IPAR’s activities are centered around major themes of intervention at the heart of current agricultural issues: demographics, employment and migration, public policy, performance and productivity of family farms, land and the management of natural resources, support for producer organizations.
The Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) is Uganda’s leading think tank in economics and development policy oriented research and policy analysis.
The Economic Policy Research Centre was established in 1993 as an autonomous not-for-profit organization limited by guarantee to fill fundamental voids in economics research, policy analysis, and capacity building for effective in-country contributions to Uganda’s policy processes.
Today EPRC is a reputable, credible and independent policy think tank in Uganda renowned for providing research based evidence and policy analysis to support the formulation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of government policies.
Our Mission To foster sustainable growth and development of the Ugandan economy by advancing the role of research in policy processes. We do this through provision of high quality applied research, practical policy analysis and advice, and policy focused dissemination and discourse. We also undertake capacity building activities through intellectual and scholar exchange, networking with accredited national and international institutions and scholars and hands on skills sharpening for young professionals, technocrats and policy makers.
Our Vision The EPRC envisions itself as a centre of excellence providing national leadership in intellectual economic policy discourse, through timely research-based contribution to policy processes.
Professional excellence through quality assurance
Integrity, accountability and transparency
Independence and confidentiality in conduct of research
The Economic and Social Research Foundation was established in 1994 as an independent, not-for-profit institution for research and policy analysis.
The formation of ESRF was based on the assumption that there was need and demand for an improved understanding of policy options and development management issues, and that the capacity for this was lacking in the Tanzania civil service.
ESRF addressed this gap by putting into place qualified Professional Staff, modest resources and a favourable research environment for the analysis and discussion of economic and social policy.
The primary objectives of the Foundation are to strengthen capabilities in policy analysis and development management and to enhance the understanding of policy options in the government, the public sector, civil society, and the donor community and the growing private sector.
The African Heritage Institution (AfriHeritage) formerly known as African Institute for Applied Economics (AIAE) was incorporated as a Company Limited by Guarantee in Nigeria in 2000.
African Heritage Institution
It is not-for-profit, non-partisan and independent organization devoted to economic research, capacity building and networking with its corporate headquarters located in Enugu, South Eastern part of Nigeria.Our VISION is a Renascent Africa that is democratic, prosperous and a major player in the global economy. Our MISSION is to provide intellectual leadership in helping Nigeria and Africa think through the emerging economic renaissance.
WHAT WE DO
The Institution’s approach to achieving its vision include responsive and proactive research, facilitation of evidenced based policy debate, convening stakeholder dialogue on topical issues.
Responsive and Proactive Research, Collaboration with Nigerian and African think-tanks, Facilitating Evidence-based Policy Debate, Convening Stakeholder Dialogue on topical issues, Regional and International Networking.
Activities and Outputs
Research in Applied Economics, Economic Modeling and Analysis, Data Production and Management, Dissemination and Communication, Training and Capacity Building, Facilitation of Policy Dialogue.
The Board of Director is headed by the chairman, Professor Chukwuma Soludo while the Management is headed by the Executive Director, Prof. Ufo Okeke-Uzodike.
Africa is a Country was founded by Sean Jacobs in 2009, growing out of the blog Leo Africanus (2007-2009). It started as an outlet to challenge the received wisdom about Africa from a left perspective, informed by his experiences of resistance movements to Apartheid.
Since then it has grown in size to include a larger geographic scope and, crucially, launched the careers of a number of young African and diaspora writers, scholars and artists to a point where as the South African newspaper Mail & Guardian concluded: “Try as you might, it is hard not to turn an online corner in Africa without bumping into Africa is a Country.”
Today, with a team of editors, and over 500 contributors, it features online commentary, original writing, media criticism, videos, audio, and photography, becoming one of the leading intellectual voices in the African online media sphere.
