Photo credit: IOM/F.Giordani
“There are 4.5 million Lebanese in Lebanon and around 12 million scattered around the world. Movement is in our blood. We take our skills and expertise and export them to other countries offering better opportunities to develop our capacities. For this reason we consider migration as a win-win situation for all, as something natural.”
“My father was the first to leave Lebanon in the 1960s/1970s. He migrated to Senegal, where I was born. I lived there until the age of 18. Then, I left for Niamey, Niger, where I remained for 20 years. My brother was there. Our tradition is like that; when you have friends or relatives abroad, you often go visiting, have a look, and if you find a valuable activity to develop, you settle. Lebanese people adapt very easily and as we do not look for problems, problems do not come to us.”
When Zaidane met his wife, who was living in Mauritania, he decided to move and start another life there.
“Before settling, I already knew the context, as I went there on holidays a few times. Mauritania is a developing country with a very low population. Compared to the neighbouring countries, it is extremely rich in resources, especially fish and iron. What is missing is the expertise; so those who arrive here with a luggage filled with human or financial capital have the possibility to develop activities of various kinds. When I first arrived, 25 years ago, Mauritania was quite different from now. Nouakchott was much smaller, there were fewer buildings and infrastructure, the population was poorer and the restaurant industry was underdeveloped, so we thought that opening a restaurant could be a good idea, we could bring something new.”
Today, Zaidan and his wife own one of the most renowned restaurants in Nouakchott. They have trained a whole team of chefs and waiters who have been working with them for some years and have become real professionals.
“That is what movement brings. It allows change and progress. Unfortunately, nowadays, when we talk about migration we refer to it as something negative. Migration is seen as a consequence and part of a bigger problem, while before it was accepted as normal, it was seen more as an opportunity. What is the problem in finding one’s luck elsewhere? Mauritania, for example, has a lot to learn from the migrants who travel here. All the knowledge that those people bring allows the country to develop. Everywhere is like that. Take Lebanon, for example. It is a country that owes a lot to the diaspora. Its secret is the Lebanese who first left during the 50s and have been enriching the country with the experiences gained abroad.”
Even though Zaidan now lives far from his country of origin, he has managed to integrate successfully and become integral part of this country. Migration can be a great resource for both origin and destination country, supporting economic development by allowing the transfer of knowledge and skills.