Professor Siyan Oyeweso of the Department of History and International Studies, Osun State University, Osogbo, has blamed the primary push of African away from the continent to Africa’s perennial challenges with respect to sustainable growth and development.
He stated this while delivering the keynote address at the Lagos State University, (LASU) Centre for General Nigerian Studies (CGNS) Education Summit 2023 with the theme: ‘Diaspora Gains and the Questions of Modern Day Slavery in Africa’ on Tuesday.
Oyeweso, who is a Fellow, Historical Society of Nigeria spoke on the topic; From Trans-Saharan Slave Trade to “Checking out”, Sapa, Japa, Japada: ng Issues in Brain drain, Brain gain and Modern Slavery.
According to him, the migration and dispersal of Africans to other parts of the world are not a new phenomenon. Slavery and slave trade remain the historical source of Africa in the diaspora and established the link between Africa and the wider world.
“The roles played by Africans and the inhumane conditions they were subjected to under the India Ocean Slave Trade, the Red Sea Slave Trade, the Trans-Saharan Slave Trade, and the Trans- Atlantic Slave Trade have left imprints that cannot be denied in contemporary times.
“Although the era of slave trade marked a period of involuntary migration, the events of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in Africa have also witnessed another form of voluntary and involuntary population movement from Africa to developed countries in search of green pastures.”
He added that although the number of Africans that migrated to these countries was minimal during the colonial years, the post-independence period, through the implementation of Structural Adjustment Programme, changed the narrative.
“The turbulent path to sustainable nation-building, characterised by conflicts, poverty, low Human Development Index, unemployment, and an unsustainable standard of living, has pushed many Africans out.”
To the keynote speaker, the culmination of these challenges is best described in a Nigerian coinage called sapa, meaning economic hardships. Similarly, the persistent need to migrate has dominated the everyday life of Africans, often described as japa.
“The context of japa is no different from the brain drain of the 1970s and 1980s, which witnessed the migration of African youth, professionals, and skilled and unskilled workers.
“However, as the tide of japa continues to increase in Africa, another humanitarian concern that emerged is the increasing rate of Africans becoming subjects of modern slavery –victims of human trafficking, sex trafficking, and forced labour.”
This he said is as a result of desperation to reach developed countries and harness the diaspora gain, which is primarily encapsulated in the income difference amounting to the millions of dollars remitted back to their home countries.
Prof. Oyeweso added that the increasing rate of African remittance inflow is attributed to the number of Africans on the move to developed countries in search of greener pastures.
“As the sapa crisis in Africa has continued to contribute to the rate at which Africans leave the continent, the context of japada is also becoming of immense concern.
Africans who are victims of modern slavery, forced labour, or sex trafficking, or those who could not cope with the environment, culture and pressure in diaspora now find their way back home.
“Although the number of Africans that have japada might not be comparable to the increasing number of Africans that have japa, it is evident that the African continent is locked in a global migration project.
“The extent to which this population movement damages or aids Africa’s path to sustainable development in the last three decades remains a major debate,” he said.
He explained further that diaspora gain and modern-day slavery are two burning fundamental issues and great ills that have continued to beset and shape global human and state relations.
“As the movement of people across national and international borders remains one of the core aspects of the global socio-economic and political value chain, it has become difficult, if not impossible, to take the issue of diaspora and modern-day slavery lightly, given its implications for sustainable growth and development on the African continent.
The concept and practice of slavery are not only attached to African history, but also the relationship between Africa and the West (the Global North) under the grip of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and colonialism reshaped the frontiers and practices of slave trade and slavery, which is now assuming a new dimension.
“Some historical and contemporary concepts, such as the Africa Diaspora, the Black Atlantic and the Atlantic World denote centuries of population movement between Africa and the wider world.
“These events have left significant imprints on African migration and transnational relations, which justify the need to further interrogate these issues, not only to identify the context of the past but also to use our findings to reconsider the present and adequately prepare for the outcomes of the future of the African continent.
“This topic is timely given its implication for population movement, Africans in diaspora and towards the realisation of numerous key programmes and policies. These include mainstreaming Africa in Diaspora under the African Union Diaspora Sixth Region, the African Union Agenda 2063 – “Africa We Want”3 and 2030 Sustainable,” he added.
The Vice-Chancellor, Prof Ibiyemi Olatunji-Bello represented by Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Academics, Prof. Olufunsho Omobitan said the modern day slavery requires urgent attention and collaborative efforts from everyone to address this menace.
“We must confront its root causes; poverty, poor education, political instability, uneven economic development which create an environment for exploitation.
“I urge the government at all levels to optimise investment in education, empowerment of the youths with relevant skills, liberate marginalized communities and foster economic growth to dismantle the structures that perpetuate slavery.
“We must build a country that priorities the wellbeing of its citizens, make the basic things work and enhance the spirit of patriotism. In a nutshell, we must make Nigeria work for Nigerians so that Nigerians can be proud to stay in their country.
She therefore said it is incumbent upon everyone to demand accountability from our leaders and strive for justice for our people, if we do not want to continue to lose our best. While we strive to harness the potential of the diaspora, we must actively work together to eradicate the exploitation and subjugation of our people.
“I must also pass a note of caution to our students who are desirous of also leaving the shores of Nigeria in search of greener pastures after their education. My plea is that if you can, please stay to build this nation with us. But if you must japa, please go the legal route with genuine and proper documentations. There is no alternative to this,” she urged.
The Chairman Central Committee of the summit, Prof. Olugbenga Akindoju in his remarks said the summit serves as a platform to dissect the rot, torment and discuss the preventive measures and advocate some policies that protect the vulnerable and preserve the dignity of every African.
He added that the event of modern day slavery has bought over the continent, “but while we celebrate the achievement of those who has ventured beyond our borders we must also confront the harsh truth that affects our fellow African students’ exploits across the world.