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Is leaving our borders wide open to all a bright or dumb idea?

By Mark Bichachi | December 8th 2017

Much has been said about the opening up of our borders to allow all Africans to come into our fair nation. Many have argued that this would breed opportunities for terrorism and further increase joblessness in Kenya. These arguments may seem to have merit but are based on a philosophy I call 'Trumpism'.

Trumpism is the philosophy that all immigrants are inherently evil and are to blame for all the problems within a host country. It is a philosophy that ignores the death of nearly 4,000 Americans at the hands of a white middle-class mass shooter and focus on two immigrants who killed five. It is the focus on creating an imagined enemy to the detriment of actual opportunity to deal with real issues.

As a nation we must become a bit more intellectual than emotional in our reaction towards national issues and regarding how we treat the human race as a whole. As someone who has lived outside my home nation, I have learnt that there is nothing more scary or dangerous than being the subject of unexplained or undeserved hate and xenophobia.

The theory that, for example, Kenya will become a hub for terror because we opened our borders is crazy for the simple reason our neighbours and much of Africa does not suffer terrorism. In fact, the balance of terrorism leans more towards locals becoming terrorists than it does foreigners, and if foreigners, then out of 50 plus countries, we only need to fear one, Somalia. We then need to appreciate that for years now, we have coped with and aided Somalia in the path to normalcy and we are adept at surviving its issues.

Better placed

The next theory, that of job loss may seem merited but it stands on weak legs. First if a foreigner with no resources can come to your country and be better than you at a job, you are more likely the problem than they are. Yet, we must remember that those who are brave enough to travel tend to be the smartest, strongest and most hard working. The do or die mentality creates a niche for them as entrepreneurs and wealth creators per excellence.

The migration of Indians to the UK after Uganda President Idi Amin chased them away, created a community in the UK where business and industry thrives so much so that much of Britain can’t imagine a Britain without the Indian influence in economy and culture.

By and large, people who travel tend to bring with them their culture and brand of ingenuity. This mix always creates a vibrant economy that generally adds to the wealth of a community rather than taking away.

In fact, migrant countries such as Australia and the US are examples of how migration generally changes the fortunes of a nation. This is based on the fact that the movement of people means the movement of resources, be they in terms of human capital, social capital or in real capital.

The other reality is that the transport sector gains greatly when a country is considered a destination that is easy to access. By allowing access, we give opportunity for every African looking to holiday, research, attend school or seek medical care to choose Kenya as a destination.

This is great news for our airports and our national carrier, Kenya Airways. The numbers traveling will also consume food and accommodation spaces. This is real money going into real Kenyan pockets.

More creative

As a matter of life views, migrants generally see opportunities where locals don’t. They see how their home society has handled different problems and they can draw from that experience to simply copy and paste amazing solutions that change a society. These innovations are what an economy needs to grow and solve its own issues in dynamic ways.

The other factor that we need to remember is that Kenya is big brother to much of Eastern and Central Africa. It is the go-to destination for health care, education, trade and tourism. Health tourism is a key driver of the Indian economy, many people travel to receive health care in India and this has also improved healthcare for its own citizens.

Kenya, believe it or not, has the best medical care in our region and we are a low cost easily accessible answer to many. Our education system is not only better than most but is also undergoing comprehensive improvement. These improvements are attractive to many countries including Tanzania where students less than a decade ago would attend primary school in shifts.

There is much that is attractive about our fair nation and given that we have a trade imbalance in our favour we must take advantage and make Kenya the most attractive place to do business. This means we must not be xenophobic. Instead, we must think like the Dubai of Africa. The one place every African wants to come to because we have developed both a culture and an infrastructure that skews migration in our favour.

Mr Bichachi is a Communication Consultant;[email protected]

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