Many people often talk about seeking greener pastures abroad. The term, greener pastures, is usually conceptualized as environments where job opportunities abound and more importantly “pay well”. It could also refer to an environment which is supportive and enables every individual to flourish or reach his/her highest potential irrespective of socio-politico-economic background. The word greener pastures immediately create images of Europe, the Americas, the Asian Tigers and many other developed countries. However, such environments are lacking in Africa which tends to push most Africans towards these relatively ‘much greener fields’.

In most African countries, unemployment is rife and gradually becoming the norm for most graduates to be without meaningful sources of livelihood after all the sleepless nights in the universities and other tertiary institutions. Unemployment, which in time past used to be regarded as a sign of laziness, has become acceptable and most youth have resigned to fate and taken tags which hitherto have been labels of ignominy as normal. The situation has assumed unimaginable proportions to the extent that in some countries unemployed graduates now have an association while some have taken to armed robbery and cybercrime in other countries. Why do some African countries train people in professions and skills that they do not “need”, while on the other hand those nations lack certain professionals and persons with certain skills so badly? The expression ‘professionals we do not need’ is used here to imply that people are trained in fields in which they can never find a job within the countries in which they live. The system whereby graduates offer some form of service to their country after graduating from tertiary institutions is a major source of employment for fresh graduates now. However, due to the high unemployment rates in most countries, graduates have to undergo stringent screening processes and negotiations for national service postings. This is in sharp contrast to the situation in time past when graduates found ways of dodging the compulsory national service because they had better job offers.

Due to such difficulties, most young people seek a better life outside the borders of their home countries. The term ‘home countries’ is preferred because while some Nigerians see Ghana as a gold mine and for that matter are pouring into Ghana in their numbers, some Ghanaians think otherwise of their country and seek similar opportunities in Nigeria. Nevertheless, the preferred destination for most Africans is Europe and the Americas and more recently Asia. Notwithstanding,  the notion of greener pastures outside of Africa has been called into question given that most of the countries that provided the so-called greener pastures are “struggling” and are now turning to Africa and Asia for support albeit in subtle ways. America for example is contracting loans and the economy is no longer as buoyant as it was in years past. In the case of Europe, the jobs that African migrants generally used to do are now difficult to find since migrants from other less developed member countries of the European Union are preferred by employers.

Indeed, unemployment is as big an issue in America and Europe as it is in most African countries. The difference, however, is that the Americans or the Europeans are not fleeing their countries. Instead, everyone is staying put to make the needed sacrifices to fix the situation in his or her own small way. In most cases what happens in Africa is that as soon as there is a crisis that demands some sacrifices, either the people refuse to make the needed sacrifices or the leadership tell the people to tighten their belts while they (the politicians) loosen theirs or as the ace Ghanaian journalist, Kwesi Pratt Jnr, puts it “the politicians ask the people to bite the bullet while they (the politicians) bite chocolate”.

Nevertheless, it is the opinion of the writers that the so-called ‘greener pastures’ is not only construed in terms of the jobs and money but also the whole functioning system present in these developed countries. We are talking about countries where people are serious at their jobs, countries where transport systems are working well, countries where the health system is well put in place, countries where educational systems are well equipped with appropriate policies and resources and most citizens understand and ask “what they can do for their country and not what their country can do for them”. Indeed, most households in Europe have reduced spending and most governments are implementing job and budget cuts or reducing spending as well. Apart from civil unrest in some parts of Europe, everyone seems to understand what to do in order to bring the economy back on course. Similar measures in Africa is likely to lead to a string of coups d’état with a lot of greedy opposition politicians and soldiers, most of whom have no credible alternatives, riding on the back of such unfortunate circumstances to power.