There are few religions as globally misunderstood as African traditional religions. Whether it is being wrongly labelled voodoo, juju or witchcraft, indigenous African faith systems tend to be associated with darkness, animal and human sacrifices, violence and general backwardness
Mkota Spirit Dancers, a traditional Zanzibari dance troupe from southern Pemba. Photo: BusaraMusic
Few people are aware that Voudou (rather than “voodoo”) is a faith based on harmony with nature, one that expressly forbids the killing of another being, or that most African faith systems believe in the concept of one God above all other divinities and deities, who function much as a pantheon of saints.
From the early colonial period till today, misinformation about African indigenous spiritualities is spread and believed as truth. From Nigeria to Kenya, it is disturbing how we have come to accept the intolerant Western views of African indigenous spiritualities, believing that we are saved because we no longer engage in “idol worship”. We ignore the influences that these systems have had and continue to have on the way Africans worship and conduct their everyday lives. Rather than viewing them as the complex systems they are, we have debased them to nothing but a series of sacrifices.
Religious colonialism is the lesser-discussed arm of colonialism itself, but its psychological effects have been as long-lasting. With religion being the sensitive topic that it is, one close to the hearts of many African people, it is not always easy to have a sensible discussion about the problematic ways in which Eurocentric Christianity and Islam reached the African continent. Yet religious colonialism on Africans is the main reason that most of us have come to view our own indigenous faith systems as epitomes of evil. Presenting local beliefs as nothing but backwater superstitions was part and parcel of how Christian missionaries operated in their bid to bring their religion and Western civilisation to the dark continent. Most missionaries strongly believed that they were saving Africans from satanic oppression and ignorance, an idea that most post-colonial Africans have internalised.
The lengths to which some missionaries went in their bid to “civilise” people they saw as inferior still astonishes. Little known is the history of indigenous children across the world who were kidnapped, forced into seminaries and taught not only Christianity but also the superiority of Western culture and language in the hopes that they would go ahead as agents of European authority and “civilise” their own people. As a young boy, Malidoma Somé was abducted by Jesuit missionaries and made to undergo indoctrination into European ways of thought and worship in colonial Burkina Faso. Now a diviner in hisDagara tradition, Somé wrote about the brainwashing he received at the seminary and the difficult journey finding his way back to his people’s traditions in Of Water and the Spirit. In the book, Somé writes “religious colonialism tortures the soul. It creates an atmosphere of fear, uncertainty and general suspicion. The worst thing is that it uses the local people to enforce itself”. These words are still relevant today.
What exactly are rituals?
To the modern African who distrusts these age-old traditions, indigenous faith systems can be nothing but evil. Proof of this is in the ritual killings that keep on happening in this modern age whether it is 100 graves dug up in Benin Republic or albinos being killed for their body parts in Tanzania. These rituals, otherwise called witchcraft, are said to exist due to the superstitious nature of Africans, which arises from traditional beliefs. It is believed that in rituals, people are regularly abducted and killed, their body parts used to create charms or “fetishes” that are said to bring riches to whoever bears them. These so-called ritual killings have attained the status of urban legends in countries like Nigeria where the 10% of Nigerians who adhere to traditional beliefs have to keep their faith secret or risk being labelled as enablers of human sacrifice. There is a great need to differentiate between legitimate spiritual systems and witchcraft, yet it is widely accepted that human sacrifices were part and parcel of pre-colonial faith systems.
That these rituals are done with the main aim of making money should hint at their true capitalist nature. In a world where everyone is looking to be rich and wealthy, indigenous African spiritualities are not exempt from being corrupted by those who would do anything to get rich. Discussions about the modern “innovations” in African cultures and religious practices are almost nonexistent, so most of us never consider that the growth of Pentecostal churches is encouraging witchcraft related fears or that market forces are central to today’s beliefs in witchcraft. A few months ago at a work meeting, the topic of ritual killings and idol worship came up and a colleague boldly objected to a idea that ritual killings had been traditionally done by Nigerians in pre-colonial times. She said she recalled when human sacrifices started in Nigeria – at the time, she was a child growing up in the 1970s. Her opinion is backed by Chief Adelekan, a Yoruba diviner who at a talk in the Manchester Museum insisted that human sacrifices have nothing to do with his indigenous worship. But in people’s minds, this modern practice of ritual killings has been conflated with indigenous faith systems.
