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To migrate or not to migrate; the mighty question on the minds of our young people


The pictures were haunting and awfully sad; hundreds of hapless migrants mainly from sub-Sahara Africa, Syria and Afghanistan being plucked from the cold waters of the Mediterranean sea by rescuers this past week. Thousands more were to be saved from certain death in subsequent days.

To migrate or not to migrate, that is the fundamental query facing many African youth these days. The urge to defy reason and brave the elements, and hopefully make it across the choppy waters of the vast Mediterranean sea, is strong, almost irresistible to our young men and today, to an increasing number of young women.

The journey itself is not one for the faint of heart; it is an excruciating nightmare. Would be migrants have to contend with the hot, blazing and scorching sun, and the vast and seemingly endless Sahara desert.

And as if that is not enough pain and anguish, there is the  deceptively calm Mediterranean sea, the ruthless armed bandits ready to pounce on migrants, and the heartless human smugglers more eager to squeeze the last dollar out of migrants than to provide them with strong boats to make the crossing to the glitzy European cities on the other side of the sea.

News that thousands of migrants have perished…..3000 this year alone….trying to make that dangerous journey across the desert and sea, and the stark realization by those who have made it that the streets of Europe are not paved with gold, do not deter our clearly ambitious young men and women.

The underlying reasons for this keen desire by the young people of Africa to leave her shores, literally abandon the African continent to its fate, are mainly political and ethnic violence, war and poverty.

Good governance, we should all shamefully admit, is in short supply in Africa. Just take a look around the continent, and the landscape is pregnant with appalling violence and failed economies. Sudan, Burundi, Nigeria, Mali, Tunisia, and Libya are but a few examples of the hot spots where violence is the order of the day.

With no state or government protection forthcoming, victims of political and ethnic upheavals seek safety elsewhere, preferably in stable environments where there is rule of law, and ample protection of human rights.  And very often, the ultimate destination is Europe.

Burbling underneath this morass of war and violence is endemic poverty which is further compounded by the absence of economic opportunities and jobs.

Majority of African governments long after the advent of independence from their colonial masters, have failed miserably to transform their economies from the overwhelming dependence on the export of raw materials.

Manufacturing has not been emphasized, frequently playing second fiddle to cocoa, oil, and minerals which tend to be vulnerable to the vagaries of the market.

The end result is that few jobs are created and large numbers of our young people left unemployed. And we wonder why the dream of migrating to distant lands, is paramount on their minds.

One other factor that drives young Africans to seek greener pastures overseas by way of the Sahara desert and the Mediterranean sea is the reluctance of Western European and American embassies in Africa to issue visas frequently.

Truth be told, the embassies are extremely tight, in fact, stingy with their visas; even if you had a genuine political asylum case, your chances of securing a visa to escape persecution are dim.

So, you take your chances by trusting your life and savings to a Libyan human smuggler, and hope and pray to God that he gets you across the Mediterranean in one piece.

To stem the tide of this unofficial migration, indeed to save young African lives, governments on the continent should wholeheartedly embrace the concept of good governance, eschew corruption and inefficiency, stop blowing tribal and religious whistles that invariably lead to chaos and violence, and concentrate on job creation and economic empowerment. This is the only way to get our young people to stay put and contribute their quota to national development.





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