The last 24 hours following the US elections have been very interesting. The unexpected happened; and Donald Trump triumphed over Hillary Clinton. During the campaign period, Trump had made it clear that he wasn’t happy with all the immigrants taking up space in the US, and threatened to deport them – he was quite particular about Africans, Mexicans and people from the Middle East. Some are of the opinion that Trump was just saying this (among other vile things) to get into office, and that he will not act on the threat(s). Others are however not too sure … they know that Trump spoke on behalf of a lot of Americans who felt, and still feel that they have to bear the brunt of the US government being too inviting and accommodating to humans from other countries.
Kenyans, who are largely disappointed by the results, (going by their reactions online), found a way to release the stress. They began calling on their brothers and sisters in the US to pack their bags and head on home. Twitter and Facebook were awash with hilarious memes and messages. Trump had opened a can of worms alright, but the question of Africans in the Diaspora coming back home was raised way before Mr. President – Elect voiced it. Is it indeed time to come back home?
In May this year, I came across a Humans of New York post on Facebook that had attracted some of the most emotive reactions I have seen on that page. A young American woman, trained as a nurse, had moved back home to a small town from New York. She indicated that as a medical professional, she felt that she was needed at home more than in New York. Comments celebrating her came in fast and furious. Thirty minutes into the post, a comment by a Kenyan accusing Africans abroad of doing the exact opposite became the top comment. He, and others of the same opinion, took issue with the fact that Africans are opting to stay in the States and other countries in Europe, even after they are done with the higher education opportunities that had driven some of them overseas. An army of immigrants soon took a defensive position.
Most of the immigrants lamented that coming back to Africa was as good as death, with insecurity, corruption and lack of jobs slowly gnawing at what is left of the continent. They figured that they were better off in their countries of residence where they were at least able to earn enough to sustain them as well as send some money back home to their relatives. They argued that they were of more use to their native countries from a place where they could fund projects back home. They did not trust home with their lives any more.
Do they have a point?
Africans back home were not taking this tongue lashing lying down. While they admitted that some of these problems were indeed a thorn in the flesh, they castigated their brothers and sisters for pointing out issues from a far, instead of joining the fight from the ground. Reacting to the insecurity and corruption concerns, a visibly enraged Fatima Hassan shot at critics with this comment:
Fatma felt that one needed to be sure that they love their country so much, that the problems would not be an excuse but a motivation. Otherwise, a half - hearted return to the motherland would birth whiners who would be of no use to a country that is trying to overcome the challenges pulling her down.
I must say that both sides have valid points and I will certainly not try to referee this one, but I will say this;
At one point or another, I have felt like my presence would not be missed if I up and left, and God knows there have been numerous opportunities to do so. There are times when we feel we are fighting a lost battle; when those who are supposed to lead us as we thrive in our motherland are caught flat out looting from the public coffers, paralyzing some of the most sensitive social and economic sectors. We’ve all lost some hope at some point, but what keeps us going is the ever powerful people power. We join hands and fight from the grassroots; we have won some of these battles against corrupt and unjust elite because we recognized that there is strength in numbers.
Africa is indeed grappling with lots of issues, but the good news is that the solutions are right here with us, in this rich and diverse continent. Everyone has a role to play. There is room for entrepreneurs, medical practitioners, journalists, engineers and the rest of the professionals to engage each other on how to change the perceived African narrative that revolves around poverty, debt, diseases and war. There is room for YOU. We are on course, and look! Great things are already happening.
I sure hope that Donald Trump will not have to make the decision for you, African living in the US (and anywhere else in the world), and that when you are ready, you will find your way home and partake of the small and big victories that are and will be erupting like active volcanoes. Josiah Chipopu Kalala puts it below, it would be nice to have you actively involved from home, not just as a spectator and grumbler from miles away… but with or without you, “Africa will be fine.”