African indigenous spiritualities in the 21st century
Due to the disdain and fear surrounding indigenous faiths, I tell very few Nigerians that I have consulted with a babalawo, a diviner of the Yoruba deity Ifa. I was curious to get a life path reading and to know which Orisha “ruled my head” after a friend had had a similar reading done. Now this confession is enough to freak out a lot of Nigerians, who absurdly believe that Ifá, a deity of divination would demand a human sacrifice. What I do not tell them is that I consulted this babalawo over the Internet. It was through email that my friend introduced me to him, his service was paid for through his website, and after consulting with Ifá, he sent me my life path reading in pdf format. I couldn’t help but compare his very modern and professional service to the recurring stereotype of wild-eyed witch doctors providing consultations in a darkened room that is popular in Nollywood and even Western depictions of any African spiritual system. For those who are open-minded and interested, there are a growing number of priests ordained in their respective spiritualities who are changing the face of indigenous African spiritualities on the continent and in the Diaspora.
Take Ghanaian priest and healer Kwaku Bonsam, for instance, the focus of thisNew York Times article. Kwaku Bonsam regularly uses social media for divination purposes, and he also appears on television talk shows. He named himself “Bonsam” which in Twi means “devil” thus knowingly poking fun at the continued demonisation of indigenous faith systems. Unlike the “primitive” witch doctor of popular imagination, Kwaku Bonsam has adopted children, opened a free elementary school and runs a cattle farm. In keeping up with the generation of Pentecostal pastors in Ghana who use the media to deride Ghanaian traditional religion as devil worship in the continued colonial tradition, Kwaku Bonsam uses similar tactics to strike back. In a fascinating case, Kwaku Bonsam stormed into a church with a camera close by, to expose a Pentecostal priest for soliciting the help of his deities and keeping an idol on the church environs. The resulting video (below) was uploaded on Youtube, thus exposing the ways in which indigenous faiths influence the way modern Africans worship.
Pentecostalism has much in common with the way indigenous spiritualities are practiced, with its heavy emphasis on exorcisms and speaking in tongues. In so many indigenous African faiths, spirit possession and trances are a part of worship. In nearby Benin Republic, a country where majority of the population hold on to their indigenous faith, Voudou, Aligbonon Akpochihala hosts his own radio show and appears on television to dispel misconceptions about the Voudou faith. In his own bid to modernise the faith, Akpochihala launched a crash course that allows Voudou devotees to become priests in four months, as opposed to the usual three years. The mere existence of people like Kwaku Bonsam and websites that offer the West African equivalent of Western zodiac signs shows the ways in which indigenous priests are adapting their centuries-old traditions to the modern world and resisting the grand narrative of Christianity and Islam. It shows that African cultures and customs do belong in this world. The keepers of the age-old traditions are staking their claim for credibility despite the many challenges they face.
AFRICANGLOBE – A former Director of the Institute of African Studies, Professor Akosua Adomako Ampofo, has started a campaign asking for the removal of the statue of Indian independence icon, Mahatma Ghandi, from the University of Ghana campus.
Prof Adomako Ampofo is urging members of the University of Ghana Council to heed her petition arguing among other things that, Ghandi was racist against Black people and honoring him set the wrong example for students.
In June 2016, the statue of Ghandi was erected on the University campus to the dismay of some members of the university community aware of the apparent racist overtones Ghandi exuded.
Prof Adomako Ampofo cites some of these examples of racism in her petition, like this quote from 1894. ”
“A general belief seems to prevail in the Colony that the Indians are little better, if at all, than savages or the Natives of Africa. Even the children are taught to believe in that manner, with the result that the Indian is being dragged down to the position of a raw Kaffir.
It should be noted that, the word Kaffir, is a derogatory term for Black people with roots in Apartheid era of South African history.
