PROMISING CONTINENT

Africa is growth frontier, we're not in a crisis

Safe, sound and open for business.

In Summary

• Africa’s population is young and vibrant.

• Due to social, Economic, political challenges, young people are up and about looking for better opportunities

Articles about African migrants perishing in the Mediterranean as they try to make their way to Europe and stowaways dropping from landing gears of planes to Europe portray Africa as a continent on fire. So do those about African women enslaved in the Middle East where they go to work as domestic workers 

But Africa is safe, sound and open for business. Data from various global institutions show that only about three percent of Africans migrate in and outside the continent. Out of this, more than half migrate within Africa.

Africa's population is young and vibrant. Owing to various social, economic and political challenges, 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 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 weaken the continent's social, political and economic structures, leaving many citizens languishing in poverty. Often, such leaders are sustained in power by external forces.

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.

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.

According to Henley’s World Passport Index, Africa Visa Openness Index and AU’s own regular reports, it is clear that one of the reasons that Africans are not travelling within Africa is because of restrictive visa regimes. The African Union has formulated Agenda 2063 called ‘The Africa We Want’ detailing aspirations and outcomes to be achieved by 2063.

Currently, there are about 14 Agenda 2063 flagship projects identified by the AU. Out of these, three—Establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) at number three, the African Passport and Free Movement of People at number four & Silencing The Guns by 2020 at number five—are in my opinion crucial, urgent 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 percent of African countries do not require a visa to travel across Africa, 24 percent can get visa on arrival and 51 percent require a visa before travel. Clearly more than half of African countries are faced with restrictive visa regime when travelling across Africa.

 

There are diverse reasons for this state of affairs but it is working contrary to the AU’s agenda of an integrated Africa. Additionally, when Africans cannot travel across the continent with ease, they obviously cannot transact freely, thus, weakening the dream of one common market for Africa.

With a population of about 1.3 billion people, a big percentage of whom are unemployed, we now more than ever need an integrated Africa that is economically strong and peaceful not only for Africans but also for investors.

As we struggle to raise funds to work on other 2063 projects that are capital intensive, we need to quickly dispense with easier ones like the ease of travel by removing all restrictive immigration laws.

With a population of about 1.3 billion people, a big percentage of whom are unemployed, we now more than ever need an integrated Africa that is economically strong and peaceful not only for Africans but also for investors.

A united, strong Africa will face the world on equal terms, not as underdogs. 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 to advance the integrated Africa dream 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. We only need to look at countries such as Rwanda and Seychelles that have embraced this and as a result reaped the benefits.

Immigration and communications consultant,

Practice leader at Fragomen Kenya LTD