35 Visas Later: Aliko Dangote’s Visa Struggles Highlight Africa’s Integration Challenges

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It took the richest man in Africa to shock most of us that he needs 35 visas to cross Africa on his business dealings within the African continent! Yes, you guessed it right! That man is no other than the famous Nigerian Aliko Dangote, who recently lamented about the visa requirements while on a Kigali trip.

What is even more shocking is that tiny Rwanda and a handful of African countries have removed this odious requirement for fellow Africans. That tells a lot about the unification of Africa, a critical component in fast-tracking our development. The unrestricted movement of people, goods, and services will spur African nations into prosperity never imagined before.

Aliko Dangote, one of the biggest African investors solely focused on making Africa great again, is incensed that he has to deal with the hassle of securing passage on his continent. While in Kigali, Rwanda, recently, he was surprised to learn Europeans are crisscrossing Africa with such ease. At the same time, he is deprived of it despite his commitment to spearhead African development at a scale never witnessed before!

The AU and her predecessor, OAU, have been promising to melt colonial boundaries. Still, fears of richer countries, such as South Africa, being overwhelmed by armies of African immigrants are pushing back. African developmental disparities are fuelling the maintenance of colonial boundaries.

Another concern is that crime rates would soar once borders are dissolved. Even within the EAC, we experience similar worries. If you ask an average Kenyan, you will hear complaints of Tanzanians shipping beggars to blot their beautiful cities. The argument goes that in a borderless EAC, Tanzanian beggars would choke their cities.

But Tanzanians, too, have their own gripes against Kenyans. As far as bongos are concerned, Kenyans will swell our cities with violent criminals, making us unsafe. If that is insufficient, Tanzanians are fearful of Kenyan land grabbers kicking them into landlessness.

Also, read: The East African Community: The Sleeping Economic and Energy Giant in the Making

Surprisingly, neither other EAC members have grouses to endure if the whole EAC dissolves colonial boundaries and forges one citizenship that will spur economic growth and release locked-up human resources essential for our collective prosperity. In the EAC, Tanzania is Dr. No!

Most members of the EAC are comfortable doing the right thing, with the exception of Tanzanian politicians polarizing their people to be very apprehensive of Kenyans. This situation defeats the very reason and objective of the EAC as it was reconstituted on the 07th of July, 2000.

What is interesting is that all African regional organizations tout statistical figures of the populations as their strength but fail to turn those stats into real economic meaning and profitability!

Africa Should Sacrifice Fears for the Economic Powerhouse

Intriguingly, all African leaders talk about development but refuse to see it through the prism of unleashing African human resources. Most of the challenges facing the integration of African economies tend to be fleeting, teething issues that should not be an impediment.

If you look at fears of exporting poverty to our neighbours, clearly, that is a temporary concern. As our economies pick up and the fruits of development seep through lower segments of society, over time, few will want to be associated with begging once untold riches come their way. Human behaviour directs us to be a little bit pompous when things improve, so fears of begging and soiling Nairobi carry no weight.

Tanzanian land is governed by legislative terrain that can only be encroached upon by following proper procedures. Therefore, land trespassers will quickly figure out that free lunches are not available in Tanzania.

Whoever is a squatter will learn that the cost of erecting structures on public or private lands is not worth it. So, arguing that Tanzanian public lands will be taken by force is unfounded. Private lands are crying for considerable investments, and squeezing it from fellow Africans will go a long way in tackling poverty, crimes and associated vices. That will raise the status of Africans globally.

If you look at Rwanda, you can easily see we have much to learn from her. Rwanda may have existential ethnic threats but is opening its borders to Africa despite its miniature size.

If Rwanda were Tanzania, we would have been lagging behind in development, knowing our self-imposed selfishness. Rwanda is, by many yardsticks, a superior culture, let us admit for once, and Tanzania is a resource-rich nation that is devoid of innovators. We seem content to accept poverty as a way of life.

Look at our politicians and how they fall over one another to brandish poverty as a justification to be leaders. I normally ask myself why on earth we should trust poverty-wielding politicians to pluck us out of poverty.

A poverty mentality that is dominant in our political class narrates why poverty is embedded in our lives. It also explains why we spend lots of cash to solve problems which require very little cash only to repeat the same year in and year out! It took the El Nino rains to humiliate us in multifarious ways.

Our costly infrastructure collapsed, and nobody saw the wisdom of taking personal accountability and calling it a day to open avenues for others to try their luck. Since our culture is synonymous with shoddy work, it is no wonder we are apprehensive about the dissolution of citizenship within the EAC, which is regrettable.

In Tanzania, our rudderless politicians are busy redefining our beloved diaspora as third-class citizens in their own country! Our sleazy politicians love diaspora hard cash that is improving lives everywhere but refuse to acknowledge the diaspora as bonafide citizens with all rights inherently reserved.

In the spirit of one Africa, you would have thought the citizenship rights of the diaspora would have been respected: it is anywhere else but not in Bongoland. Citizenship by birth cannot be renounced under any circumstances. It is a right by birth that our delusional political class is grappling to learn and appreciate.

But We Need One Citizenship Within the EAC to Derail Our Comfort Zone

Tanzania needs to emerge from the cultural values abyss in which we are now entrapped. We need to embrace new challenges that one EAC citizenship would forge. There is a saying that says, “…do the thing you fear, and the death of fear is certain.” Tanzania urgently needs this saying.

We need to get out of our comfort zone to break the colonial yoke keeping us from claiming our position in the global economic ranking. Tanzania will never truly develop if we keep imploring non-Africans to kick-start our economic juggernaut.

Also, read: Raila Odinga’s AU Chairmanship Bid: A Test of Leadership Beyond Kenya’s Borders

Average Tanzanians should now wake up and cease immediately bankrolling through the condonation of an average politician’s demonisation of Kenyans and our beloved diaspora. We need to begin poking holes into what our politicians say about Kenyans.

It seems unless we address vacuous fears against Kenyans and the diaspora, the Tanzanian path to development will flip towards non-Africans whose purpose is entirely to exploit us to solve their problems back home, a situation rarely exhibited by fellow Africans.

Negative attitudes toward fellow Africans should be viewed as a challenge we should collectively aspire to tackle and conquer. First and foremost, we must make a concerted choice about what it means to be an African.

Why are we finding it difficult to understand that the chief reason Africa is underdeveloped is the retention of colonial limitations that were designed and purposely purposed to ensure Africa was a launchpad for alien development at the expense of Africa?

This looks simpler on paper, but in implementation, it is a steeplechase that we ought to leap and overcome. In order to get there, Africa should continue to search for and secure a new breed of leadership that can think outside the colonial-imposed box, or rest assured that poverty is part and parcel of African DNA.

Those who urge us to preserve our African traditions are hypocritical when they refuse to invite and welcome neighbours into an African bash party.

The author is a Development Administration specialist in Tanzania with over 30 years of practical experience, and has been penning down a number of articles in local printing and digital newspapers for some time now.

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