I usually have a semi writer's block when I start articles but I tend to realise that the hack for me, as Nike would say, is just to do it. This year I got to experience the visa application process three times (one successful) and I came to realise how dehumanising the process can be, just to get entry into another country. At some point, I had to ask myself if this was actually the norm since the emergence of man. As someone who is fond of reading history books, something that was a recurring topic was the migration of human settlements to lands they felt were better. Visas did not exist then and people were free to move around the world and settle where they wanted to, so far there was free land and they had the resources to move. Well, this was the case until the 19th century after World War 1.
To be fair I do understand the need for countries to be aware of who comes in and out of their countries, at least for the safety of the citizens. However what people of "first world" countries won't understand is how the process can be long, dehumanising and painful. Applying for a visa to these "first world" countries requires you to submit every single detail about yourself, your family tree, finances etc. Oh, how can I forget the exorbitant visa application fee? In the end, after submitting all this, it's still not a guarantee to travel to these places. You just end up generating revenue for these countries.
As someone who grew up with access to the internet at an early age, I had a Facebook account at 11 years old, I regard it as the best invention of man. Thanks to the internet I have been able to key into the global village that is the internet world. At that age, I was already searching through the streets of Nairaland, a Nigeria online platform that had a lot of brilliant minds on it. To be honest I was attracted by the erotic stories there but I later discovered there was so much to the platform than just that section. Soon I was discussing with other people in the Technology section, I met folks from different parts of the country through it. Fast forward to the future, that became a pattern as I found other interesting platforms and also met other people.
While virtual communication is a thing and a way to keep in touch with friends, loved ones and acquaintances, there is no denying that in real life communication triumphs over virtual communication. The fact that you can look at them and see their body language while you speak, makes the conversation so much much better. Sadly being denied the opportunity to experience this with folks who don't reside in my country is a very sad experience. I can't even attend international conferences as even having a letter of invitation is not enough, as I was unable to attend Devconnect in Istanbul this year, despite being a Devconnect Scholar.
They say the world is a global village now and that the internet is a leveller, Unfortunately, this is not the truth for me. I tend to hold that opinion but several times, events happen that show that it is not my reality. For someone born in these "first world" countries, the lottery of life is already in their favour as they do not have to search the internet for visa requirements to enter most countries they would ever visit. In fact, most die without even knowing what a visa application process looks like. So I will tell you how it is. Usually, you fill out and submit an online form which contains more than enough information about yourself and your family. Then you show up on your appointment date, a date which depending on the country might take a year to get. In that ~10 minutes, you are with the interviewer, you are expected to convince the person why you deserve to visit the country and if you will come back. Most times the result is given depending on how the visa officer (interviewer) feels and the voluminous documents submitted are not enough.
Being someone born in Nigeria means I carry different things. Firstly, the stigma of the world, thanks to some bad eggs of my nationality. At the early point of my career, when I interacted with people online, mentioning where I was from tended to bring negative reactions. People are usually sceptical about working with me and although things are much better now than they used to be, I still get rejection letters thanks to my location. Being a Nigerian also comes with an unlimited spirit of determination and resilience. I have never come across a set of people who work as hard as we do despite the restrictions we face. When it comes to financial systems, we are pretty much siloed from the international financial systems. A lot of services don't work here. For example, Paypal, which happens to be a dominant financial service in the West, doesn't allow Nigerians to receive money. Things like this are why I have been so bullish on the web3 ecosystem. Thanks to crypto I can receive money anywhere within a minute, and not worry about which fintech app to download, to receive money for work done for clients who stay in different countries. I have also been able to get some proof of work and it makes people less biassed towards me.
Now I am not writing this to gather public sympathy about my situation. I am sharing because as someone who learns from people's experiences, this is my way to contribute to the internet archives. I like to write articles as I see it as a way to have a quick glimpse into how things are with me. It is also a way of documenting my observation of human life and, thus history. What can I do? Make sure my children, if I get to have one, start life with a better chance, a stronger passport.