Let me answer this from a South African perspective, there are many positives to opening the borders of Africa to improve the economic activities.
I will start by defining the limitations to this concept, it will only work if you divided the continent into regions and then opening the borders within that region. Historically, during the “scramble for Africa” the colonials identified a region by the rivers that bordered it and sometimes the mountain ranges. Most countries in Africa are defined by the rivers that run along the outer borders.
The problem has always been, even after the colonial authorities were chased out, that the borders remained as set out by those colonials. Traditionally and historically, people have lived next to rivers as North and South of the Equator there were large areas that are not inhabitable all year round, the weather is too extreme, or the malaria was too severe. [Remember the sleeping sickness].
It was only when the Europeans came with their gin and tonic sundowners that contained quinine, an anti-malaria ingredient, and technology that could drill for water that people started living in areas where previously only a nomadic existence was possible.
The point of the above was that families, tribes lived and developed around and on both sides of a river, so when Britain, France, Belgium, Portugal created South Africa, Lesotho, Rhodesia’s, Congo and all the other 47 to 55 countries they generally used the rivers to demarcate their country.
Therefore, in many countries of Africa, people of the same tribe, ethnically and speaking the same language live in different “countries” and have no problem welcoming each other to their town or country. That attitude does change when you move to an entirely different region. In addition, rivers have always been a major migratory route for people
Now back to Southern Africa, you could draw a line from West to East along the 10th parallel that will include parts of Angola, Zambia and Mozambique and you would have a viable proposition. One could make that an EU of Africa and it could develop into an economic powerhouse. It would have access to world markets with harbours all along its coastline and natural resources to sustain development.
In South Africa, we already have five million people from Africa as economic refugees; in fact, we have huge numbers of Nigerians and Somalians as well as Congolese who were allowed into the country whilst the new ANC rulers of Nelson Mandela looked the other way, implementing this “no border “mentality.
What is the problem with this scenario?
- South Africa, with a 1st World developmental state environment is being overrun by hordes of “refugees” migrating to the cities with their bright lights and medical facilities, as far afield as Lagos, Nairobi, and Timbuktu. Remember, South Africa is the only country in the world where you can walk across the border to a government hospital and have your babies in a 1st world hospital environment, without anybody asking you to pay a cent.
- Large parts of the African population is stuck in a bronze age, where a wheel is still a foreign concept. To ask those people to pay taxes, to vote in a democratic election, to farm in a sustainable method and that we have walked on the moon, is impossible. To explain to those people that world population has exceeded 7 billion and that global warming is a reality is also impossible for people whose wealth is typified by how many sons he has and how many herds of cattle.
- The concept to farm sustainably and to create a farming community that is beyond “subsistence farming” is too much to ask.
- South Africa, with its large European community, has developed a strong mining industry that has created a tax base that allowed the country to outstrip its neighbours and create an infrastructure that is the envy of the rest of Africa. This leads to an education base that allows SA to export educational excesses, reference the huge number of qualified SAFFIEs in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Dubai etc. SA has at least five ranked universities on the world ranking.
The point of the above is that should we remove the borders below the 10th parallel it will improve the flow of goods and people around the region but: unfortunately SA will be swamped by its neighbours to the North as there is nothing that will draw people to Lusaka, Luanda or Harare. The last 20 years have seen an increasing return to a tribal type of squabbling in those countries, even in SA and serious development have been left to the Chinese and the human capital, such as those countries had, have reverted back to pre-Uhuru.