There has been a wave of change that many of us have been feeling on the continent in recent months which in the midst of times of uncertainty; many peoples of African descent on the continent feel an sense of renewed hope.
Yet there seems to be a push and pull that is happening on the continent making this sense of renewed hope a bit shrouded in ambiguity. Nevertheless, we have heard from many persons of African descent living outside of the continent; say that “As soon as the lockdown is over or the borders are open….they are leaving and coming to Mama Afrika!” This is very exciting news to hear and we begin to have thoughts of an era of a new African Renaissance not only as a diverse group of Africans return with ideas of development, but as enlightened individuals and youth on the continent began to challenge the status quo of the neo-colonial climate that currently exists on the continent.
Yet for those zealous persons who are heading to the Motherland; again be prepared. Lately, there have been a lot of “romanticized” thoughts of our beloved Africa. Therefore if anyone is making serious travel plans to come to the African continent; then it is absolutely imperative that you….PREPARE.
Preparation is multi-faceted when coming to the continent as a person of African descent who does not have actual African citizenship. Additionally, it is more complex when you do not have any local relatives on the continent, you do not have local language skills, nor the relevant knowledge of the current complexities of the society in which you will be residing in. Experience becomes the best teacher for many. Most continental Africans whom are African immigrants living abroad have been truly puzzled by those persons of African descent making what they may see as a seemingly “illogical relocation” because it is being seen thru the lens of immigration. Yet there are many African Diasporans whom do not see this as a hasty relocation, but as a new opportunity to reclaim their fundamental human right to reside in their ancestral homeland. That genuine and pure commitment must be deeply considered because if it is taken to Africa with clean hands and a pure heart; then it is a commendable effort.
It is a journey which most would not reasonably consider, but for the LOVE OF AFRIKA it is done with a lot of sacrifice and risks. This writer cannot begin to tell you the many bittersweet stories of many of those persons whom call themselves “repatriates”, whom have endured residing on the continent for many years prior to this new age of Social Media. Their children whom have grown up on the continent, yet being denied citizenship simply because their parent(s) are not citizens…but they have endured and seen the sacrifices their parent(s) have made to have them experience the Motherland. They also live with the complexity of identifying themselves as being African and having all the experiences as their childhood friends, but still being referred to as a foreigner or non-African. Yet in our overwhelming optimism and media propaganda of a well welcomed return to Africa; we are ill-prepared for the life’s journey that impacts those of us choosing to “come and stay home”.
So, what is to be considered in the preparation of coming to Africa in this particular time and space?
This is what I will be kindly addressing over the next series of articles which are not supposed to give concrete answers, but “food for thought” as you actually prepare for the interesting trod to the continent. Of course, I would highly encourage you to not only think about my humble insights, but to also consider others as well to make informed decisions.
While being on the continent, we usually hear of or experience the Enkhutatash (Ethiopian New Year) which is September 11th. It has always been interesting to me to know that there is another calendar beyond the Julian or Gregorian calendar that many of us have been accustom to. Yet we know that our African ancestors used environmental cycles to determine travels, rituals, festivals, and etc. The Ethiopian calendar being seven years behind the calendar that many are using globally should make us as people of African descent question the significance of this not only to increase our knowledge base, but to also ask ourselves as African people what is the importance of the new Ethiopian year of 2013 upon us.
Many of us see a global tug-of-war happening currently in the four wings of the earth. Also for those individuals who are striving for higher levels of consciousness; we are sensing a time of pronounced CHANGE. The change is basically one in which African peoples of the world must not take lightly, and this definitely needs to be taken into consideration in preparing to come to Africa. The impact of neo-colonialism on the continent is REAL. Do not underestimate it especially if you are coming with ideals of a Liberated Africa. We have had and still do have African freedom fighters, but in this modern time…
Africa is facing some harsh realities (especially for those persons who are seeing Africa through stereotypical or “romanticized” glasses) that will impact your return. One the best things to prepare yourself for is that neo-colonialism and white privilege is very much “alive and kicking” on the continent. Do not be surprised when you realize that these beliefs are being further pushed within the school systems (both public and private) which do not encourage critical African-centred thinking. Many of our present day leaders are not willing to take a stand for the best interest of the continent versus the needs and desires of their former colonial masters (or potentially new Asian colonial masters). With that being said, you will observe other non-African persons getting favoured treatment in every facet of African society including even political infrastructure and in some cases traditional leadership. So be prepared!
With this level of colonial influence, you will need to know that the recent on-set of this global pandemic has tried its best to hinder any form of African unity, African population growth, and African financial independence. Prior to the pandemic, it was being forecasted in many reports that Africa was becoming a key place for economic investment, natural resource exploration, youth development, and significant population growth.
Does it not feel like a devised plan to use something like what is currently happening as a huge obstacle towards the direction that the African continent was moving into?
Is it not ironic that any African leader who pushes back against media scare tactics and mandatory vaccinations is demonized?
Is it not shameful that African police officers and military personnel are using brute force during lockdown, in the presence of this pandemic to enforce new health regulations?
Is it not heart-breaking that our cherished Motherland is becoming a bio-terrorist experiential laboratory under the disguise of a battle with a so-called invisible enemy?
Is it not ridiculous that our African children are being forced to go back into school environments, and then governments are forcing them to remain inside of school facilities without releasing them to their parents upon the onset of one positive case at the school?
Also because in many African countries there is no firm legislation that facilitates Diasporan settlement nor traditional atonement including restorative justice for the Arab Slave Trade and Transatlantic Slave Trade; be prepared that not only will you see the obvious preferred treatment of non-black persons, and you will also feel in many immigration offices that you are not seen as a returnee, but simply as just another tourist or potential immigrant. Therefore be prepared for on-going visa extension fees, residency permit payments, having to have proof of a job or business, and etc. before being approved to even reside for longer than a standard tourism visit. Now add on to that 72 hour Coronavirus tests, airport arrival tests, and a possible mandatory experimental vaccine, it is daunting.
There are only a few countries….Salute to Sierra Leone and Gabon which are making tangible steps towards making the distinction between African Diasporans and others who decide to settle within their countries yet this is limited by DNA results. Most of Diasporans did not grow up with strong tribal divisions, and would not want to be restricted in settlement to just their diverse ancestral DNA background. Ghana has benefited greatly financially from their tourism driven “Year of the Return”, and we can only hope that they will be able to put forth a sustainable way forward for African Diasporan repatriation rather than only President’s pardons which only will allow the President to grant the status, but the person is again then accountable to immigration laws which could delay or void the grantee’s citizenship altogether. Advocacy is needed to ensure that Ghana’s Year Beyond the Return proves to be more fruitful for both local and returnees.
Be prepared for a lack of understanding and genuine empathy in regards to our people understanding your post traumatic slavery syndrome. This why you did not see thousands of Black Lives Matters demonstrations or marches on the continent because the average African does not completely understand what people have been through and are facing in regards to institutional racism for the past five hundred years.
Once you understand this, you will begin to accept your role in sharing certain realities with others so that there can be greater dialogue and mutual compassion. Do not forget as mentioned previously that there are the remnants of the colonial era and also neo-colonialism happening all over the continent. If you allow for our brothers and sisters on the continent to recognize this first, then it is easier for them to relate to certain aspects of Diasporan black history which is also a part of African history.
Preparation time is NOW. One Empowered Africa for us All!
Written by Empress Busi