Indeed, the situation in most African countries is the direct opposite of the workable systems that exist elsewhere. It is so conspicuous that President Obama could see it from the Oval Office and could not help but call for “institutions that work” on his visit to Africa upon assuming office. How can we build these institutions and make them work when our attitude towards our development is static at best? Why should a teacher labour for the whole month or two only to get to the bank and realize that his or her salary has not been paid? Or indeed why should the salary be short of some amount? Why should such a teacher or for that matter any other professional continue to work when he cannot feed his or her family? When people trace such problems, the simple answer is that it was a mistake and will be corrected but nothing is ever done. This is a clear example of negligence or even incompetence. Are some people taking salaries belonging to others? If so why should such people still remain at post? Why do increments in salaries and improvements in conditions of service never translate into improved output?

Young graduates in most African counties are often told to create jobs. Yes, brilliant idea and indeed we believe most graduates in Africa would love be their own bosses. However, graduates from educational systems where they were forced to memorise facts and ideas by other people find it difficult to think of novel ideas or even think divergently. The support systems in Africa are limited or in most cases non-existent even though a lot of people have very good ideas and are determined to see them materialize. It is true that some graduates from other developed economies believed and began in very small ways but have become some of the greatest entrepreneurs the world has. Nevertheless, the African graduate requires more than double the effort to get to where his colleague from elsewhere started. A lot of graduates are hardly given the chance to prove their worth. While workers in the developed world find time to go on holidays and in most cases yearn for retirement, the contrary is true for the African worker. Some workers continue to work on contracts within the same organisation for several years after retirement instead of setting up consultancies to create jobs or pave way for others to occupy the position. While workers are agitating for a reduction in the retirement age, workers in some countries in Africa are negotiating for an increment in the retirement age. Therefore, if those who have worked for so many years and should have saved enough money (if they planned their lives) to create jobs cannot do that,  is it not reasonable to conclude that it is more difficult for a fresh graduate who may have an unpaid student loan hanging around his neck to do that? It is our contention that most African countries are grave yards to brilliant ideas and initiatives from Africans. No wonder that there are very few initiatives and inventions that comes from Africa. Is there any wonder that most of our sons and daughters who live abroad for so many years or get trained outside come back determined to turn things around but in most cases get frustrated and dispirited? Indeed, most of them try to fight corruption with such zeal and fervour but the system and institutions are such that they fail to sustain the fight and in some cases “join the corrupt; once they fail to beat them”.

It is our conviction that if we were all to be committed to duty and to doing the right things, we could progress a lot faster as a continent than we currently are. Some government departments and ministries in most countries are practically idle and yet are quick to demand their slice of the national cake. Our continent is not poor; we have created poverty for ourselves over time. We have all sorts of resources; how can we claim to be poor? It is very easy to start pointing fingers, which we are not against in principle, but let no one point at any one particular individual or group in society or department because it seems to be happening in every country and all of us Africans are culpable, individually and collectively, through our commissions and omissions. Let us not blame slavery, colonialism and imperialism for our woes any longer because these have been blamed for far too long and in any case these same evils thrive under our very watch. Let us not blame coup makers, civil wars, famine and disease for our troubles since we all played a part in them. It has been at least four decades for Sub-Saharan Africa and more for the Maghreb since we were given the chance to prove that “the African is capable of managing his own affairs” and if after four solid decades we have not developed or have not put any mechanisms in place to indicate our resolve to progress, at the very minimum, why blame slavery and colonialism or indeed anyone for proving instead that “we are capable of mismanaging our own affairs”?

In a nutshell, we have posited that the idea of greener pastures in the form of highly paid jobs and better conditions of living in the developed economies is illusory but could be reconceptualised to imply systems and institutions that work and the love for country that is understood by all and sundry. We have also indicated that “grasses could be greener at our feet” or in our backyard in Africa if we all put in our quota and make the necessary sacrifices to build similar systems and institutions for sustainable development. Ke nako!!!!!

 

Authors:

 

Tang Guuro, Reginald

[email protected]

 

Zubeviel, Thomas

[email protected]

 

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