Decolonisation Watch: The African Union is introducing a single passport to make travel on the continent easier for Africans

While the UK loudly decries… debates and decides to divide Europe.

Quietly, on another continent…countries unfurl into unity.

Decolonisation continues…

When heads of state from across Africa arrive in Kigali, Rwanda next month for the African Union (AU) Summit, they will be among the first Africans issued the new electronic African Union passport. The passport is meant to make travel on the continent much easier for Africans.

“The scene seems to be set to realize the dream of visa-free travel for African citizens within their own continent by 2020,” the AU said in a statement announcing the launch.

Travel in Africa is difficult for most Africans. They are required to have visas for over half of the countries on the continent. Only 13 African countries (pdf) allow other Africans to enter without a visa or give visas on arrival. In contrast, Americans can travel to 20 African countrieswithout visas or with visas on arrival.

African travelers say they feel the same suspicion at immigration counters within the continent as they do outside of it. Aliko Dangote, a Nigerian businessman and Africa’s wealthiest man, was himself onceturned away by South African immigration officials as he struggled to locate his passport. Meanwhile his American staff sailed through border control.

Reposted from this Quartz article. Read the full thing here.

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COP21 will determine how Africa will be colonised again, through climate change…

“They seek Africa as a territory to try and help solve the problems they created. When they propose mechanisms like REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) they are actually trying to carbon colonise the continent using our forests to sink, to sequestrate the emissions, the carbon that they create in the Western world. I think they are using Africa the same way they used Africa in the past, to colonise it, to subjugate their people.”

Recommended read: Mediterranean migrants: No one makes this journey just to pick up benefits

I’ve just read this article in The Guardian by Gary Younge about immigration in the UK, following the tragic deaths of hundreds of people travelling to Europe from Libya in the Mediterranean Sea earlier this month. 

He says: “Those who insist the west can’t take in the world’s misery must acknowledge how much of that misery we’re responsible for.”

I really recommend reading it:

“…Around 3 billion people live on less than $2.50 a day. The global 99% did not come about by accident. It’s the result of centuries of colonisation, decades of imperialism and the current corruption that has allowed a handful of people, in different ways at different times, to steal natural resources and pilfer public goods. As Winston Churchill once said of Britain: “This small island [is] dependent for our daily bread on our trade and imperial connections. Cut this away and at least a third of our population must vanish speedily from the face of the earth.”

In more recent times these inequalities have been reinforced by a global trade system that operates according to the golden rule – that those who have the gold make the rules. Put bluntly, Europe is rich (even if those riches aren’t evenly divided) in no small part because other nations are poor.

On top of that, a large number of these people are displaced by wars. The top three nations from which maritime refugees to the EU come are Syria, Afghanistan and Eritrea. The country where they are most likely to start their journey is Libya, which is now effectively a failed state. In other words, many are running for their lives through countries we have bombed. Those in the west who insist we cannot take in “the world’s misery” must, at the very least, acknowledge how much of that misery we are responsible for…”

Read the full article here.

Cutting out the ‘heart of darkness’

A couple of weeks ago I posted a video from the Rules about telling #ADifferentStory to capitalism (Oops… I forgot to post this and found it in my drafts…)

For me, this links really closely to research I have been doing recently about colonialism and the effects that it’s had, and very much continues to have on the African continent in particular (more on that and neo-colonialism later).

There is an inherent link between capitalism and colonialism; both are dominant Western, patriarchal discourses, and, in my opinion, both are just stories. Powerful ones that continue to pervade society, culture, economics, politics and our very sense of self, but still stories. Ones that can be retold.

One conversation I had in Ghana with a Ghanaian friend (there were many similar and equally painful conversations) went something like this: 

“White western people are like royalty. Before they came we were savages. We didn’t have cars. We didn’t have chairs to sit on…” 

This is why I think it’s SO important that the voices of people like Walter Rodney, who wrote How Europe Underdeveloped Africa and articles like this one: http://thisisafrica.me/africa-colonisation/ are so important. They tell A DIFFERENT STORY to the one that we’ve been told, and keep telling, all of us in fact – the colonisers and the colonised, the oppressors and the oppressed.

It’s why, when I read Rodney’s account of African development pre-colonialism, and of its originality, and different and wonderful ways of doing things, and its innovation, and advancing societies and cultural magnificence… I want to shout it from the rooftops.

Africa has long been the subject of others’ narratives: from the ‘dark and savage continent’ of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness:

Going up that river was like traveling back to the earliest beginnings of the world, when vegetation rioted on the earth and the big trees were kings. An empty stream, a great silence, an impenetrable forest. The air was warm, thick, heavy, sluggish. There was no joy in the brilliance of sunshine. The long stretches of the waterway ran on, deserted, into the gloom of overshadowed distances. On silvery sand-banks hippos and alligators sunned themselves side by side. The broadening waters flowed through a mob of wooded islands; you lost your way on that river as you would in a desert, and butted all day long against shoals, trying to find the channel, till you thought yourself bewitched and cut off for ever from everything you had known once—somewhere—far away—in another existence perhaps.”

… to the Rough Guide’s ‘sensuous Africa’: 

“…the brilliance of red earth and emerald vegetation in the forest areas; the intricate smells of food cooking, charcoal smoke and damp soil; the towering clouds that fill the skies at the start of the rains; the villages of sun-baked mud houses, smoothed and moulded together like pottery; the singing rhythm of voices speaking tonal languages; and the cool half-hour before dawn on the banks of the Niger, when the soft clunk of cowbells rises in a haze of dust from the watering herds. These are the images that stay, long after the horrendous journeys and delays have become amusing anecdotes.”

Africa, often described as a victim, as backwards, as incapable and as a homogenous dark and dangerous country, is prescribed with projections and shrouded in mystery, stereotypes, lies and racism. Binyavanga Wainaina makes this point exquisitely in his GRANTA essay: How to write about Africa.

But, different stories (that have long been told) are starting to be heard. Websites like This is Africa, Ijinle, Africa is a Country and A View From The Cave, and strong voices like Binyavanga Wainaina, Chinua Achebe, Chimamanda AdichieTMS Ruge, Ory Okolloh MwangiTeju Cole, tolu ogunlesi and Minna Salami are so important for all of us. They’re telling a different story about the African continent – and it sounds something like the truth.

What I say here isn’t important, and the fact that I’m pointing it out isn’t noteworthy at all (I don’t want to become another author of a story that isn’t mine to tell). But for people living in the West who might read my blog, I urge you to seek out and listen to and amplify the stories that don’t always get heard or told in, or by, the mainstream. 

It’s time the West stopped telling our story to the world and trying to make it THE story. It’s time we learned to listen.

Let me know of any other brilliant people and organisations telling new stories (or shouting louder about older, marginalised ones)…