Feature Article of Wednesday, 11 April 2012
Columnist: Tawiah-Benjamin, Kwesi
1975 is still fresh on the mind of Mozambique. That was the year the Portuguese packed their bags and left the South African colony, to grant them the natural right to manage their own affairs. Their independence had come quite late compared to other countries in black Africa. Mozambique, however, had to share the fate of African countries that had led the struggle to achieve self governance eighteen years earlier. They have told similar stories of poverty, mismanagement and underdevelopment for a quarter of a century and beyond. If countries in west Africa were notorious for massive migration to Europe and America for better lives, Mozambique was not spared the brain drain to neighbouring South Africa and rich western countries in search of good prospects.
Today, Mozambique is welcoming the return of the former colonial master. This time, however, the Portuguese are coming with their CVs and application letters to compete for jobs with local Mozambicans. They are coming in their thousands, pitching camp in their former colony to avoid the Eurozone crises in Portugal. And they seem happy in their new place of abode, working hard to earn decent incomes to remit their families in Portugal. Maybe history’s most important U-turn is about being recorded in Mozambique. And history is all the better for it.
Life in the Eurasia is getting harder and harder. Just last week, a 77 year old pharmacist in Greek committed suicide to protest the crises in the country. Statistics have it that one in five Greeks is jobless, pensions have been reduced and economic conditions are getting worse. England has seen a virgin advertise her body for the highest bidder to sponsor her not so expensive education and take her virginity all at once. Southhall, an Indian populated suburb in London, is a painful reminder of the hard life of the homeless. Young and able bodied men sleep away their future under bridges and pathways in cold temperatures. African Immigrants in Holland and Italy are constantly on the edge, eager to escape to other countries where the grounds appear fertile for bigger dreams. Opportunities are not exactly bleak in these countries; indeed there are lots of avenues for personal, if not, professional advancement. Many serious and hardworking people have taken advantage of the economic order in these countries to transform their lives. Yet, there is still struggle and contention in the modern welfare state.
Capitalism is not any better. Triumphant American Capitalism is even worse. The single lady on the second floor of my triplex lives a solitary, sorrowful life. Her only companion is a fat cat and a dog called Shandy. She sits in a pool of tears and curses the unfair system that has reduced her disability benefits. She had worked her life out as an insurance broker, to help grow a small local company into a multinational establishment. Now, out of work (actually laid off), she lives the life of a dejected soul whose sanity is constantly challenged by sheer sadness, deprivation and despair. She curses away at the least opportunity: “It’s not fair. It’s not fair.”
Not that it is all fair in Mozambique; this is still a developing country that appears to be doing things right, if the Portuguese exodus into the former colony means anything. Mozambique is not yet Asia’s China or South America’s Brazil or a Dubai of any kind. Indeed, many Mozambicans are worried that the Portuguese invasion is making the competition for local jobs too keen. Cost of living has become more expensive and accommodation prices are almost unthinkable. Many locals are migrating from the capital to less Portuguese-populated cities where the competition is yet to catch on. If the return of the colonial master has energized business in the African country, it has also made life too much of a chore for the average Mozambican, who is not only compelled to be his brother’s keeper, but also forced to extend a hand to his foreign brother who was once his master.
Ghanaians are not expecting an invasion of the British powers into our midst any time soon. Maybe conditions here are not attractive enough to foreigners. At least not good enough for them to vacate Britain for Accra. We have our own in-country migration from the north to the south. Almost daily, little girls of school going age jump on buses to make the long, hard journey from Lawra to the Agbobloshie market to work as porters. They sleep in terrible situations in slums and are most vulnerable to disease, rape and unwanted pregnancies. They face a bleak future because they cannot go to school. Their children have no place in the information age when they are strapped behind the backs of their mothers in the sun.
Relocating the capital to Dodowa or Kintampo would not solve the north-south migration problem. We should make development in the north a priority, creating jobs and building more schools. Before the British come to settle here someday, we should at least ensure that we have done something good out the Korle lagoon. It’s been said that spring would be reborn under our bright steps. Let’s make it count.