Cross-Cultural Perspectives

Where is the Future? AFRICA’s Leaders of Tomorrow on Voluntary Exile

In January 2010, as I sat on a bus riding through the well-developed city of Helsinki – the capital of Finland, I could not help but imagine how much work and commitment the good people of Finland have (and continue to) put into the development of their country. I wondered what would have become of Finland, if a majority of Finns had had the desire to live and work abroad. As I gazed through the streets, I noticed several Africans – Africa’s leaders of tomorrow – hurrying off to their odd jobs, while their continent – Africa – lags behind miserably in every imaginable aspect of development.

You would agree with me that the future of a democratic, entrepreneurial and innovative Africa, lies in the hands of future leaders of high quality and calibre. As the world continues to evolve, Africa increasingly needs leaders who can make a real difference both economically and socially. However, the question remains: who would it be – with all of Africa’s leaders of tomorrow on voluntary exile?

In all my school years back home, teachers often reminded us that we were the leaders of tomorrow, the hope for better days. Our teachers proudly did their utmost best to educate and develop us, the future leaders of tomorrow, instilling in us a love for country and believing that these students they were molding would one day move the continent forward. Personally, I was very excited about the possibilities. Weren’t you? Did you have dreams of making a difference? What happened to those dreams? Were your teachers wrong in regarding you as a leader of tomorrow?

Today, the quest for “greener pastures” has stunted Africa’s growth as prospects of a better tomorrow continue to seem like a far-fetched dream. Most of Africa’s leaders of tomorrow are on a self-imposed exile from the continent. In other words, many innovative, educated and enthusiastic Africans live away from their native countries – voluntarily absent from domestic situations where they are desperately needed. Does this help or hurt the continent?

Recently, I was looking at one of my High School group photos. Out of the 12 boys in the photo, 9 (including me) are on self-imposed absence from the country (Cameroon). I have been in contact with most of them and it might (or might not) surprise you that NONE of them is looking forward to a day when they would return home to be leaders – in business, politics or civic life. When we talk about returning home, their focus is on entertainment, partying and spending money lavishly to show the people back home how they have “arrived”. Is this what Africa needs? Have we misplaced our priorities? Others say they would NEVER return home until “things change”. The question is, who would effect the change we expect to see in the continent?

It is true that circumstances like joblessness and the quest for better education amongst other things have forced youngsters (and others) to travel abroad — and we all have the right to live in any country of our choice. However, it is also true that a continent – like Africa needs leaders with the ability to anticipate, envision and work with others to initiate changes that would create a viable future for the continent. Unfortunately, those with these leadership capabilities often find themselves working hard to further develop ‘developed countries’, while Africa lags behind miserably. It is a good thing to travel abroad – after all, travel is a cure for narrow-mindedness; it educates and empowers us and opens up other horizons. But we should never forget where we come from. Your continent needs you! Make no mistake about it, you don’t have to be a politician or run for President before you can contribute to the betterment of your country.

Being an African, I’m forced to wonder if the continent would ever rise out of the stigmatization, misery and poverty that keeps it from being a major player on the international scene. This would not happen with the continent’s brightest and most learned on voluntary exile. My wish is that Africans abroad would commit to improving the continent for present and future generations. We have the power to change the destiny of our continent and it’s people.

A great American once said, “ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country“.

Zuzeeko Abeng, LL.M, Twitter: @Zuzeeko

Pin It


  • Hi Guys,

    This is a very important issue and should be discussed on open platforms like the media( radio and TV) so that the Government and other Organizations get aware of the situation and try to do something about Employment, Education and living conditions of their countries.

    I was brought to this website because i was searching for this kind of articles to write a book, PLEASE CAN YOU GUYS SEND ME DETAIL INFORMATION ABOUT HOW AFRICAN MIGRANTS, WITH ILLEGAL DOCUMENTS, coup out there, and other issues like, weather, racism, marriage, pressure from family back home, Girl friends and wives back home, how do all these affect African migrants?

    here is my email address:

    i am from Cameroon, my Skype name: tanjang.rudolf

    all your contributions are welcome and will be highly acknowledged.

    Thank you all .

    Tanjang Rudolf

  • LNSAH,

    I am not comparing Africa with Europe and China. My point is,migrating for greener pastures,either on permanent or temporary basis,is a general human and animal tendency. You know what? If Straus Kahn and Arnold Schwarzenegger were Africans,their stories would be narrated differently. By the way,if Africa needs her sons and daughters,their governments,particularly the government of the author of this blasphemous article,should start by employing Africans to even coach their national football teams and pay them half as much as they pay the white coaches.


    Ntam Charles

  • I believe that this is what this article is a call for Africans in the diaspora, if so led, to chip in in any way they can, using whatever skills they have acquired abroad to help shape our continent.

    Mr Ntam, I am sorry, I do not see how you can compare Africa with China and Europe … we are behind. But I do agree that we are moving in the right direction, especially Nigerians and Ghanians. The rest of us still have some ways to go …

  • Let me start by asking the author of this article what he was/is doing in Helsinki and if he has returned home. I ask bc this article would be more meaningful to me,if it was written from home or by someone who just went visiting Finland.

    Secondly,I will also like to mention that,human-beings,just like other animals,turn to migrate either permanently or temporary when conditions are not favourable where they find themselves. The Chinese are all over the place,just like the Europeans. This writer could only identify Africans,bc they are his kind. They are also other white nationals all over world,with no plans to return to their various countries. Before I forget,someone should tell the white South Africans that Europe needs them too.

    Talking about developing Africa,the amount of money pumped back home by Africans in the diaspora,goes a long way to aid in human and infrastructural development. Many families and pupils survive and go to school thanks to the support they get from relatives who toil abroad. There are businesses back home,opened and managed by Africans in the diaspora,who in turn create job opportunities for many Africans.

    Why must it always be Africans? Is it not the Europeans who first came to Africa? They discovered Africa bc they too have the tendency of searching for greener pastures. Some went back,but others are still in Africa today,fighting over our lands in Zimbabwe and elsewhere. Ntam Charles

  • Beautiful article. You mirror the plight several of us living in the wilderness, diaspora.

    There is a reason why many Africans have moved away from home, and why Western nationals stay where they were born. Reasons which we all know too well to cite here.

    Everyone is versed with the saying that there's no place better than home. Thus, if for some reason one chooses to live in place of lesser joy, over the virtues of the adage about home, then something must be terribly wrong at home. Many children are forced into the street because of abuse at home. They'll sleep under the evil eye of the dark skies than return. They'd starve than be abused.

    After living abroad for close to ten years, I was in Cameroon in 2006. In the space of two days after being in the country, I lost count of how many times I was harassed by the police. Policemen who refused to recognize the Cameroonian passport I presented in preference to a national ID which I didn't have. It is tremendously vexing to go to a country that is yours and be treated worst than in the country that isn't yours.

    The issue then will arise that we should go home and help model our nations toward our own desires. How do you move anything forward when leaders stay in power for 40 years, amend constitutions to help them cling to authority? Why should you go back only to be jobless? Or if you happen to be employed, you have to sullied your hands in corruption.

    At the end of the day, the diaspora through repatriating money have sponsored a bulk of young Cameroonians back at home. Collectively, they've made the lives of others better. We are guilty, but we are a driving force to be reckoned with, regard the development of our continent, else one might return there only to join the crowd of the educated unemployed and be beaten and oftentimes treated like filth in your own country.