Although many governments and individuals will rather ignore the reality of Africans seeking greener pastures abroad, one question is worth considering; is the grass really greener on the other side?
The efforts and expenditure made by thousands of Africans to travel out of the continent is an increasing concern. Many are desperate enough to risk their lives trying to travel out of Africa. Somewhere along the road, Africans, especially the youthful generation have lost confidence in their ability to prosper in their home countries. The general perspective is that traveling abroad increases one’s chances of making a living and supporting the large families that characterize the average African home.
Why do Africans consider traveling abroad to be better?
When you consider the wealth of the African continent, you may be tempted to label the desire of Africans to travel abroad as foolishness. Besides, there are too many Europeans and Asians now flooding the continent for opportunities which these African don’t seem to realize or appreciate. Why are many Africans so bent on going out of the continent when they could as well make it there? Well, there are several reasons.
The First is probably media influence
When you watch an American movie or a renown news agency like CNN, you don’t need to be a genius to see that they do the best they can to give a perfect or near perfect picture of their society, government, economy, culture, infrastructure etc. For the most part, the message passed across tells of a society void of discrimination, lack of jobs, hungry beggars, starving children or social ills.
Many Africans, due to media influence have come to see some European countries and America as the ideal of perfection. They can’t imagine sleeping on the streets or not having a good paying job in those countries. However, not long after they get there, some are shocked at the striking similarities between their host country and their motherland.
Then there is the desire for better education and a more valuable certificate.
Although the potential to make more money is often synonymous to the phrase “greener pastures” it is not the only reason why Africans are determined to travel out. Generally, the educational system put in place by several African countries is far below international standards. This is made even more glaring by the fact that the same certificate acquired from universities abroad is generally preferred to that which was obtained from a school in the continent.
More work opportunities and better pay
Even with more work opportunities and better pay, many are hardly prepared for the living and working conditions in their host countries. Before making so much effort to travel out of the country, what defines “greener pastures” is opportunities to make more money. But the harsh reality that Africans abroad come to realize is that more money and opportunities come at a cost. And sometimes, the cost is too high.
Over the years, there have been reports of young women who have become sex slaves when all they wanted was a better life. Young men on their part, even those with good certificates have settled for jobs they could not have imagined doing. Many sleep on the streets and go for days without proper food. In other countries like Dubai, which has a very strict immigration policy, many Africans live in hiding, having expired or inappropriate Visas to allow for legal residence.
Reports from relatives and others abroad sometimes give a false or exaggerated idea of the advantages of traveling out of Africa for greener pastures. The average African who travels abroad has a good number of relatives and friends who not only consider him lucky but also look up to him as the “Joseph” of the family.
This puts unreasonable pressure on those who travel out to present results of prosperity and financial progress. For this reason, many of these travelers try to show proof of success, encouraging others to try traveling out. But their story is hardly ever told in its entirety. The expectations one has before making the journey out of their home country may be very different from the reality they meet on ground.
Expectations Vs Reality
When most young Africans think about traveling across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe, Asia or America, the idea is getting to meet endless opportunities to make money. This notion is enforced by several factors which make many people desiring to travel out of Africa even more determined. But the realities on ground, when carefully considered, prove that the grass is not all that green after all.
In the past, it was way easier to get a job in European countries shortly after you get there. But recently, some of these countries have had to cut down on employment in order to deal with their threatened economies.
Another issue that comes into play is the fact that some Africans travelling abroad do not have the needed certificates to get the kind of job that can ensure they live comfortably. Consequently, they either get into demeaning jobs or social ills like drugs and the like. What seemed to have been the opportunity of a lifetime could simply be a waiting trap.
The strain of financial commitments
In Africa, unlike in many other European or American countries the cost of living is not half as expensive. Those who travel abroad and successfully get jobs soon realize the nightmare of spending almost everything from whatever they earn on bills, taxes and upkeep. Converted to the currency of their home country, whatever they earn or estimate to make while working abroad may look way more valuable. but once you are there and working, it dawns on you that the value of that money is not to be measured by the rod of your own economy. Some of those who could live comfortably in their home countries are in debts even after earning a lot monthly.
What is the way Forward?
Africans need to put as much effort looking for and harnessing opportunities in their home nations as they do in traveling abroad. The continent is full of emigrants from Asia, Europe and the Americas who are equally seeking greener pastures in Africa. Maybe Africans need to start placing as much value in what they have as these foreigners do.