Dual Citizenship News

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Friday, November 30, 2012

Striking Citizenship: FIFA, Football and Malawi

English: Mkandaire leaving the pitch after vic...
Malawian born Mkandawire  leaving the pitch after victory for Millwall over Scunthorpe in the English league.  Mkandawire cannot play football for Malawi because Dual Citizenship is not recognized.(Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Many professional football (soccer) players today are citizens of more than one country.  Most professional clubs have at least one player or coach who holds multiple nationalities. This reflects the current world we live in where borders can be transcended and people are a hodge-podge of identities.  At FIFA World Cup 2010, we observed Ghanian born brothers compete at the international level on different teams. Jerome Baoteng played for Germany, whilst his brother Kevin-Prince Boateng played for Italy.  This is testament of how nationality laws affect football player’s career and  a country's chances of winning international competitions. Dual Citizenship can provide advantages for both Malawi and Malawian Footballers to allow them to become more competitive.

Having Dual Citizenship has historically helped African players in their football careers. It gives them career options. At the domestic level, players often become naturalized citizens in foreign countries in order to play for a league.  Once these players become naturalized citizens, they can no longer play for Malawi because Malawi doesn’t recognize Dual Citizenship. They no longer have a choice regarding whom to play for. Under current Malawi law, they automatically lose their citizenship. The foreign clubs encourage naturalization because they benefit from having naturalized players. As an example, African football players can join an EU team without their presence counting against their domestic league’s quota of foreigners. They also get to retain our most talented players for their domestic leagues.

At the international level, players also become naturalized to benefit of their careers and their new country. Since Malawi does not recognize Dual Citizenship, this means that Malawians naturalized abroad, cannot represent Malawi at senior level non-friendlies. This is a disadvantage to Malawi. Such laws automatically disqualified Malawian-born players such as Tamika Mkandawire (an English league Midfielder) from representing Malawi during any stage of his career. If Dual Citizenship was an option for him and many other Malawians, he would be free to make that decision for themselves per FIFA guidelines. According to FIFA, dual nationality players may only represent one country if they are playing at the senior competitive level. This means players with Dual Nationality have the option of choosing who they will represent with as professional player. Players as senior level can play friendlies for any country. However, the rules are stricter at the senior level.

In accordance with current global citizenship trends FIFA should consider redressing these regulations so that they are similar to the rules for the junior level players. At the junior level, players with dual nationality are now allowed to switch who they represent. They have to submit an application to FIFA in order to change who they play for. Prior to 2004, FIFA rules forbade this even if the player had played international football only at junior level. Recently, we have seen Ricardo Nunes who was born in South Africa and raised in Portugal, exercise this right. He is a former Portuguese under-17 but has also played for Bafana Bafana. Midfielder Emmanuel Frimpong submitted an application in order to play for Ghana at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations. He is a British citizen but has a strong emotional connection to Ghana. Players like Frimpong are an example of Africans in the Diaspora that have a sense of dual identity and dual loyalty. He is proudly British, but also proudly Ghanaian.

In the new global world we are seeing more African players move of in both directions – movement is both to and from of the continent. In the past, we saw greater movement from people moving out of the continent and in to non-African leagues. France was an epitome of a country that benefited from Dual Citizenship. Many of the players in their national team were (and still are) famously African born. France is now seeing a new trend where African players with Dual Citizenship at the youth level are being trained in France, but are opting to play for the country of their parents (or their own) birth. This includes junior league players such as Arouane Chamakh, Sébastien Bassong, Younès Belhanda, Benoît and Assou-Ekotto. Players that are naturalized outside of Africa or have African born parents are also making different choices about who they want to play for. Their rationale is in part due to their sense of belonging to Africa, and in part, as a career decision.

