A little off tangent from my usual posts. @SiliconAfrica has written an article that is now trending on big sites and social media timelines. Whereas it is a lovely sensationalist opinion based piece, the common school of thought in international business and international human resource management from where the term expatriate (expat)is most used reveals that this article is somewhat off tangent and this seemingly stems from its definition of ‘expat’.

@SiliconAfrica courtesy Facebook
@SiliconAfrica courtesy Facebook

In the world of business, an expat is a person who has been sent by an organisation in their home country to go and work in a host country where that organisation resides. This is the case in most Western and European countries that have built up their large companies and look to the African, Middle Eastern or Asian markets for growth. The quickest way they know how to make this happen is to send their own staff over to the host country to help jumpstart the process and then recall them when their business is up and running. Alternatively they will keep senior positions for their home country nationals. Now, we all can probably count on one hand the number of companies in the third world that have expanded to the western and European markets for growth of their business. Quite surprisingly a quick search reveals that there are several African countries that have expanded their markets from the home country to grow to have pan-African footprints and the home country nationals are still referred to as expatriates. I am particularly surprised that the article raises a point that working for a multinational organisation should entitle one to be called an expat. A migrant on the other hand, whereas one can confuse this to be a person from Asia, Africa or middle east, working in a western or European country, is anyone looking to migrate from their home country to another country in hope for work and in most cases a better living, they have not been sent to the host country by any organisation. As the giant economies of the world have it, the west and Europe have long been desired destinations. However, there are migrants all over, even in Africa, for example victims of the (what seems to be) never ending strife in Somalia who migrate(d) to Kenya. So to answer the question in the title of the article ‘Why are white people expats when the rest of us are immigrants?’ Maybe the ‘rest of us’ should consider sending our more of our nationals compete on a global level for business? Maybe we should change our mindset and quit the brain drain and develop our home countries and continents so that we have more migrants? Or maybe we should all just remain as we are in a beautiful burst of colour and culture that attracts different people from different worlds in order to achieve different objectives?


2 thoughts on “Did @siliconafrica really ask why white people are expats and the “rest of us” are immigrants?

  1. This is bullshit of the highest order! The whole expat, immigrant dichotomy and its prejudices are as open and clear as a monkeys behind! You can’t deny it and you have failed to deny it. That is how inequalities are institutionalized. The definitions were made on that clear understanding that the white worker from the North cannot be called a migrant but an expat.

    1. The internet definition of expat that is referenced is different from the definitions used in business today. The role of this post is not to deny whether you feel enslaved to what a name you are given whether its migrant or expatriate, the role is to bring to light the other definitions of the key terms that formed the basis of argument in the said article.

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