No racists symbols on world class universities
The petition also contended that, if the University of Ghana sought to be a world class university, it should not be seen to be honoring former bastions of slavery, apartheid and white supremacy.
In other high profile universities, symbols edifying persons associated with controversial stances like white supremacy have been removed.
Prof Adomako Ampofo notes one such example in her petition when in October 2015, “Rhodes University [in South Africa] established a renaming team to remove the name of Cecil Rhodes, former prime minister of the Cape colony, and one of the founders of apartheid.”
The first senate and then the Council of the University of Cape Town, also voted to remove the statue of Cecil Rhodes early in 2015, after protests by some students. With these arguments, Prof Adomako Ampofo urged the University of Ghana Council to “do the honourable thing by pulling down the statue. It is better to stand up for our dignity than to kowtow to the wishes of a Third World super-power.”
Find below her full petition
Dear Honourable members of the University of Ghana Council:
Re: Petition for the removal of the Statute of Gandhi
We the undersigned bring this petition for the removal of the statute of Gandhi to the esteemed Council of the University of Ghana Council for your consideration.
On 14 June 2016 a statue of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi  was erected at the Sam Aboah quadrangle[DOK1] . This is the only statue of an historical personality on Legon campus, and soon after it came to the notice of members of the University community and the general public, calls for its removal began within the University community and beyond.  We, the undersigned associate ourselves with that call for the reasons outlined below.
Rationale for Removal:
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s racist identity:
Below we provide just a few citations from his own writings to illustrate this.
Before Dec. 19, 1894
“A general belief seems to prevail in the Colony that the Indians are little better, if at all, than savages or the Natives of Africa. Even the children are taught to believe in that manner, with the result that the Indian is being dragged down to the position of a raw Kaffir.” ~ Vol. I, p. 193
Before May 5, 1895
“In the face, too, of financial operations, the success of which many of their detractors would envy, one fails to understand the agitation which would place the operators in the same category as the half-heathen Native and confine him to Locations, and subject him to the harsher laws by which the Transvaal Kaffir is governed.” ~ Vol. I, pp. 224-225
Before May 5, 1895
“So far as the feeling has been expressed, it is to degrade the Indian to the position of the Kaffir.” ~ Vol. I, p. 229
Sept. 26, 1896
“Ours is one continual struggle against a degradation sought to be inflicted upon us by the Europeans, who desire to degrade us to the level of the raw Kaffir whose occupation is hunting, and whose sole ambition is to collect a certain number of cattle to buy a wife with and, then, pass his life in indolence and nakedness.” ~ Vol. I, pp. 409-410
Before May 27, 1899
“Your Petitioner has seen the Location intended to be used by the Indians. It would place them, who are undoubtedly infinitely superior to the Kaffirs, in close proximity to the latter.” ~ Vol. II, p. 270
June 1, 1906
“The Boer Government insulted the Indians by classing them with the Kaffirs.” ~ Vol. V, p. 59
All quotes are direct quotations from The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi. They are taken from his writings and statements during the years he spent working as an attorney in South Africa, before he went back to India in 1915 to fight for independence. Note: “Kaffir” is an offensive term in South Africa considered on par with “n*gger” in the U.S., though in Gandhi’s time some historians claim it was considered more neutral.
Indians Dragged Down to the Kaffirs
Before Dec. 19, 1894: “A general belief seems to prevail in the Colony that the Indians are little better, if at all, than savages or the Natives of Africa. Even the children are taught to believe in that manner, with the result that the Indian is being dragged down to the position of a raw Kaffir.”
Kaffirs Pass Their Lives in ‘Indolence and Nakedness’
Sept. 26, 1896: “Ours is one continual struggle against a degradation sought to be inflicted upon us by the Europeans, who desire to degrade us to the level of the raw Kaffir whose occupation is hunting, and whose sole ambition is to collect a certain number of cattle to buy a wife with and, then, pass his life in indolence and nakedness.”