Dual Citizenship for football players is also about giving people options that are mutually beneficial. It would give the players more exposure or a sense of national pride. For countries which have limited resources like Malawi, It would mean foreign trained players will be given an option to play for Malawi without Malawi struggling to find resources. The success of Malawian citizen players would also bring recognition and money in to Malawian football through sponsorship and prize money. Although some people express concern that Dual Citizenship would come at the expense of the local team, this is largely speculation. Granting Dual Citizenship does not always mean that there will be an automatic influx of Dual Citizens dominating the local leagues in African nations. As an example South African born Andrew Surman, an English Norwich City under-21, indicated that he was not interested in playing for South Africa even though he is a dual national because of various considerations. Footballers often have many other decisions to weigh in before deciding to uproot their lives to play and live abroad. Former Malawian captain John Maduka considered his family before obtaining South African citizenship. He wanted his children to continue school and run personal businesses. He played professional football for a South African premier league team Umtata Bush Bucks before applying for citizenship there. Although he considered it necessary to obtain South African citizenship for practical reasons, he still wanted to retain ties with Malawi. He was confined by citizenship laws and had to navigate football regulations.

FIFA regulations for the junior team changed a few years ago to reflect the current trends. There are renewed calls for FIFA to have these rules apply to the senior level players as well. There is a chance that FIFA will revisit these regulations in the near future since the world continues to become more global. Malawi should be able to revisit its laws so that they reflect the current times as well. We need to be able to adapt to the realities in a new world of complex multiple identities and multiple nationalities.  Dual Citizenship will give our football players and Malawi an added advantage. Malawi’s laws should provide advantage so that we can remain competitive.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Blog Action Day: Citizenship, Technology and 'We'



This year, many bloggers around the world are participating in Blog Action Day. This year’s theme is entitled “The Power of We”. The theme aptly describes the mission and function of the Movement for Dual Citizenship for Malawi. Whilst some people underestimate the power of blogging, blogging presents new ways in which Malawians can engage with one another to bring about socio-political change. A large part of blogging about Dual Citizenship for Malawi includes engaging a multitude of stakeholders in the conversation in a participatory and informed way. It also encourages the use of citizenship participation that incorporates Malawian philosophies like togetherness or umunthu (I am because we are). This is why participating this year by blogging on this theme is well suited for the work of the movement towards Dual Citizenship.

Dual Citizenship is a sensitive topic that is easily marred by myths and rumors about “the other”. “The other” becomes ones family member, a neighbor, a clansperson, a member of one’s ethnic group, a member of an outside group and a former (or current) citizen. It is a topic where people’s fears about their fellow country man can quickly manifest in to fear or xenophobia. Many of the fears about Dual Citizenship stem from ideas about voting, lack of loyalty, integration, and the “watering down” of citizenship. Those that fear dual citizenship often worry about what allowing dual citizenship will do to their business, political carrier, or social status. These fears contradict the teachings of the spirit of umunthu.  Whether one believes these fears are real or imagined, they need to be taken seriously, debated, and addressed by politicians and the general public alike. Many people think that Dual Citizenship is largely a political topic but it is just as much a social and economic issue for developing countries like Malawi. It is important that Dual Citizenship is seen from all perspectives because it affects all Malawians and is just as much a civil issue. Dual citizenship affects Malawian’s right to travel, adopt, send sizable remittances, own or inherit land, access education and otherwise be identified as a Malawian. Dual Citizenship laws will apply to all Malawians whether they decide to move across the street or across the ocean. Dual Citizenship is not about ‘us’ and ‘them’ - it is about ‘We’.  It affects everyone’s sense of who belongs to Malawi. Having progressive Dual Citizenship laws that are inclusive of all Malawians is therefore an exercise in nation building and at the cornerstone of defining a national identity. 

One of the reasons that it is important to blog about Dual Citizenship as a part of the movement towards Dual Citizenship is because there is a need to bring issues about civic society to the center of public conversation. Dual Citizenship affects all Malawians and should not only be discussed in the halls of parliament. It needs to be discussed by everyday people. In some countries, the laws empower citizen's to participate by specifying that if an issue is to be addressed in parliament, it requires x amount of signatures. In countries like Malawi, this process is more bureaucratic. Citizens are typically not empowered to bring about changes though the use of petitions because it citizen petitions are not mandated by law. It has been the practice to find members of parliament to champion or support ones cause. This method means that more work is required to get the support of someone in government and like-minded fellow citizens. Introducing civic centered topics to the public conversation means that Malawians can better organize and mobilize on topics of common interest. Members of Parliament that may be unsure about the popularity of Dual Citizenship can then better gauge the public’s sentiment about the topic and may be more willing to discuss the issue. Blogging is therefore one way that Malawians can help to participate in the development of the legal frameworks that affect our social lives.

