If Africa is more like Singapore, why are we getting so many refugees?

by Dan Roodt

Living in South Africa, one gets used to being called a moron by every visiting foreigner, especially ones of the liberal to left-wing persuasion. After all, they seem to reason, we do not know anything about our own history. We do not understand our own country or our own continent. Nor do we have any grasp of Africa or African culture, despite many of our people speaking African languages and compiling dictionaries in those languages.

The same goes for what is called the mass media. The bigger and more influential they are, the more you will find the view that the average Afrikaner or white commentator in this country is a barely literate buffoon. Many a time I have come across the phrase about this country: “Apartheid destroyed South Africa.”

If you had flown in an aeroplane over South Africa in 1994, shortly after Nelson Mandela became president, you would have seen just how “destroyed” South Africa was. We had more roads and railways than Great Britain. Having a far bigger surface area also helps, I suppose. At one time we were one of the few countries exporting more food than we imported, notwithstanding being a semi-arid country.

The criteria for measuring progress in Africa seem to differ from other places. Economic growth, income per capita,  life expectancy, quality of life, infant mortality, the level of education, all those ordinary measures of a country’s success or progress are suspended in favour of focussing on, well, some racial element.

The racial element could be the mystique of Africa, its smiling, simple people happily singing to some merry tune like the coffee plantation workers on Karen Blixen’s farm  in the Hollywood movie “Out of Africa”. Or it could be the successful eradication of Western influence, the confiscation of land owned by white farmers, the imposition of racial job quotas to prevent whites from working in South Africa, and so on.

Organising a successful pogrom against whites in Africa is always cause for celebration. Whichever dictator or strongman is involved in such an operation, may be assured of vast amounts of Scandinavian aid money before, during and after the operation.

A few weeks ago, the correspondent for the New York Times in Johannesburg, Lydia Polgreen, wrote a more or less glowing account of the Zimbabwean tobacco industry. Since nationalising the farms of white farmers and replacing them with “small-scale” black farmers, the country has taken a great leap forward, it appears.

Enthused Polgreen: “The success of these small-scale farmers has led some experts to reassess the legacy of Zimbabwe’s forced land redistribution, even as they condemn its violence and destruction.” Read the whole article: In Zimbabwe Land Takeover, a Golden Lining.

One week after the publication of this article, the UN’s World Food Programme announced that Zimbabwe was in dire need of food aid for 1,6 million people. This is the result of Zimbabwean “land reform” and “restoring the dignity of the African who no longer toils for a white boss”. Of course, up to half the Zimbabwean population has already fled to South Africa in search of food and jobs where they continue to toil for white bosses in restaurants, on farms and as cleaners and gardeners in suburban houses.

Zimbabweans have voted for Robert Mugabe for years. He has rewarded them with the kind of policies that they preferred: crypto-Marxism, confiscation of white assets, robber capitalism, cronyism, a small elite lording it over an impoverished majority enduring increasing hardship, environmental degradation, collapse of infrastructure, hyperinflation and economic crisis.

However, in South Africa these Zimbabwean voters who have democratically chosen to saunter down the road to national disaster, are considered “refugees”. Not only that, but according to a recent article on The Daily Maverick website, South Africa is the country in the world receiving the most refugees. Last year we took in a whopping 219 368 of them. By contrast, the USA only got 40 000 refugees. In many West-European countries, refugees are considered a major problem when about 20 000 announce themselves at the border posts in any given year. Yet we are supposed to endure the flow of hundreds of thousands of refugees across our borders, together with many more illegal aliens, as part of our fate.

But the biggest paradox of all is the following: Why would any African want to leave his democratic, prosperous, economically booming home country for the not so bright lights of Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban or Cape Town? After all, according to the world’s mass media, we are “the destroyed country”, the least successful on the African continent.

Perhaps the New York Times correspondent in Johannesburg, Lydia Polgreen, could solve that conundrum. This is all the more remarkable in the light of recent pronouncements by American academics that the image of poor sub-Saharan Africans holding out a begging bowl for help or Bono to organise an aid concert is very passé. Malthus was wrong. Unbridled population growth is the road to riches and Africa’s “youth bulge” represents a “demographic dividend”.

This may sound like satire or sarcasm, but it is not. On the CNN website, I came across a piece asking the rhetorical question: Is Africa the new Asia? Written by Professor Richard Aidoo from the Department of Politics and Geography, Coastal Carolina University, the article asserts that Ghana has had a 13,5% growth rate recently, portending an “African miracle”. On the demographic issue, Professor Aidoo writes:

“Africa has another potential advantage – a youthful population with a hunger for change. Many of the uprisings in support of democracy across the continent have been championed by disaffected young people bitten by the technology bug and anxious for opportunities. For these young and driven Africans, change isn’t a distant hope, but something achievable. The memories of colonial exploitation are receding further into the rearview mirror as young Africans look forward.”

Aidoo cites the British Economist in support of his views. Howard W. French, a New York-based African expert who teaches at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and is a former senior writer and foreign correspondent for the New York Times, concurs that the continent is already way up the economic scale. He writes in The Atlantic:

“Africa, with a population expected to roughly double by mid-century, has become recognized as the world’s fastest growing continent. But the less-told story is of Africa’s economic rise. In the last decade Africa’s overall growth rates have quietly approached those of Asia, and according to projections by the IMF, on average Africa will have the world’s fastest growing economy of any continent over the next five years.

Seven of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies are African. The continent is famously resource rich, which has surely helped, but some recent studies suggest that the biggest drivers are far less customary for Africa, and far more encouraging for its future: wholesale and retail commerce, transportation, telecommunications, and manufacturing.”

After 18 years of ANC rule, South Africa’s formerly first-world infrastructure is crumbling. Raw sewage is flowing into our rivers. The roads are full of holes. Our previously superb health care system is in a shambles with patients left to die in state hospitals. Despite record spending, the education department cannot deliver school books to some of its schools. South Africa has two million mostly white and corporate taxpayers who supply a welfare state for 50 million people. We are definitely not an Asian tiger economy, but by traditional measures SA is still the biggest economy on the continent.

But those are traditional measures. Clearly, people in the know and pundits associated with The New York Times, have decided otherwise.

If someone could just explain to me why so many Africans are still flocking to this country which suffered so much damage in the past and has still “not quite recovered from apartheid”, I would be really glad. After all, why would you leave one of the fastest growing economies in the world seething with bright young technology entrepreneurs, to settle in our country still blighted by white, Western influence?