Throughout the world, the issue of immigration is a thorny one. South Africa was no different last week when immigrants from (mostly) African countries were the subject of xenophobic attacks from the natives. The all too common argument is that immigrants are coming over to take the jobs of the locals, and further disenfranchise the locals from the economy. And yet, this needn’t be so.
If South Africa could borrow a leaf from the world’s most immigrant friendly country- The United States, it could realize that immigrants are a great dividend for the economy. The locals would cease to be surly and resentful of the immigrants and instead welcome them with open arms. Yes, the United States gets a lot of slack these days for an increasing redtape around the immigration issue, but overall, it still is the country where the world’s best and brightest choose to call home. According to various studies, many companies, including Google and Yahoo, were founded by immigrants or their children. One scholar says that America is not really a country it’s a melting pot for the world, where virtually every person from every village in the world is represented.
One would have hoped that South Africa would have aspired for this status in the continent, and attract Africa’s best, brightest, and hardest working citizens. But instead, the country has been caught in resentful arguments about the demerits of incessant flow of migrants from the rest of Africa. The country does not even realize that it could be the melting pot of African ideas, and in the process, help to spur the continent forward.
Yet, South Africa is also indebted to the rest of Africa, which played a critical part in its emancipation from apartheid. Ordinary South Africans do not really like to be reminded about this, and may be they are correct in that they have already repaid their debt to the rest of the continent. However, what most immigrants to South Africa really want is respect, and appreciation that they can indeed contribute to their host country’s economy. If South Africa were more prudent, it would realize that keeping off its borders from vital immigrants belongs to yesterday.
Source : The Star