Blogging about civil topics for Malawians challenges the way that Malawian citizens currently engage with their government. It creates a space where freedom of speech can be exercised virtually. Malawians can communicate about what type of a country they would like to live in and what type of laws that they are prepared to live under and reach a wide audience. In a democracy such as Malawi, government is supposed to be empowered by its citizens and reflect laws that are the will of its people and that make sense for the general good of the state. Therefore, blogging about citizenship and other topics allows for the collective will of the public to be heard. It empowers that public to engage in discussion, and mobilize to help guide the laws of the land using new technologies. In an age where advances in technology allow us to collect, gather, or disseminate in a quick, easy and far-reaching way, use of technology is important for everyday people. Technology allows us to bring awareness about Dual Citizenship to a diverse cross section of the population.  When civil society is empowered with knowledge about the topic, it leads to more informed (and less sensational) debates about Dual Citizenship. It also leads to lasting solutions. Whilst one blog alone may or may not directly bring change, one blog is an integral part of the larger movement where several sites, stories or narratives are being told. One blog is also a vital tool because it helps in consciousness raising. The catalyst for action (a change in citizenship laws) occurs once there is a conscious collective voice.

The Movement for Dual Citizenship blog is an embodiment of this year’s Blog Action Day theme. The blog is a part of a larger network of groups in Malawi that encourage participatory democracy and works for the best interest of Malawi. It encourages consciousness, umunthu, and collective action and “the power of We”. It is in this spirit that this year’s theme resonates with the Movement for Dual Citizenship and with organizations like the Malawi Washington Association that work towards building a better Malawi for all Malawians - where ever in the world they may be.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Afropolitans: Africans of the World

African art at the Met
African art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, U.S.  (Photo credit: tamaradulva)

Globalization has had a profound impact on migration patterns in Africa creating increasingly complex identities within Africa and the African Diaspora. As Afua Hirsch aptly narrates, she is often considered, “…too black to be British and too British to be African". Many Malawians find themselves at the same cultural crossroads. They are considered be too British to be Malawian and too Malawian to be British and don’t fully fit in to either culture. Many are now seeking to self-identify as cosmopolitans and identify with both Africa and the culture of their host nation. They consider themselves not only cosmopolitan but also part of a new sub-culture coined 'Afropolitan'.

The term Afropolitan is becoming a part of contemporary African vocabulary. It combines the words “African” and “Cosmopolitan” in to lexicon befitting of the contemporary African identities and experience.  An Afropolitan is an: “African from the continent of dual nationality, an African born in the diaspora, or an African who identifies with their African and European heritage and mixed culture.” Whether they were born on the continent or overseas, not only do they bring a hybrid cultural identity - they also bring a global perspective on issues. They are a new breed of Malawians that think globally but act locally. This term aptly describes many Malawians living in the Malawi and those that are living in the Malawian Diaspora. Malawians that consider themselves Afropolitan are embracing their roots bringing a resurgence of pride in African culture. Even those that do not consider themselves Afropolitan are exposed to global culture from television, radio, and satellite like other cosmopolitans around the world. Many Afropolitans argue that Afropolitanism moves beyond culture and in to political space – they lobby governments and undertake voluntary projects on the continent. They have a commitment towards improving the continent.

