To speak about Africa and specifically about African migration is in danger of neglecting the many differences and the diversity of that huge continent and its – growing – population. Migration is not migration, there are many reasons and motivations for people, especially young people to decide to emigrate. Sometimes migration is based on individual decisions, sometimes it is a family decision to send the young abroad to gain remittances or to give the younger a chance he or she never would have at home. Some times migration decisions are taken in order to adapt to changed and detrimental environment, in other cases it has a transformative character. People want to shape their lives and improve their standard of living. In any case outside conditions are mostly intermingled with individual and family decisions. There are many factors and reasons, -young- people decide to take the risk of emigration.
The forthcoming meeting in Uganda should clarify some of these issues and should design a common approach of African and EU countries to manage migration in a mutual acceptable, respectable and beneficial way. Why did we choose Kampala, the capital of Uganda for the conference? Well Uganda, at the moment, is a host countries for many migrants including forced migrants from its neighboring countries. This small country alone is taking 1,7% of the world’s forced migrants, much more than the US, U.K. and Japan together. In relation to its population Uganda has much more refugees/migrants than most of the other countries with the exception of Lebanon and Jordan.
Uganda- a model country in dealing with migration?
Uganda is receiving refugees/migrants particularly from its neighboring countries which are characterized by civil wars and/or famine: South Sudan, Somalia, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and even Kenia. Uganda had in the past also the inverse experience when many Ugandans fled from the Idi Amin regime into the neighborhood. Nevertheless, what strikes is the readiness to receive and integrate the refugees into the Ugandan economy and society as stipulated in the Refugee Act of 2006. Migrants get land to grow some food for themselves and they are not put into camps but they can build their small houses and form villages. In one of these settlements called Bidi-Bidi there live up to 270.000 refugees. It is one of the biggest refugee settlements worldwide.
Refugees are allowed to take jobs and their children are going to get education. On the other hand, free movement across the country may be limited and refugees might need a permit to move.
Until now there are no strong clashes between locals and migrants reported. But, of course, the influx of a high number of migrants and refugees is a strain on the small budget of that small country. They would need much more help from the richer countries especially from Europe.
One vital lesson to be learned from Uganda is that it would be very important to help all those African countries which are taking refugees, which care for them and which have a clear integration strategy. Besides, it is important to include into the humanitarian aid from the beginning also strong elements of education, professional training and other steps of integration. Even if the conditions in Uganda and European countries are very different, learning from Uganda is possible and useful.
Refugees and economic migrants
The International and European systems which deal with refugees make a clear differentiation between refugees with their right to apply for asylum and migrants who flee because of bad and/or degrading economic, ecological or social circumstances. But in reality, also economic, social and ecological factors can „force“ people to leave their villages and their countries. It is not just a question of looking for better opportunities it is very often an issue of having an opportunity or no perspective at all. Yes, we should and must adhere to the differentiation when it comes to asylum and the rights connected to it. But an overall and comprehensive migration policy must also take the other push factors into account, especially because very often there is no clear dividing line between forced and other forms of migration. Pull factors from the side of the richer countries would not be so strong if there would not be push factors in the countries of emigration.
Civil wars, brutal dictatorships, ecological disasters and especially famines and terrorism are the decisive factors threatening people’s lives and forcing them to leave their countries. In many countries of Africa, we find such push factors actively endangering people’s life.
Particularly young people are endangered by violent conflicts in Africa. Young men are victims because they are targets of the official military and of mercenaries who force young men into their armies but also of different rebel groups. Young women on the other side are often abducted to get ransom money and/or are victims of rape and other forms of violence. Young men, women and children are particularly vulnerable in times of war and terrorism.
Africa – the young continent
Africa is the fastest growing continent. In 2100 Africa will comprise 40% of the world’s population. Nigeria alone will grow from 191 million today to 410 million and will be the third biggest country in 2030. And in 2050 one out of 3 people between 15 and 29 years will live in Africa. But what about the chances and opportunities of these young people?
The young ones are not only specifically affected by war and terrorism, they are also often deprived of a better future because of corruption in connection with weak economic and social progress. In addition, the environmental degradation due to climate change, which is particularly affecting some African countries, reduces their chance to enjoy sustainable livelihood. Very often the various factors are intermingled and enhancing each other.
Let’s look to the dreadful situation in the Niger delta with the enormous environmental degradation due to the oil extraction as only one prominent example. It is attracting rebel groups and the use of arms. Trafficking is often seen as the only way out of disastrous situations. Human trafficking and the trafficking of arms are profitable businesses and are often „accompanying“ illegal migration. In the meantime, also drug trafficking has found profitable routes from Latin America via West and Northern Africa towards Europe. Again, the younger generation is partly seduced to use trafficking for escaping poverty and despair.
In addition, in many African countries we find political structures and practices which are not opening channels for young people to engage themselves in politics. Basic democratic structures and institutions would be an important way to change the political climate and to start improving also the economic climate for new businesses which could give young people a chance for self-employment. Too often corrupt systems are favoring those business people who are close to the leaders and chiefs. That is of course preventing competition and newcomers to the market.
