioning the origin of such stupidity,  not realising that in doing this  you  are  not following God you  are following a perverted, white, right wing American " Christian " ( and I use the word loosely ) agenda. Follow the money or in this case the donations. 

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. 
I am not sure that is exactly fair. I can think of many European friends and family who have pictures of themselves on facebook in some fairly choice African locations. That said I take the point.
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? 
In a word " leadership ". Africa has the youngest average population on the globe and the oldest average leadership age. And most of them are right bastards. 
At 68, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni is nearly five decades older than his country’s newly sworn-in MP Proscovia Alengot Oromait, who wasn’t even born when her head of state was first elected to office 26 years ago. When a 19-year old girl gets voted into Uganda’s parliament by a majority of voters barely older than she is, is it too early to start speculating on the demise of the rest of Africa’s leaders, who tend to be two generations older than their voters? 
Have a read of TSM Ruge on the subject.
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. 
That isn't a big surprise other than I was unaware of it.
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.
There is in my opinion an argument that says aid is just a repatriation of wealth stolen over many generations by the west and as such aid is a misnomer. That said when Africa's leadership treat the public purse like a personal bank it is inevitable conditions on aid will be attached.

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. 
Agreed. The problem is that the African fleet of inland craft are outdated and largely designed for inland European waterways. A new Africa class is needed and they need to be simple and well thought out. Timber seating can save lives in a capsize unlike metal seating, in the Pacific like Africa we have learned some very hard lessons, many that are relevant to modern day African inland water travel. 
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.
Yeah I believe it, but and it is an entertaining but, I face similar issues entering the UK if I am traveling on a NZ passport. I am a British citizen and have come fairly close to being refused entry to the UK I guess because they think I want to become an illegal immigrant in that god forsaken dump. Only after suggesting several times that they read my place of birth and then pointing out that they can't fucking stop me entering does it dawn on the fools that yes I have British citizenship by birth. Africa should be able to sort this out.
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? 
Again that is an issue for the west as well, well at least New Zealanders. The first thing any Kiwi does on arrival at a foreign country is by a local pre pay sim.
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. 
Even better though would be getting rid of the Crocodiles who are largely to blame. Good leadership would deal with many of these problems.

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