Rich Africa woos the world; Africans set sights abroad

Wednesday December 18 2019


An image grab taken from an AFP video shows boats in the water at a beach, in Barra on December 5, 2019, after at least 62 people migrants died on December 4, 2019 when their makeshift vessel capsized off the coast of Mauritania, including 52 migrants from Gambia. PHOTO | ROMAIN CHANSON | AFPTV | AFP 

By The EastAfrican

This past week, at least 62 Gambians drowned when their makeshift vessel capsized off the coast of Mauritania. They were attempting to reach Europe. Predictably, there were no hashtags, proclaiming never again, accompanying the photos of their grieving relatives.

The deaths of those seeking to get to Europe illegally have become a blip on the conscience of Africa.

There is a quote, often attributed to the late Robert Mugabe that asks Africans why they are running away from a Continent that everyone else, including the Europeans and Chinese are running to.

The 83 people who survived the boat accident spoke of investments made in formal education without employment and governments not creating conditions for income generation.

What does it take to produce an African who has lost complete hope in his continent and has to run from it?

Young people are increasingly born into an age in which growing up in a mud walled hut, well suited to the climate is seen as primitive.


Cultural practices of value including dances are depicted as fit only for the entertainment of tourists. Medicine has to be bought, even for a common cold, yet grandmothers taught us to boil leaves whose steam we inhaled, cured our colds. Traditional African religion is seen as witchcraft, yet its priests and priestesses did not engage in massive land grabs and displacements.

Leafing through schoolbooks, one find’s page after page of inventors, none of who is African. You can be certain of not finding in the Gambian and indeed African curricula, inventors like William Kamkwamba the Malawian who, without a high school education, builds electricity producing windmills which also pump water from scrap metal who is studied by Auburn University in the US; Moctar Dembele and Gerard Niyondiko from Burkina Faso and Burundi manufacturers of an anti-malarial mosquito larva killing soap from local products.

African children are taught about a global order they have to be part of, not challenge. They watch films and television shows in which dark skinned human beings are studied like animal and plant life. They begin to criticise themselves, judging themselves with eyes borrowed from a Western and white world.

Having never left their countries of birth, they say with conviction that everything in the West is better than Africa. With little knowledge of skewed trade agreements and capital flight, they believe a Western world that sends so many “experts” to “assist Africa end human rights abuses, her wars and develop” must be a great place without any of Africa’s problems.

Those who manage to run illegally to Europe hardly speak of their struggles to sometimes keep up to three menial jobs, even with skills and qualifications for better employment.

They labour for hours in factories, sweep streets and clean toilets. They do not speak of the daily, never-ending, humiliations of racism and demands of the taxation system in the Western world. They do not talk about the number of homeless people sleeping on streets and under bridges or the never-ending rat race to make more and more money.

They do not say they miss the African communal life they left behind, in which social economic needs are met through communal structures of fundraising for the sick, to pay for education or bury our dead, a value the West does not have.

They don’t speak of the elderly in the West, put away in old people’s homes yet many old people in Africa are considered libraries, often consulted for advice and valued by society.

African children are taught about Prof Wangari Maathai’s Nobel Peace Prize for conserving the environment without discussing her analysis of Africa as a rich continent, endowed with all resources, natural, cultural, wealth and human capital yet still extremely poor.

Many more will continue running from rich Africa, seeking a better life, contributing, ironically, to the view of Africa as a never-ending disaster.

Have corporations and our leadership created an Africa Africans have to run away from and others are running to?

Wairimu Nderitu is the author of Beyond Ethnicism, Mukami Kimathi: Mau Mau Freedom Fighter and Kenya: Bridging Ethnic Divides.