By Silas Nyanchwani
We all know as Africans that our brothers and sisters who live abroad, more so in the Western Hemisphere are the most qualified to talk about the continent. Having experienced the best of the Western world and the worst of the Africa, they are better placed to advice Africa on how to break the chains of poverty, disease, ignorance, corruption and primitive accumulation of wealth by the ruling elite.
Africans abroad play such an important role in the African economy that often goes unacknowledged. They have to fight tooth and nail like fugitives for their right to vote or for dual-citizenship with their mother countries that sees nothing in them save for their remittances.
Speaking of remittances, Kenyans abroad sent home KES 172 billion ($1.72 billion) this past year, a 10 per cent increment from the preceding year and it can only go higher. In 2015, the Mail & Guardian reported that collectively Africans abroad send and equivalent of $160 billion annually, and it could be higher because most of the remittances are informal and hard to track them.
This is a lot of money by any other standards. If Africans abroad were to pull the plug on their remittances, the African economy will collapse, no doubt. In Kenya currently, Diaspora remittances top forex inflows, and now accounts to about 3 per cent of the national gross domestic product. Overtime it will overtake the money Kenya earns from exporting tea, coffee and flowers. Half of these remittances come from the United States and Canada, hence the justified anger of Africans living in the United States towards Africa.
It is only fair that those in the diaspora should be the loudest critics African governments and how politicians pillage the resources, impoverishing millions along the way.
Since the law and SYSTEMS work wherever they live, they are justified to feel frustrated by the slowness of the continent’s growth; the persistent corruption, endemic traffic, bad customer service, terrible treatment by the immigration officers, demanding relatives, ungrateful relatives, cheating relatives, complaining friends, you name it. Everyone in Africa is phony and dishonest and this drives them nuts.
Things work in the diaspora. Things don’t work in Africa. Africa is like a continent stuck in time. Most of the diaspora folks may have been away for over two decades, but nothing ever changed, anytime they are back home, ‘it is the same old shit,’ they often complain within reason. Of course, there is always the token one highway, the few decent coffee-houses(with unreliable wifi), and all, but little else has changed, even finding a place with decent wifi, they have to board an aircraft to the next airport.
Yet Africa can do better. If only Africans stopped bribing policemen for traffic misdemeanors. If only immigration officers were not greedy and creepy bastards. If only the traffic in cities in moved? If only Africans had access to clean water. If only politicians were to be trusted…Africa would be a great continent.
It is amazing how Africans feel offended when they are lectured by fellow Africans abroad. If only Africans understood basic things like a subway system works. How the subway powers growth business growth in the West and the wonders it will do in Africa given if Africa installed them.
Africans need to know where the diaspora folks are coming from. They do not bear bad intentions for the continent. All they want is Africa to live to highest standards of Western civilization. All they want is better infrastructure, reliable leaders, a proper business environment where bribes are non-existent. Is that too much to ask for.
Another thing they want is for everyone to be given a fair chance to succeed in life. Many diaspora folk have narrated how they were living a life of neglect until they moved abroad. Were it not for the generosity, magnanimity of the American government and people, they will never have made it in Africa. They want Africa to give its people a chance. This is perfectly reasonable.
It hurts when they learn 40 per cent of the national budget of the countries like Kenya can not be accounted for, yet Kenya, has to get food aid from Qatar, which is a desert. That stuff drive the diaspora people nuts.
Maybe one day Africans will stop being petty and accept constructive criticism from those who know it all on how a country should be properly be ran. They have traveled, gone to the best schools abroad and have the best intentions for the continent, and hope to come back home one day to a continent they love. As Africans we need to take the medicine, even though it is rarely served with honey, hence the bitterness.