Wednesday 5 October 2011

Africa Paradise

Imagine a world in which young Europeans try to desperately reach Africa. An interesting article in Slate Africa speculated on this scenario. It referred to the film Africa Paradise by the Beninese film maker Sylvestre Amoussou. It is a movie about a French couple which, in 2033, tries to leave a Europe plagued by unemployment and violence to enter the prosperous United Nations of Africa. However, African border guards stop them, and this is where their troubles start....

It may sounds a phantasm to most but is a future increase in European migration to Africa really that unrealistic?

In fact, it is already happening. More and more Europeans are settling in the Maghreb, West Africa and elsewhere on the continent to work, to do business or to retire. But why are they usually not seen as migrants, but as expatriates?

Why would they not be migrants? Because they are not considered as "poor" or "desperate"? (At least, this is the way Western media portray African immigrants, even though we know that most of them are neither poor nor desperate). Or because they are neither Black nor Muslim? In any case, "migrant" has increasingly become a term to describe the (undesirable) other.

This reveals the double standards Europeans apply when it comes to migration. While most Europeans find it normal that Africans and other foreigners are denied entry and live in situations of illegality, they find it equally normal that Europeans have the privilege to go and settle almost anywhere in the world. My students find it perfectly normal to spend their summer holidays in Morocco, Egypt or South Africa to discover the world and/or themselves, but often fail to realize that young Africans may have similar desires and dreams.

This is why films like Africa Paradise are important. It compels Europeans viewers to look themselves into the mirror and to imagine how it would be to be on the other side. But it also compels African viewers to consider racism and xenophobia in their own society.

The movie opens up the imagination by portraying a future in which the world looks totally different. And even if the scenario of Africa Paradise will not play out, this is an important message. Because it is very likely that the future of global migration will look fundamentally different from now.

And why would people not go to Africa?

Increasingly, Europe seems to become a continent marked by ageing, economic stagnation and social sclerosis. Particularly in southern Europe but also in Ireland, faced with mass unemployment and a general lack of perspective, young people have started to migrate again. And in the future, why would they not increasingly opt for Africa? 

While income differences between Europe and most African countries are still huge, many African economies have been growing fast and offer many social and economic opportunities for young, aspiring people. While countries such as Morocco, Tunisia, Ghana, Senegal and South Africa attract increasing number of migrants from within Africa, they also attract increasing number of migrants from outside. And these are not only Europeans. According to some estimates about one million Chinese already live in Africa.

Thinking about Africa as a migration paradise does not only help to correct stereotypes about Africa, but can also help Europeans to look themselves into the mirror. What if?

1 comment:

  1. With all the literature available about immigrants in the EU and North America, your blog really changes my vision on this topic.


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