English: My hometown, Johannesburg - its motto...
 Johannesburg - its motto is "A World-Class African City". Also known as Egoli, which means "City of Gold" in Zulu. It is also known informally as "Jo'burg", "Jozi", "Joeys" or "Egoli". (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Whilst some Africans make attempts to assimilate in to foreign cultures by abandoning African cultures, Afropolitans embrace their African roots wherever they are regardless of citizenship. They also reject the notion that their “foreigness” makes them less of an African. In fact, they self-identify as Africans and proclaim that citizenship does not make one African. As Taiye Selasi highlights in her essay, ‘What is an Afropolitan?’, "We are Afropolitans: not citizens, but Africans of the world." Africans are therefore not any less ‘African’ simply because they crossed the border, sea or street. Formal recognition of Afropolitans as citizens or dual citizens in Africa though is important to solidify the relationship between this Africans in the Diaspora and those on the continent. Citizenship issues for Afropolitans that do not have citizenship on the continent needs to be debated and addressed. This will help them have a greater impact on the continent and become even more engaged in Africa.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Africa's Olympic 'Body Drain': Matters of Citizenship

Special Olympics
The Olympics is a chance for African nations to build national pride and prestige. There is a need for greater strategic planning in athletics in order to remain competitive (Photo credit: MikeBlyth)
Olympic Strategy and Citizenship (part one)

The Olympics is the biggest global sporting event that offers countries an opportunity to show their talents. It allows nations to brand or promote themselves through sports in a way that expensive advertising cannot – It is what a sport like basketball has done to raise the profile of the USA, or short distance running for Jamaica or long distance for Ethiopia and Kenya, respectively. Winning a medal at an Olympic game is the root of envy from other nations. It is a source of pride from the country's citizens. National glory is important for the people of a nation. It is therefore an arena where questions of citizenship are important and can quickly become contentious. The Olympic Charter requires that an athlete is a national of the country they compete for. There are restrictions for athletes that change or switch citizenship whereby an athlete a losses citizenship from one country in order to gain citizenship of another country. There is a three year time frame that needs to pass in order for these athletes to compete for a different country. Exceptions to this rule can be made though by the Olympic governing bodies. Dual Citizens though have no such restrictions and can compete for either country where they hold citizenship. 

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27:  Richard Banda, Fir...
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: Richard Banda is the  First Gentleman of Malawi and a former Olympic athlete for Malawi. He arrived in England for the London 2012 Olympic Games to support the Malawi athletes   (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
Malawi is one African country that doesn’t recognize Dual Citizenship. For a country like Malawi that has had Olympic athletes compete but no Olympic medals, lack of Dual Citizenship laws means that Malawi is decreasing its opportunity of becoming a medal bearing country. Athletes that have two Malawian parents but live outside of Malawi are prevented from competing for Malawi at the international level after the age of twenty-one. Football (soccer) players like Tamika Mkandawire, who has one Malawian parent but is a British citizen, is not able to compete for Malawi even though he plays for a professional league in Europe. Although an athlete like Cate Campbell, a Malawian-born Australian Olympic swimming medalist, does not have Malawian parents, she should have the option to compete for Malawi (Even if it is under a special category of Dual Citizenship for those without Malawian parentage but has an exceptional talent). There is little doubt that Campbell must have used some level of Malawian resources in the first nine years of her life whilst physically living in Malawi. Therefore it is in the best interest for Malawi to leverage the use of those resources for the benefit of Malawi. This includes human resources. Lack of Dual Citizenship also means that there is an increasing chance for up and coming Malawian players to be poached by other countries and thereby creating a situation where Malawi trains athletes but their contribution to Malawi can not be maximized. We need to consider that the ‘body' drain is just as real and just as problematic as the ‘brain drain’ on the continent. Malawian Athletes such as swimmers Joyce Fafathata and Charlton Nyirenda or runners Mike Tebulo, and John Kayange are more inclined to switch citizenship in order to advance their careers. Rather than abandoning Malawian citizenship altogether, Dual Citizenship would allow these players to compete for Malawi when needed. Countries like Malawi need to have an Olympic strategy that is beyond the physical aspects of the game. The Olympic games are not just about competing harder, they are about competing smarter. 

