This young immigrant just may have told us everything we need to know about Africa, the United States, and maybe even Europe:

Komi Akoumany grew up poor in West Africa and learned there were "three ways to become somebody: Your father is head of a military branch or knows the president, you are gifted with extreme soccer skills that will catch the eyes of European soccer coaches, or you get on a plane to United States of America."

He's been in the United States for six years now, and he's headed to college. So what's he telling us? First, that the United States is still the land of opportunity, the land where immigrants want to come to work hard and make a better life for themselves.

Second, that Africa is not the land of opportunity. African countries lack the things that have made America prosper: private property, free markets, the rule of law. Sub-Saharan African countries are among the most protectionist countries in the world. They rightly complain about developed-world trade barriers, and those should come down. But Africans could create a free trade zone on the continent, and instead they erect high tariffs and even higher nontariff barriers against their neighbours.

Third, and perhaps most provocatively, what is young Komi saying about Europe? Europe is closer to Africa than the United States is. Why doesn't he think a plane to Europe could be his salvation?

It probably could, of course. Europe has far more open economies than Africa. But labour laws often keep immigrants out of the workforce in Europe. Unemployment is more widespread and lasts longer in Europe. Economic growth is stronger in the United States.

So there you have it: an American criticizing Europe on a European newspaper site. Have at me.



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