Kaffirs Would Not Work
Oct. 26, 1896: “There is a bye-law in Durban which requires registration of coloured servants. This rule may be, and perhaps is, necessary for the Kaffirs who would not work, but absolutely useless with regard to the Indians. But the policy is to class the Indian with the Kaffir whenever possible.”
Indians ‘Infinitely Superior’ to the Kaffirs
Before May 27, 1899: “Your Petitioner has seen the Location intended to be used by the Indians. It would place them, who are undoubtedly infinitely superior to the Kaffirs, in close proximity to the latter.”
Indians Shouldn’t Be Taxed Like Kaffirs
May 24, 1903: “The £3 tax is merely a penalty for wearing the brown skin and it would appear that, whereas Kaffirs are taxed because they do not work at all or sufficiently, we are to be taxed evidently because we work too much, the only thing in common between the two being the absence of the white skin.”
Indians Forced to Live with Too Many Kaffirs
Feb. 11, 1904: “I venture to write you regarding the shocking state of the Indian Location. The rooms appear to be overcrowded beyond description. The sanitary service is very irregular, and many of the residents of the Location have been to my office to complain that the sanitary condition is far worse than before. There is, too, a very large Kaffir population in the Location for which really there is no warrant.”
Calamity Coming for Johannesburg
Feb. 15, 1904: “I feel convinced that every minute wasted over the matter merely hastens a calamity for Johannesburg and that through absolutely no fault of the British Indians. Why, of all places in Johannesburg, the Indian Location should be chosen for dumping down all the kaffirs of the town passes my comprehension.”
No Mixing Kaffirs With Indians
Feb. 15, 1904: “Of course, under my suggestion, the Town Council must withdraw the Kaffirs from the Location. About this mixing of the Kaffirs with the Indians, I must confess I feel most strongly. I think it is very unfair to the Indian population and it is an undue tax on even the proverbial patience of my countrymen.”
Kaffirs Less Advanced
Sept. 9, 1906: “Even the half-castes and Kaffirs, who are less advanced than we, have resisted the Government. The pass law applies to them as well, but they do not take out passes.”
Even a Kaffir Policeman Can Accost Indians?
June 4, 1907: “Are we supposed to be thieves or free-booters that even a Kaffir policeman can accost and detain us wherever we happen to be going?”
Kaffirs Can Be Pleased With Toys and Pins
Feb. 2, 1908: “The British rulers take us to be so lowly and ignorant that they assume that, like the Kaffirs who can be pleased with toys and pins, we can also be fobbed off with trinkets.”
Kaffirs Are Uncivilized Animals
July 3, 1907: “Kaffirs are as a rule uncivilised – the convicts even more so. They are troublesome, very dirty and live almost like animals. Each ward contains nearly 50 to 60 of them. They often started rows and fought among themselves. The reader can easily imagine the plight of the poor Indian thrown into such company!”
Indians Must Stay Away From Kaffir Women
Dec. 2, 1910: “Some Indians do have contacts with Kaffir women. I think such contacts are fraught with grave danger. Indians would do well to avoid them altogether.”
The traditional Easter Week foot-washing ceremony by the pontiff is meant as a Catholic gesture of service.
Pope Francis has visited a refugee centre to wash and kiss the feet of Muslim, Orthodox, Hindu and Catholic refugees — a gesture of welcome at a time when anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment has risen after the Brussels and Paris attacks.
Francis celebrated the traditional Easter Week foot-washing ceremony at a refugee shelter in Castelnuovo di Porto, outside Rome, inaugurating the most solemn period of the Catholic Church’s Easter season.
The Holy Thursday rite re-enacts the foot-washing ritual Jesus performed on his apostles before being crucified, and is meant as a gesture of service.
Francis was greeted with a banner reading “Welcome” in a variety of languages as he processed down a makeshift aisle to celebrate the outdoor Mass.
A fraction of the 892 asylum seekers living at the shelter attended, though others milled around nearby and filmed the event on their smartphones.