Competitive Advantage and Citizenship (part two)

Taking advantage of Dual Citizenship is important for African nations wanting to have a competitive advantage in athletic games. Being competitive at the Olympics in a globalized world is just as much about having an effective athletic management strategy as it is about the athletic ability of the Olympians. For African countries, getting medals is not just a matter of poor training facilities, or lack of financial resources.Its a matter of leveraging all available or potential human resources. Part of an effective global strategy is is inclusive of all of the nations people and thus increases the chance of a country to bring home medals. Therefore, citizenship matters. In the past few years alone, there has been an increase in African athletes competing for non-African teams. There has also been an increase in non-African nations coveting successful African athletes. There are numerous examples of African players that have changed their citizenship in order to compete at the Olympics i.e. South African born runner Zola Budd competed for England; Kenyan born  runner Bernard Lagat competed for the USA; Kenyan born cyclist Chris Froome competed for Great Britain.  Many countries in Africa have realized that lack of Dual Citizenship is costing them players and  decreasing their competitiveness. Many countries have now taken the important step towards leveraging their athletes. Both Kenya and South Africa now offer Dual Citizenship to their nationals.  It is  in the best interest of these countries in Africa to offer Dual Citizenship so that they can increase their competitiveness at international events through policies that encourage the retention of athletes.


LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 31:  Tony Skinn #4 of N...
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 31: Tony Skinn #4 of Nigeria shoots in the Men's Basketball Preliminary Round match between Lithuania and Nigeria  in London, England. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
Many countries strategically provide citizenship to African athletes as an incentive for these athletes to immigrate to their country and compete for them in the Olympics. They offer the athletes additional attractions like training facilities or an opportunity to qualify for the Olympics in cases where they would not have qualified in their own countries. In the USA alone, fifty athletes migrated to the USA between 1992 and 2008 to compete for their Olympic team that previously competed for another country. At the London 2012 games, over 40 foreign-born citizens ran for the United States. This 'body gain' increases the chance for the USA to earn medals, money, national pride and prestige that comes with winning Olympic events. For the African countries that have lost a potential Olympic medal athlete, this is a tremendous loss.  Many African athletes also strategically maintain the citizenship of their country-of-origin or acquire citizenship of new nations so that they can compete in the Olympics. Nigeria was able to send its first qualifying Basketball team to the Olympics 2012 due to the contributions of Nigerian Dual Citizens in the USA.  Both Nigeria and USA recognize Dual Citizenship. As Dual Citizens with both U.S.A and Nigerian citizenship, these athletes are able to compete for Nigeria or USA. However, basketball is very competitive in the USA and there is a saturation of qualified players therefore it is more difficult to qualify in the USA team. Many of these players therefore opted to try out for the Nigerian Olympic basketball team (D'Tigers) and where able to qualify to compete alongside other Nigerians. A handful of the players were from the NBA professional league, the remainder were from college. Nigeria benefits by having a Basketball team comprised of all of its best athletes and qualifying for the first time in this event. It also benefits by having athletes compete for them at little or no cost to Nigeria. 

Olympics in Barcelona
Olympics in Barcelona (Photo credit: cliff1066™)
Although Nigeria's defeat by the USA's dream team was the focus of many, Nigeria's ascendency to the Basketball arena was commendable.  They managed to establish Nigeria as a Basketball powerhouse.They beat established teams like Lithuania, Greece and the Dominican Republic to qualify for the Olympics. Even though the team did not bring home medals for Nigeria, they won one out of four games. They also  lifted the profile of African Basketball. The world hasn't seen the last of teams like D'Tigers that are made up of all of Africa's human resources.  Addressing issues of citizenship for all their nationals as part of an athletic strategy is important. Dual Citizenship is important for competing at the international level and building a winning country brand.  If African nations want to increase the number of medals that they have, African nations need to leverage their athletic human resources. This will create a situation where both players and the country can benefit. It is a step in countering the 'body drain' of our athletes. It will also create a situation where more Olympic medals can be awarded on the African continent ... and one where more happy Olympic memories can be created for Africa.

This article originally appeared August 1, 2012 and August 11, 2012 on: www.rebrandafrica.org

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