African migrants living around the world send home financial and material resources critical to development of the continent. William Minter noted in 2011 that between 2008 and 2010 financial flows from Sub-Sahara Africans living abroad averaged $21 billion a year. They are projected to send home about $24 billion in 2012 despite the global economic crunch. Figures from the World Bank indicate that in 2010 the top remittance receiving countries in Africa were Nigeria ($10.0 billion), Egypt ($7.7 billion), Morocco ($6.4 billion), Sudan ($3.2 billion), Algeria ($2.0 billion), Tunisia ($2,0 billion), Kenya ($1.8 billion), Senegal ($1.2 billion), and South Africa ($1.0 billion).
In terms of remittances as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP), the World Bank's 2009 figures show that the top countries were Lesotho (24.8%), Togo (10.3%), Cape Verde (9.1%), Guinea-Bissau (9.1%), Senegal (9.1%), Morocco (6.6%), Tunisia (5.3%), Egypt (4.0%), and Algeria (1.4%). In Lesotho for instance Jonathan Crush notes that “migrant remittances are the country's major source of foreign exchange, accounting for 25% of GDP in 2006”.
The monies sent home annually go to pay for school fees, renovate family houses, pay for medical expenses, pay for food and clothing, burial and funeral of lost relatives. The billions of dollars sent home are also used to put up houses, establish schools, finance agriculture and small businesses that also employ some of the unemployed. The money is also a source of revenue for financial and banking firms operating in Africa including Western Union, RIA, Ecobank, ADB and Barclays, helping them to stay in business.
The remittances enable cash trapped governments to get badly needed foreign exchange to pay for imported goods such as crude oil, food, cars, computers, machinery and equipment and maintain critical infrastructure such as roads. Thus migrants help to bring stability in the balance of payment of their countries and without which some of the countries would go bankrupt.
In their effort to contribute to development some have formed associations and usually contribute money to provide boreholes, healthcare, books, and education infrastructures. Though majority of them work in menial jobs they do so in order that relatives back home could live.
The point here is that the migrants are constantly thinking about home (Africa). They are always thinking about the continent's economic situation and are more willing to help change it.
Unfortunately there is another class of Africans: the politicians, directors of government businesses and top civil servants who are managing the affairs of the continent. They are supposed to work for the interest of their countries and use scarce financial and material resources judiciously to save guard the future of the people. In reality however, the opposite is true: they are parasites and vampires always putting their personal interests above that of the continent, fraudulently managing its affairs and not fearing the consequenes. The politicians of a typical African country do not think about their people, and their future. Very few indeed have intention to develop their own country a fact that can be found in almost all the countries in Africa. The ruling classes usually consider Europe and America their home and the money they make (most of it stolen from state coffers) are taken there. They buy mansions and high priced properties with stolen monies that could go into building schools, hospitals, roads, and providing clean water and electricity for the people.
In short they refuse to invest in the future and the human security of the people. Thus while those living in Europe and North America always think about Africa and therefore send money to contribute to its development, those who are in Africa occupying top positions do not have those ideas.
If the billions of dollars migrants sent home annually had been prudently combined with loans, aid, grants, and funds generated from the sale of natural resources such as crude oil, gas, gold, diamond, copper, cobalt, uranium, timber, cocoa, the stories in the usually food, water and energy insecure, and poverty stricken countries in the continent would have been different.
Unfortunately because the ruling elites do not consider the continent their home, they deplete financial resources and stash it in Europe and North America. The Africa Union notes nearly $150 billion needed to invest in research and development, technology and science is annually siphoned off by the elites in Africa effectively denying the continent the vital financial resources needed to build its infrastructures maintain its institutions and develop its people.
This explains the terrible nature of social indicators such as literacy, access to healthcare, food, water and electricity and life expectancy. It explains why majority of African countries are always found at the bottom of the UN Human Development Index.
The tragedy with Africa is that its leaders do not think about or care for its welfare. A case in point is Nigeria. The average Nigerian migrant always think about their motherland. They send billions of dollars home every year that help pay for school fees, repair houses and perform other vital services. But when one looks closely at the country it does not seem to be making positive progress in any area. The progress it has made so far is towards destruction: terrorism, militancy and piracy.
Since 1956 over $400 billion dollars has been realized from the sale of oil and gas in the country and the Federal Government of Nigeria has been receiving the money on behalf of the people but the money is not known to have been used to perform any task to benefit the country and its people. Coupled with remittances from its citizens Nigeria is a country that could boast of one of the highest standard of living globally but today it is riddled with chronic poverty and endemic instability.
While Nigerians living abroad work hard to send $10 billion home to contribute to her development, its leadership: the politicians, oil executives, army generals, police officers, judges and civil servants who claim to be managing the country on behalf of the people have succeeded in turning her into a failed state, unable to provide electricity to its people let alone provide security for its inhabitants.
James Ibori, former governor of Delta State in Nigeria, who was put on trial on Tuesday (28 February 2012) in Britain for money laundering, is a typical of the long list of African politicians who have made Europe and North America their home while bleeding their own countries to death. The British Courts have established that (James Ibori, who was convicted in Britain in 1990s) was able to become governor of Delta State and used his position to fraudulently embezzle and launder $250 million in Britain. Even though his monthly salary was some few thousand dollars he managed to acquire properties costing several million of dollars. The $250 million was supposed to help promote human security in Nigeria: food, water, shelter, education, health, electricity but decided to take it to his home (Britain) leaving his people in a state of destitution.
James Ibori represents the breed of African leaders who have made France, Britain, Canada, United States, Germany, and Switzerland their home and are constantly thinking of how to steal from their poor in order to live a lavish lifestyle in Europe and America with the connivance of Euro-American political and business elites.
But he is not the only politician who does not think about his country and its people. Indeed there are many African political and business leaders who have made Europe and America their first home looting in Africa and depositing their loot there. In 2011 French police confiscated state of the art sports-cars (costing several millions of dollars) from the French home of Teodorin Obiang the playboy son of Equatorial Guinea's President Obiang Nguema. The President himself has been accused by the U.S. Senate of money laundering in United States. The political leadership in Angola, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Congo, and Gabon have all being accused by Sherpa and Global Witness of stealing oil revenue and used the proceeds to buy expensive mansions and other properties in France aided by French political, business and banking elites.
Nobody knows how countries like Nigeria, Chad, Kenya, Cameroon, Angola, DRC, Congo Ghana and Gabon can end the impunity of corruption but the decision by the British Court to jail James Ibori is a dream comes true for many who love Africa but hate the corruption, profligacy and extravagance of its leaders.
By Lord Aikins Adusei