Brexit – Let this be a Lesson

Angel Jones weighs in on how Britain’s vote to leave the EU could impact Africans at home and abroad. 

I woke up earlier than usual on Friday morning with a strange premonition. I immediately turned on the news and couldn’t believe my eyes to see that the UK Leave campaign was projected to win.

The rest of the weekend passed in a haze of disbelief with one shock after another: Prime Minister Cameron resigns, Scotland threatening to leave the UK, global markets crashing and ratings downgrades. But worst and most sickening of all, racist incidents rearing their ugly heads across England. I felt like I was in a bad pre-World War Two movie.

Living in South Africa, one of the most diverse nations in the world, my heart has been sinking at the thought that the world is moving backwards, becoming more insular, frightened, xenophobic and separatist.

What can we learn from this as Africans and how will it affect Africans both at home and abroad?

A tighter job market in the UK may now fuel a flurry of African professionals returning, although we haven’t seen much movement yet. As the brain gain company for Africa, we celebrate the prospect of Africa’s best and brightest returning home, bringing their global skills, insights and expertise with them. However, at the same time, people shouldn’t be compelled to return because they feel forced or pushed to do so. As much as we bang the drum about returning to your roots and national identity, we live in a global world where people should be free to move wherever they want.

At Homecoming Revolution, we celebrate people’s FREE WILL to return home, or leave or travel. We celebrate the diversity of religions, creeds, colours in Africa.

We fully support BEE in South Africa and localisation laws in Sub-Saharan Africa. Yet, at the same time, we need to make it clear to the world that we are suffering a shortage of critical skills. If we can’t find them at home or in the diaspora, we welcome foreign skills. Why? Because they will build our economy and create more jobs for everyone.

Brexit should strengthen our resolve and teach us not to make the same mistakes. Africa has always had the ability to leapfrog the old systems of the West and use innovative solutions to adapt to changing situations on the continent. From this we must learn quickly how wrong the idea of separatism is. Maybe this will fortify our resolve as Africans to work harder at building a stronger African Union where intra-African relationships and trade are fostered.

Many people are saying the Africa rising narrative is over, instead I think this is the age of Africa SUR-prising – this is our chance to surprise the world and show off our “ubuntuism”. All humanity originally came from Africa and here is our opportunity to show that the Cradle of Humankind is one that celebrates equality, diversity, tolerance, respect and innovation.

Come home, all are welcome.

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