When banks began to collapse and protest demonstrations swept the streets in October 2019, Moussa Khoury refused to leave Lebanon, as well as after his house was destroyed by the explosion of the capital’s port, last August, but in the end, he could not stand the collapse of the Lebanese currency and immigrated to West Africa.
Khoury is among about 250,000 Lebanese in West Africa, whose number has increased in recent months, according to a report prepared by The Economist.
Khoury runs a start-up selling vegetables grown in hydroponic farms, and his customers pay him in local currency, while his suppliers demand hard currency, so he decided last April to accept an offer made by an acquaintance who promised to invest with him in the company, and moved to Ghana.
According to the magazine, it is impossible to know how many have moved there since the economic crisis began in Lebanon in 2019, but a pilot of Lebanese origin living in Togo said the Lebanese are packing their flights to West Africa.
The Lebanese Embassy in Nigeria reported a “significant increase” in the movement of Lebanese into the country.
Mina Guita Hourani, who runs a center that studies immigration at Lebanon’s Notre Dame University, said her office is inundated with calls from Lebanese who want advice on how to reunite and track relatives abroad, including in Africa.
Many Lebanese came to the west of the continent in the nineteenth century, accidentally disembarking from ships bound for America, according to the popular narrative.
The newcomers proved successful as intermediaries between the local population and the colonial powers, later as business owners and merchants of goods.
Today, for example, the Lebanese are said to control many companies in Ivory Coast that deal with coffee or cocoa exports.
According to the newspaper, the Lebanese consider that obtaining visas from West African destinations is much easier than obtaining visas from the US or European countries, and it is also easy to obtain jobs.
Ibrahim Shaheen, a mechanical engineer who left Lebanon last year, said the process of obtaining a Canadian visa was very cumbersome, and his requests to Gulf countries went unanswered.
Shaheen noted that when he got a job at a company run by Lebanese in Nigeria, he did not think twice, expecting to stay for ten years.