Africa and the drama of migration

Tidiane Kassé writes: Migration is as old as Africa itself. People have always moved in search of a better life. The economic crisis in Africa fueled by development policies imposed on the continent by the World Bank, IMF and other donors is one of the factors forcing some Africans to undertake dangerous journeys to Europe in an attempt to improve their lot.

In some African cultures, travel is an initiatory act. One becomes a man when he leaves his family to go far to discover other people and other cultures, to confront the real world realities. This means going away from the comfort and care of a mother, far from the protection of a father. Going away is getting more experiences; coming back is enriching one’s group with what was learned in the other world. This culture brands the Soninkés – a crossborder community living between Senegal, Mali and Mauritania. In this area, the villages are empty. The houses resonate essentially with the laughter of women and children screaming. The men left. They migrated elsewhere. Soninkés are one of the most mobile people in Africa. Their mobility has lasted since the empire of Ghana (8th – 11th century).

In Diawara, a Soninké village located 800 kilometers from Dakar, more than 50 per cent of the population are French nationals. Almost all of them are returning migrants, who came back to resettle in their land of origin once their European or African courses ended. Those who have not returned yet left their wives and their offspring in luxurious residences. The houses that grow in Diawara breathe an unsuspected comfort. TV, refrigerator, air conditioner, etc., are behind the walls. So far from Dakar, in a rural area where poverty affects 70 per cent of the population, one cannot imagine this state of affairs.

Each month, from France, Germany, Italy or elsewhere, migrants send money for the monthly expense. Medical expenses, tuition, everything goes to ensure the family is taken care of. In Soninkés community, success in emigration is measured by the ease in which the family is left in the village. Remittances are considerable. In 2015, the World Bank estimated money transfers from emigration to $601 billion, including $441 billion to developing countries. In Senegal, around $2 billion has fueled this circuit. This represents more than the Official Development Assistance (ODA).

The money sent is not just for families. It also contributes to community development. Since the implementation of financial recovery plans imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank in the 1980s African states have turned their back on social development investments, building neither hospitals nor health centers, schools, etc., but privatizing and firing hundreds and hundreds workers instead. These policies have began to change today. Africa is a continent where, for ten years, the growth rate turned at around 5 per cent, but the damage of the past is immeasurable. Reconstruction is difficult. [Continue reading…]

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