Flight or Flee

Kenechukwu Obiezu

Kenechukwu Obiezu

The slave trade as the world knew it was shelved more than a century ago, and even if the old form of slavery has evolved in many ways as modern slavery, the modus operandi has not exactly been the same. At least there are no people who sell their family members who are then carried away, writhing in chains by slave drivers who take them to unknown lands, where they are forced to work on plantations under horrific conditions. The modern African experience is that slavery has evolved.

Withered hopes.

Every year, thousands of Africans undertake the perilous journey across the Mediterranean. Their destination? Europe. More than anything, most of the Africans who choose to brave the odds are driven by hopelessness

Between 2017 and 2020, more than 159,000 individuals from West and Central Africa arrived irregularly to the southern borders of Europe by sea and land. Nigeria counts as one of the countries with the highest number of such victims.

African migrants always try to make it into Italy. On April 23,2022, about four boats carrying 120 African migrants and refugees headed to Italy sunk off the coast near the Tunisian city of Sfax. By Sunday, April 24,2022, the death toll had risen to 17 people while thankfully about 98 persons were rescued.

For people fleeing conflict and poverty from Africa, the coastline of Sfax has become a major departure point. Figures from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) showed that more than 123,000 migrants arrived in Italy in 2021, compared with more than 95,000 in 2020.The rising number speaks to a crisis that is not subsiding but worsening.

Shrunken space

For many young Africans, staying in their country has simply become untenable if not impossible. Conflict, poverty and a general sense of hopelessness have combined to make life practically unbearable for those who stay back. This is even before the conversation turns on the absence of civil rights and liberties in many African countries.

A frightening survey

 According to a recent survey of young Africans from 15 countries, a disturbing number of young Africans want out of the continent.

According to the report, the Covid-19 Pandemic, climate crisis, political instability and violence are some of the chief factors that have shaped this wantaway mentality. The Survey recently published by the African Youth Survey showed that out of about 4,500 young people interviewed aged between 18-24, only 32% were optimistic about Africa`s prospects, a drop of 11% since the last survey of its kind was published in early 2020.

Interestingly, the survey also showed that apart from Ghana and Rwanda where a greater percentage of the young people interviewed believed that their country was going in the right direction, young people in all the other countries interviewed believed that their country was going in the wrong direction.

A hemorrhage of human resources.

  In Nigeria for example, every other year records a spike in the number of doctors and nurses who pack up and live the country in search of greener pastures abroad. This has only served to exacerbate Nigeria`s brain drain problem and further complicated the process of healthcare delivery.

The cost on Africa of so many young people who pack up and leave the country cannot be fully quantified. This is because just after enormous resources have been spent in their development, when they should begin to contribute to the growth and development of the continent, they pack up and leave, leaving Africa to start all over again.

Unless the factors which contribute to this challenge are addressed, this exodus will continue, and with it, the developmental struggles of Africa.

Kene Obiezu,




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