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Treasure Hunting



August 19th 2016

The end result of the compilation of Sustainable Development Goals, a list of goals established by the United Nations, is a text called ‘The Future We Want’. The document takes a fifteen year look ahead, combining economic, social and sustainable development.

What is a duration of a mere fifteen years, though, when you’re talking about the future of your children? Africa truly understands what a long-term vision is. The report ‘The Africa We Want – Agenda 2063’ composed by the African Union features a fictional e-mail from 2063, by one Kwame: “Pan African companies now not only dominate our domestic market of over two billion people, but they have overtaken multi-nationals from the rest of the world in their own markets.”

The own continent comes first, so it seems – a policy that has made the United States the unparalleled economic power it is today. Africa is not yet close to obtaining this status: as of yet, the continent is doing poorly just conducting business with itself, with its exports being around 16%, as opposed to the 60% the European Union sports. Anna Gonzalez of the World Bank recently addressed this deficit in one of her speeches: if someone were to pay the same amount for crossing San Francisco’s Bay Bridge to Oakland as he or she would for crossing the river Congo between Kinshasa and Brazzaville, the return ticket would cost him or her 1200 dollars.

The same goes for Europe. On his blog Bas Jacobs suggests that Europe behave like ‘a large, relatively closed-off economy’ rather than a small but open economy. Of course, we would be better off opening our gates to other countries within our own continent. Instead, Great Britain has opted for Brexit, whereas The Sun, a depressing but hugely influential newspaper, is campaigning for the wine-coloured ‘European rag’ to be discarded in favour of the old dark blue British passport.

Looking for both sun and a sunnier outlook on the future, I went to Africa this summer. Next week I will be crossing the aforementioned Congo (not the least adventurous thing I ever did), but have already obtained an electronic travel visa for Gabon on this side of the river, just by logging onto a very polished website. Quite a change from how things used to be a few years ago, when doing this was nigh on impossible. The travel visa regime seems to be under liberalisation across the board: since last month the African Union has granted inhabitants e-passports for travelling within the continent. So far, these have just been granted to dignitaries, but the program is likely to be expanded in the future.

I firmly believe that the 2 billion Africans inhabiting the continent in 2063 will all be owners of electronic travel documents. This makes us querulous Europeans, including the more locally oriented ones quarrelling about the colours of their passports, look pretty stupid.

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