Where do you go to, oh traveler?

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One of the leading exponents of Juju music – a Yoruba popular music genre, sang about someone who travelled all over the world. The traveler mentioned in the song was a schoolmate of my father’s, I was surprised to discover. Back in the day, the wayfarer in question wrote memoirs about his trips to various locations and the way he was received and treated as an African man, in the days when fewer of our forbears left their communities. The memoirs were serialized in a Lagos newspaper and they were riveting to read.

Several decades and generations later, it seems as if most young Africans would like to migrate to other countries, in search of brighter prospects. In some quarters this tendency is frowned upon, because African nations need human resources to develop. Another way of looking at the phenomenon is that everyone gains from people moving freely from one place to another, because of the bridges of trust, knowledge and understanding that are built between diverse heritages.

Part of the process of building those bridges is effective communication between all parties involved. It is impossible for anyone to know everything about the history of any particular community, so it is likely that there will be situations where people misunderstand each other sometimes.

In the most prosperous countries and cities with several institutions of higher learning, Africans from various parts of the continent meet and learn things about their fellow continentals that they might not have expected to discover. A healthy way of looking at this process is that we should be open minded and ready to listen to exotic points of view. Do we expect too much from other Africans, simply because of the skin colour we share in common?

Perhaps the Africa Union, ECOWAS and other similar organizations should do more to encourage intercultural exchange in Africa. There are some basic things that we all still need to learn about ourselves, if we want our peoples to move forward together as a continent.