Africa Day: Reflections of an African Journalist


By Anthony Akaeze

I came upon the date, days before the day. And as I later reflected, wondering about its significance, all the pain, agony and tragedies came flooding back.   Africa Day, they call it, and what a time to reflect. To reflect about life in motherland. About a place so wonderful, a place so gifted, it pains to be nasty! As I thought about it, in a foreign country that I currently am, and seeing the difference between what exists here, U.S, and Lagos, Nigeria, where I’ve lived since 2005, or Dakar, Accra or Kampala, places I’ve been privileged to visit within the last fifteen months, pain becomes even more acute. The pain of deprivation that I am aware of, of dashed expectations, hopelessness, anger and death. It reminds me of what Sixtus, my Cameroonian brother said the other day in a WhatsApp group chat: “Being from Africa is always enough suffering.”

In those words encapsulate the doom many of us Africans feel. The only exception being those in leadership positions, corridors of power and others in top positions elsewhere, plus a small minority of privileged others, along with their families, (nuclear and extended) in most cases, and friends or cronies, many of whom boast questionable wealth. They flaunt their wealth and some, derive joy in using same to perpetrate evil. To fund wars and spark crisis. South Sudan, Nigeria, Central African Republic, Kenya and South Africa are just a few examples where lives, have been or continue to be wasted over nothing. Cyril Rhamaphosa, South Africa’s President, is the latest member of the group of elite to be accused of fanning embers of war. At a campaign speech ahead of the South African election which held in May, Rhamaphosa accused immigrants in his country of taking advantage of the system at the expense of South Africans.

“Everyone just arrives in our townships and rural areas and sets up businesses without licenses and permits. We are going to bring this to an end. And those who are operating illegally, wherever they come from, must now know,” threatened Ramaphosa at his party’s rally.

Few weeks after, some blood sucking South Africans began hunting down fellow Africans. As in previous xenophobic violence in South Africa, they did succeed in wasting lives and ruining businesses.

That South Africans continue to do this, leaves one in pain. That a country helped out of Apartheid bondage by African governments and people not too long ago, feels no empathy for fellow Africans, says something about some people. The disdain for fellow Africans manifests also at the South African embassy in Nigeria, where, for instance, visas are, at times, issued after events which the applicants sought to attend, have commenced, thereby rendering travel plans useless. That speaks volumes of an agenda. Though the African Union, AU, says it wants to ensure a visa free policy in Africa by 2063, (you wonder why it should take that long, as many may not live to witness it, and which says something about leadership in the continent) it remains to be seen whether South Africa will adhere to the rule. The country obviously considers itself superior to other African countries. South Africa is one society I would not want to live in, even though I’m friends with a good South African called Alina Mfulo.

Reverting to Rhamaphosa.  He went on to win the election and on his inauguration on May 25, which happened to be Africa Day, said in part it was an opportunity for South Africa to reaffirm its “common commitment to an Africa that is at peace, that is prosperous and that promises a better existence for its people.”

Typical. Before Rhamaphosa, I had also imagined what some other African leaders and even the AU would make of the day.  I should know, as an African. I was not disappointed. It was a moment for the AU to flatter itself. Kwesi Quartey, the deputy chairperson of the African Union Commission, said that Africa today “is more confident, dynamic and energetic continent. Many areas are urbanizing, offering opportunities to the youth. Technology and innovation is helping unleash their incredible potentials. Governments are taking serious step towards addressing the challenge of climate change. Economies are becoming integrated…the movement of people within Africa has become easier.”

If these were true, the AU would not have considered it necessary to choose as its 2019 Africa Day theme: “The Year of Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons: Towards Durable Solutions to Forced Displacement in Africa.”

The theme is a recognition of the worsening conditions in Africa generally, including South Africa, Africa’s most advanced country, where unemployment, poverty and hunger are at an alarming level. According to Professor Vimal Ranchhod, unemployment rate in South Africa is “consistently measured above 20 percent” making it “one of the highest in the world.” Generally, the African continent accounts for a significant percentage of immigrants across the world.

According to a Reuters report, quoting a Pew research, “nearly 1.5 million people have left sub-Saharan Africa for Europe and the United States since 2010, while millions more are making plans to follow in their footsteps.” The report adds that “more than a third of people surveyed in Senegal, Ghana and Nigeria said they had actual plans to move in the next five years” and that “nearly 2 million residents of Ghana – 6 percent of its population – applied for a U.S diversity lottery in 2015.”

Most of the migrants are people seeking “life” elsewhere, as Eric Chinje, journalist and media trainer, put it at a migration workshop in Senegal last year. They leave, because the conditions at home make it difficult for them to enjoy life.

The situation in many parts of Africa today has made travelling abroad in whatever guise, the dream of many. People migrate, hoping to achieve what they could not, in their own countries. And although concerns have been raised about the rising number of immigrants in Europe and America, most of the newcomers work terribly hard, far harder than many of them would contemplate in their own countries, to sustain a life, and that way, help boost the economies of societies they reside.  Imagine if Africans work as hard in their own countries, under an effective government, it won’t take a lifetime, or, in the case of the U.S, “200 years,” as someone mocked, to catch up with the country’s level of development.

What to do to check Africa’s mass migration? Better governance than we’ve seen across the continent; unity among Africans and a single minded approach are crucial. Enough of the talks that lead to nowhere in terms of real development. Africans deserve better life.


*Anthony Akaeze, a Nigerian freelance investigative journalist, sent this piece from Houston, Texas

– June 3, 2019 @ 14:55 GMT |

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