Anti-African Sentiment Threatens the Vision of a Unified Africa

"Anti-African Sentiment Threatens the Vision of a Unified Africa"
A street vendor sells food, refreshments and mobile phone airtime vouchers on a roadside at dusk in Harare, Zimbabwe, on Sunday, July 29, 2018 [Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg]

Nigerian billionaire Aliko Dangote brought attention to a disturbing truth that reverberates across Africa in his rousing speech at the Africa CEO Forum in Kigali, Rwanda: the severe mobility gaps that exist between Africans and Europeans. In stark contrast to the relative simplicity with which European passport holders may cross the continent, he bemoaned the necessity to procure an overwhelming 35 visas.

This disparity represents a larger problem that millions of African migrants face, undermining their security, financial stability, and hopes for success; it is not merely an annoyance for wealthy people like Dangote. In addition to hindering businessmen, the disjointed visa policies across Africa limit economic growth on the continent and real solidarity in the face of challenges.

When I think back on the last several decades, I remember how inviting and vibrant African cities like Harare were. The streets were alive with diversity as young, ambitious entrepreneurs from Central and West Africa showcased goods from India, China, and the UAE. These mom-and-pop shops did double duty: they boosted regional economies while simultaneously creating a thriving pan-African community, living up to the principles of solidarity fought for by the OAU’s inception.

Nevertheless, a concerning change has occurred in recent years. In an effort to limit the influence of foreign competitors, several African countries, Zimbabwe included, have enacted regulations that limit company ownership to residents. Despite its stated goal of safeguarding local interests, this action has exacerbated the already pervasive Afrophobia in the area, mirroring feelings observed across the continent.

A trend toward anti-immigrant sentiment is evident in the proliferation of similar restrictive legislation in countries like Botswana and South Africa. In addition to limiting economic dynamism, these measures worsen social tensions and dismantle the idea of a united Africa that the AU’s Free Movement of Persons Protocol aimed to achieve.

The objective of the 2018-adopted agreement is to facilitate the development of businesses, resident rights, and visa-free entry for people of African countries throughout member states. As of recent reports, just a quarter of AU member states have ratified it, despite its potential to enhance economic integration and stability. Implementation has also been patchy.

The success of free movement inside the European Union is evidence of the positive effects on the economy and social harmony that can result from such policies. In contrast, Africa’s current patchwork of visa requirements and protectionist measures impede regional cooperation and economic progress.

African leaders must immediately address these systemic difficulties and reawaken the solidarity that characterized previous decades, as Dangote pointed out. The key to unlocking Africa’s potential and providing a better future for all its people lies in embracing inclusive economic policies and open borders, not because they are politically expedient but because they are essential.

In conclusion, it is both a moral and strategic necessity and an opportunity for the collective growth of the continent to create an environment where African migrants can prosper and make constructive contributions. It calls for fearless direction from leaders, collaboration across regions, and a resolve to tear down obstacles that separate instead of unite. Only then will Africa be able to realize its potential as a source of hope and success for its whole population.


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