Saturday, December 29, 2012

50 years of the "African Unity", but is Africa truly for Africans?

As Africa prepares to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) that was created in 1963, the predecessor of today's African Union (AU), it's time to reflect on how much Africa, as a people has benefited from the dreams of the forefathers.

"The main objectives of the OAU were, inter alia, to rid  the continent of the remaining vestiges of colonization and apartheid; to  promote unity and solidarity among African States; to coordinate and intensify  cooperation for development; to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial  integrity of Member States and to promote international cooperation within the  framework of the United Nations."
- source: AU in a Nutshell <>

"The vision of the African  Union is that of: “An integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa,  driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in  global arena.”
- source: AU in a Nutshell <>

When I look at these two statements - "the main objectives of the OAU" and "the vision of the AU" - I get a sense of optimism and pride, a feeling that those who crafted these statements had in mind an Africa for all Africans. Unfortunately, the reality is different.

Africans travelling to African countries:

When you look at our immigration laws and visa requirements for entry into African countries, you will find that non-Africans are more privileged to travel within the continent than their African counterparts. If you plan to hop from one African country to the next, you are far better off travelling on a non-African passport, preferably on an American or European passport.

You can only obtain a tourist visa on arrival if you carry an "accepted foreign" passport, irrespective of whether your trip is for the good or bad of the country that you're visiting. Your African passport is not allowed irrespective of whether your trip is for the good or bad of the country that you're visiting. You will need to obtain a visa before you can board the plane. If the country that you're travelling to has no embassy in your country, tough luck. Go find one in your neighbourhood. And, by the way, you might need a visa to get to that one as well. So, bottom line, if you're African, stay where you are. You're not expected to explore and contribute to Africa's growth.

The irony is that Ehtiopia, the seat of the OAU and the AU, is also not open to Africans.

Tourist visa, can be issued for three months on arrival at Bole International Airport for nationals and residents of the following countries: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Democratic people's Republic of Korea (northern Korea), Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea (south Korea), the Russian Federation, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States of America.

With the exception of South Africa [plus Kenya and Dibouti that are not on this list], no other African country makes this privileged list. Is this our own form of apartheid that the OAU was created to disband? But, before we start pointing fingers, Ethiopia is not alone. The majority of African countries have similar statements on their websites that clearly excludes their African counterparts.

I look forward to the day when we shall have "An integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa,  driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in  global arena"

If Africa is really serious about this vision, then the AU, and by extension, African countries, should start by reviewing the entry requirements for African citizens. Let Africans be able to travel freely within the continent and be proud to contribute to the growth of this diverse continent, to build "a United and Strong Africa" (the slogan of the AU).

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