Vatican rules had long called for only men to participate in the ritual, and past popes and many priests traditionally performed it on 12 Catholic men, recalling Jesus’ 12 apostles and further cementing the doctrine of an all-male priesthood.
But after years of violating the rules outright, Francis in January changed the regulations to explicitly allow women and girls to participate.
The Vatican said on Thursday that four women and eight men had been selected. The women include an Italian who works at the centre and three Eritrean Coptic Christian migrants. The men include four Catholics from Nigeria, three Muslims from Mali, Syria and Pakistan, and a Hindu from India.
The new norms said anyone from the “people of God” could be chosen to participate in the ceremony.
While the phrase “people of God” usually refers to baptised Christians, the decree also said that pastors should instruct “both the chosen faithful and others so that they may participate in the rite consciously, actively and fruitfully”, suggesting that the rite could be open to non-Catholics as well.
PUBLISHED: 15:41, Sat, Jan 7, 2017 | UPDATED: 19:08, Sat, Jan 7, 2017
AS many as 15 million new migrants could enter Europe from Africa in the next three years, according to a report by an Austrian intelligence agency.
The Austrian Military Intelligence agency predicts a further 15m migrants into Europe from Africa.
Analysis by Austrian Military Intelligence, an agency of the Austrian Armed Forces, has predicted a sharp rise in unemployment across Africa, which would lead to millions of economic migrants travelling to Europe in search of work between now and 2020.The predicted numbers, reported by German newspaper Bild, dwarfs the estimated figure of one million migrants believed to have entered Europe during the current crisis.
The agency said one solution to the impending influx would be for Europe to bolster African nations’ economies, in order to support job creation, productivity and education.
This in turn would encourage more investment from abroad and persuade more people to stay and work in their country of origin.
However, the agency recognised such payments are open to abuse by certain regimes, who would use the funds to “attack their own people” and only increase the number of people fleeing to Europe.The report also called for countries of origin to invest in monitoring their own borders and reduce the “flow of migrants”.
The study found that between 2013 and 2016, more than half a million Africans immigrated to EU countries, with the most coming from Eritrea.
About 100,000 Eritreans are believed to have fled their war-torn country, while Nigeria had the second most asylum seekers, with around 80,000.
Somalia was third with about 60,000, followed by Gambia (40 000), Mali and Algeria (30 000 each), Sudan, DR Congo, Guinea and Senegal (more than 20,000).
German Chancellor Angela Merkel embarks Sunday on a visit to three African countries before hosting leaders from Chad and Nigeria for talks in Berlin, as she seeks ways to stem a migrant influx to Europe.
Merkel will first travel to Mali and Niger before heading to Ethiopia where she is to visit the headquarters of the African Union in the capital, Addis Ababa.
Her talks with leaders of all three countries are to focus on migration issues and the battle against jihadist groups.
On Wednesday, a day after her return to Berlin, she will host Chadian President Idriss Deby. She will cap off the week by meeting with Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari to discuss the African giant’s battle against Boko Haram Islamists.
“The well-being of Africa is in Germany’s interest,” Merkel told Die Zeit weekly in an interview ahead of the visit, arguing that bringing more stability to Africa and improving living conditions on the continent would help reduce the numbers of people seeking to leave.
Simply ignoring the reasons that are pushing people to migrate “will not make the problem go away,” she warned.
Pointing to drought plaguing Chad as an example, Merkel said that “it does not mean that everyone who is in difficulties there can come to Europe as a refugee”.
“But we should be interested in whether 11 million people will have a livelihood or not,” she stressed.
In a sign of Germany’s growing engagement in Africa, Berlin’s ambassador to Niamey said Wednesday it would build a military base in Niger to support the UN mission fighting jihadists in neighbouring Mali.
Germany has troops stationed in Mali and Niger as part of the UN mission MINUSMA, and Merkel is due to visit the soldiers during her upcoming tour.
Drawing attention to Merkel’s trip to Africa, Jordan’s King Abdullah II commended the German leader for taking a “holistic approach” to dealing with the migrant challenge.
