Migrants: African continent is the growth frontier
Recent articles about African migrants perishing in the Mediterranean Sea as they try to move to Europe and cases of stowaways dropping from landing gears of planes to Europe, African women were enslaved in the Middle East where they go to work as domestic workers have portrayed Africa as a continent on fire and that we are all trying to relocate.
I have bad news for those harbouring such perceptions—Africa is safe, sound and open for business. Data from various global institutions show that only about three per cent of Africans migrate in and outside of the continent and that out of this, more than half migrate within Africa.
Africa’s population is young and vibrant. Owing to various social, economic and political challenges around the continent, some of these young people are up and about looking for better opportunities.
The choice of where to go is based on several factors such as colonial history, family ties and perceptions of the West as offering greener pastures.
In the process of doing so and also due to increased stringent visa regimes put in place by many western governments, some of these Africans are lured by human trafficking/smuggling syndicates to take extreme routes to those countries.
Truth be told, African countries have leadership challenges that to a large extent weaken the social, political and economic structures in the continent leaving many citizens languishing in poverty.
That aside, Africa is a rich continent with immense and diverse resources. Africa is rich in trade, industry, agriculture, minerals and human resources and most of these are untapped, thus creating a huge opportunity for growth.
According to Henley’s World Passport Index, Africa Visa Openness Index and African Union (AU) regular reports, it is clear that one of the reasons that Africans are not travelling within the continent is because of restrictive visa regimes.
In this realisation, the AU has formulated Agenda 2063 dubbed ‘Africa We Want’ detailing several aspirations and outcomes to be achieved by 2063.
At the moment, there are about 14 agenda 2063 flagship projects identified by AU. Out of these, three projects namely; Establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area at number 3, the African Passport and Free Movement of People at number 4 and Silencing The Guns by 2020 at number 5, are in my opinion crucial and warranting immediate attention.
This is because without peace, there can never be any talk of development and if people are not moving and transacting freely within Africa, then we cannot talk of a common market.
In the Africa Development Bank Visa Openness report of 2018, citizens of about 25 per cent of African countries do not require a visa to travel across Africa and 51 per cent require a visa before travel.
Clearly more than half of African countries are faced with a restrictive visa regime when travelling across Africa. There are diverse reasons for this but it is working contrary to AU’s agenda 2063 of integrated Africa. Additionally, when Africans cannot travel across the continent with ease, they obviously cannot transact freely.
With a population of about 1.3 billion people, a big percentage of whom are unemployed, we now, more than ever before, need an integrated Africa that is economically strong and peaceful not only for Africans but also for investors.
A united Africa is a strong Africa that will face the world at equal terms, not as underdogs. In order to achieve that, however, we need to put our continent in order because only then will everyone else accord us the respect we deserve. Some of the measures we can take do not even require monetary resources to implement.
These low hanging fruits such as waiving visa requirements for Africans to enable them to travel with ease across the continent requires just a revision of immigration laws by African states. We only need to look at countries such as Rwanda and Seychelles that have embraced this and as a result, have reaped the benefits. — Immigration & Communication Consultant, Practice Leader at Fragomen Kenya Ltd.