A United Africa

We are living in times of great disharmony and discord.  Only a few weeks ago, many were rejoicing the end of 2020, but the reality remains the same.  Countries and regions in much of the western world that were once seen to be the very symbols of unity and leadership continue to endure polarisation, unrest and upheaval. Whilst it is understandable for us to be consumed by the situation in our lives, in our countries and in our continents, perspective and change can often take place when we begin to look outside and beyond our own world.  So why not consider Africa?


The strategy there has been clear and simple since the launch of the African Union in 2002. Focus on developing local talent. Focus on promoting foreign investment and key sectors that will benefit the local economy. Focus on growing a united Africa.  The result?  Africa’s economic renaissance and huge profile as a global business destination. Countries such as Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa have become a magnet for international talent, especially in the oil and gas and technology sectors.  As far back as 2014, Nigeria was seen to be leading the way on this by being designated as one of the MINT (Mexico, India, Nigeria and Turkey) economies by Goldman Sachs’ economist Jim O’Neill.  Nigeria, incidentally, also spearheads the Economic Community of the West African State (‘ECOWAS’) – with a goal to promote economic integration across the region.


Despite this regional success and rapid growth, the focus has not shifted away from the initial plan: to both manage the growth and train the local workforce.  Local governments in many African countries remain cautious about high-volume immigration in the region as they do not want to reduce work opportunities for local talent but must balance this with utilising the skills that can be brought in from abroad to keep pace with progress. 


Harmonization within the continent is another key priority.  The African Union was set up with the very goal to promote trade between African nations.  One example of this is the option for visa free travel in the region but also collaboration in terms of economic integration, gender equality and social development. The ‘Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) treaty allows free movement of goods and services, facilitates intra-continental business travels, attract long-term investment and, as a result, ensures economic growth within the African continent.  The AfCTA treaty was delayed due to the Covid-19 crisis, but did this change the collective strategy to remain united?  Absolutely not.  African countries pulled together at the height of the pandemic and in June 2020 created a one-stop shop approach to secure Covid-19 test kits, PPE and any future vaccines.  Ethiopian Airways and South African Airways collaborated to ensure that shipments hubs in Addis Ababa and Johannesburg would allow for costs to be reduced as much as possible.


The pandemic may have put a pause on mobility across the globe, but there is no doubt – this is temporary.  Despite the ongoing rollercoaster of these times, Africa’s response to the crisis has been aligned and effective, which will have one significant consequence.  The region is well positioned to recover and most of all, stick to the plan – regional harmonization, global growth, leveraging local labour and most importantly building: a united Africa.


Article courtesy of

Ben Sookia – Global Immigration specialist

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