“It’s not just Syria and Iraq, it’s north Africa, it’s east and west Africa and here I want to commend the chancellor’s role because there are very leaders in the world who look at the challenges we are facing… as a global problem,” he told journalists.
Merkel has also said that she wants the European Union and North African countries to do deals modelled on a controversial agreement with Turkey to curb migrant flows to Europe.
Under the EU-Turkey agreement, Ankara agreed to take back one Syrian who made it to Greece in return for being allowed to send one from its massive refugee camps to the bloc in a more orderly redistribution programme.
The deal also pledges billions of euros in EU aid for Turkey, visa-free European travel for Turkish citizens and accelerated EU membership talks.
Getting around Europe is a struggle, but it’s just as tough to cross borders in our own continent
In the summer of 2003, a clerk at the US embassy in London informed me that under new 9/11 laws, I was considered “unstable”, and my request for a tourist visa would be denied. Never mind that on the invitation of my aunt – a US citizen – I had bought non-refundable, round-trip tickets to Philadelphia (both the written invitation and the confirmed bookings were prerequisites), or that I was at the end of the second year of a four-year degree course at Liverpool University, or even that I had a visa and job confirmed in France, where I would be spending my third year.
None of that mattered. I carried a Cameroonian passport, and the job of the consulate team was to presume I had no intention of leaving the US, unless my documentary evidence convinced them otherwise, which clearly it hadn’t. As I left the embassy, my face wet with tears, I invented scenarios to console myself: “Her husband has obviously just left her for her best friend, she’s obviously taking out her frustration on me.”
Over the years it’s not just Americans who have looked at my forest green passport and seen the warning: “Beware! Likely to spread contagion or disappear into the black market.” Queuing in Lille in northern France to upgrade my visa from visitor to work permit was like waiting in line with the disallowed – easily 200 of us jostling to be seen by the gendarmes, emotions ranging from hopeful to desperate, depending on how many times you’d been turned back for some trivial reason. “Revenez demain” (“Come back tomorrow”) became the most painful words to hear.
Much of my time in Britain has also been punctuated by the cycle of visa applications, the prices for which escalate with each change of government. My conversations with immigration officers have become something of a chess match: they make their move then I make mine.
“How long have you been in the UK?” I’m asked, as the immigration officer feels up the page to which my visa is stuck, checking to make sure it didn’t belong to a different passport. “Oh, only 10 years,” I say, insouciant; using my BBC Radio 4 voice. “What did you study at university?” “Do you mean my first degree or one of my masters?” Neither of us break eye contact.
They were only doing their job, but I felt as though I too was doing mine: subtly making the point that I had every right to be here. I’d studied a British curriculum, taught to me by British teachers in African schools; and after my parents raised the thousands of pounds needed to pay for the British university education they thought would help me establish my place in the world, I just wanted to be left to get on with it.
But this is not just a problem in the west. My most painful visa transactions have, sadly, been on the African continent – the place where passports should be recognised immediately for the useless, artificial construct they are; where members of the same ethnic group are separated by barriers imposed from outside.
But immigration systems and visa requirements aren’t designed with actual people in mind. Instead, they are a reflection of the geopolitics of the day and of voter sentiment. The number of countries your passport grants you access to is directly proportional to how many friends your government has, and Cameroon’s Paul Biya is famously reclusive.
That said, Cameroon is not the worst. In a 2014 ranking of countries by the strength of their passport, Finns, Swedes and Brits can travel the most freely, swanning into 173 countries of their choosing. Cameroon came in at 43, alongside China, Congo, Jordan and Rwanda. The least desirable passport was Afghanistan’s, giving its citizens access to a paltry 28 countries.
The system is broken, and the idea that where you are born is a lottery exempts us from our collective responsibility to change that system. But I’m an idealist with wanderlust. So I studied hard for the Life in the UK test, pledged my allegiance to the Queen, and swapped my forest green passport for a crimson red British one – all so that I could just finally roam free.