Untold story of people migration within Africa

Friday, October 25th, 2019 07:22 |
President Donald Trump. Photo/Courtesy

The migration of people across the globe has been a major concern in the world. The most talked about migration is that of Mexicans seeking to enter the US as well as Africans chasing the European dream. We have had dramatic pictures and tales of the plight of Europe-bound Africans dying on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea  and others locked up in slave houses in northern Africa.

These images have dramatised and magnified the plight of black people seeking a better life in Europe. To a great extent, the stories are shaping the political future of Europe as right-wing politicians build their political career on, among other things, the development of tough policies on immigration.

But there is, however, an untold story of the biggest migration traffic in Africa. It is actually not out of the continent but within the continent itself.  The world keeps a poor record of the number of refugees moving from one African country to another. Some of the favourite destinations include Uganda, Kenya and South Africa. These numbers way surpass what Europe and US President Donald Trump are screaming about.

The situation in South Africa has been highlighted because of the hostile response that South Africans have meted out on migrants most of them, who are seeking better economic opportunities. While there is a difference between refugees and migrants, the world has tended to treat them as the same.

Refugees to Uganda have,  for example, been much better treated than elsewhere. Those who ran there from Kenya following the 2007 elections turmoil had a fairly good reception, including  getting land to till. Some of them have no intention of coming back. This is a treatment Uganda has extended to other refugees including those from South Sudan.

It is lost to most that some of the countries that are large “exporters” of refugees and immigrants are simultaneously receiving refugees and immigrants. Take the Democratic Republic of Congo, for example, which is know for conflict-driven displacements. Yet DRC also hosts refugees from other countries, including from Central Africa Republic.

The conditions that force people to leave their countries have been largely political conflicts and economic situation that is not favourable. But until when will these conditions push people out of their motherland?

The economic situation in Africa is changing even if not dramatically or fast enough.  Dictators and life presidents are reducing by the year, most countries are holding elections regularly and more countries are increasingly holding their leaders to account. Who would have imagined that a sitting African head of State who does not go by the name of Nelson Mandela, would win a Nobel prize? But Ethiopia’s Abiy Ahmed just did! 

African resources are the least exploited yet. Consider the number of countries where natural resources are only beginning to pop up. Kenya only recently discovered oil but who knows what else the African earth is hiding? Zimbabwe discovered diamonds only recently, oil in Uganda and Chad etc, natural gas in Tanzania. We could go on.

Investment opportunities in Africa are enticing. It is not lost to many people that returns on investment in Africa are only unique to this part of the world. The world’s weather is changing, bringing with it a lot of unpredictability. This year for example, some parts of Europe had record breaking heatwaves.

We could be staring, not in too distant a future, a trend where the direction of migrants could start moving to the opposite side. People could start moving towards regions with better weather conditions and better economic returns. 

Hopefully Africa would have been prepared to be better hosts for the world’s population when this happens.

—The writer is the Dean, School of Communication, Daystar University

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