In the mean time several organizations of young people try to counter the undemocratic systems and their way of blocking progress and opportunities for the younger generation. The movement “Africa Rising” tries to engage young people from 44 African countries for change in Africa. “Lucha” ( lutte pour le changement ) in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Y’en a marre (We’ve had enough) in Senegal have a similar objective. They use social media to challenge old power structures and fight for new and open political systems in their countries.
However, also traditions can have a strong influence on the chances of young people. Young women are especially affected by traditional attitudes and behavior. Early marriages and early childbirth prevent them from taking chances of education and work, at least jobs
outside agriculture. Education for young women is one the best ways of reducing early marriage and childbirth. It is not easy to fight long time traditions without destroying functioning societies. But ways must be found to overcome traditions which are preventing young people, especially young women to come out of the poverty trap.
Looking for some development model
Unfortunately there are no leading countries in Africa who could serve as a model how to overcome the internal deficiencies and impediments. South Africa and Nigeria, the two biggest economies, are affected by many deficiencies themselves and cannot play that role.
Europe with its colonial past and with many European influenced companies has and still is contributing to deficiencies like corruption and exploitation of local communities. This is certainly also true for other big investors in Africa from the US and China etc. Some European legislation on transparency and newer concepts for supporting sustainable development in African countries are certainly improvements. But they are not yet embedded in a comprehensive and complementary development strategy, which is also(!) dealing with the migration issue but not only.
Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo are only two very prominent examples of the curse of mineral resources of worldwide demand. The richer world is strongly relying on these resources. In combination with the corrupt behavior of many local leaders – very often supported by political forces in „developed“ countries – the extraction and selling of these resources do not contribute to public wealth. In this connection, a recent article in the Financial Times was correct when putting the following title on one of its pages: „Clean electric cars are built on pollution in Congo“. Cobalt is the resource used in many new batteries including in electric cars. Some estimates are predicting a 30-fold increase in cobalt demand by 2030. But until now there is no concrete hope that this rising demand will be of benefit to the citizens of The Democratic Republic of Congo. The first and most prominent issue would be to break through that corruption link between international companies neglecting the demands of local societies and local leaders in these countries with the same neglect and hypocrisy.
Climate change, agriculture and energy
Additionally, the contribution of the industrialized world to climate change is affecting many African countries. Considerable research is showing very clearly how climate change is reducing the chances of farmers to earn a decent living – especially from small farms. A recent study by MIT expressed the fear that harvests in Sub-Sahara Africa could be reduced by 20% in the coming decades and in some countries up to 50%. But we would need growing harvests to feed the growing population not decreasing harvests. The deterioration of agricultural land in combination with population growth leads to enforced competition for the scarce land fit for growing crops. And the changed consumption pattern with more demand for meat leads as well to overuse of land by cattle grazing. It is a fact that an increasing number of people are displaced by natural hazards over the years.
Africa is a vast continent but with shrinking land for feeding the growing population. All these factors endanger the future of youth in rural areas and enhances migration to African cities or to cities abroad. This is bad for people who are enforced to leave and bad for those who are forced to stay behind, because in the end they are the most vulnerable to climate change.
Another crucial point is that Africa needs more self-produced energy and less imported. If one considers the available energy in Africa from oil and gas to wind and especially sun it is grotesque that a huge amount is imported. It should not be only an exporter but at least it should be enough to supply the younger generation for creating enough jobs as well as for daily usage.
Overall we need a sincere and forceful policy of implementing the Sustainable Development Goals – SDGs. They must be the basis for any comprehensive development policy. They include the leading targets for the rural areas and the growing cities.
Because of the dreadful situation in many rural areas – including lack of public services and conveniences – the process of urbanization is particularly strong in Africa. In the next twenty years 1 billion of Africans will live in cities. In 1950 Africa had no city with more than 1 million inhabitants, in 2013 there were already 54 and in 2030 there will be 95 cities with more than 1 million inhabitants. One of the fastest growing cities in Africa is Kampala. It’s area has grown from 71 square kilometers in 1984 to 386 square kilometers in 2010 and it will probably reach 1.000 square kilometers in 2030. And it is expected that soon the area between Kampala and Kisumu in Kenya will be one agglomeration.
These urban agglomerations, on the one hand, can offer a variety of jobs but can also create new underprivileged classes with tendencies to accept criminal activities in order to survive or to meet one’s basic needs. On the other hand, cities promote innovation and creativity which could be used by the younger generation to enhance useful economic activities for import substitution and for export. The issue is to find a balance between modernization and sustainability of rural areas with growing food production due to a resilient pastoral system and urban agglomeration with new job opportunities in industry and services.
Another question which should be dealt with is the idea of creating new cities to receive the “overflow” from other cities. Once cities grow too big it is difficult to manage them. Certainly, “artificial” cities always bear the danger of dull and “dead” cities. But looking at the enormous population growth one has to think seriously about new cities which could be hubs for regional development all over Africa.
Europe’s critical attitude towards immigration
Europe is interested in either stopping or managing migration – depending on the political attitude of decision makers. But there is a strong public opinion, that uncontrolled and irregular migration flows with many unknown and uncertainties should be transformed into managed and regular migration. The development of a social welfare state as a public redistribution mechanism of nationally created wealth. This has motivated especially lower income groups in richer countries to defend their achieved income level. The fact that other countries – especially those in Africa – are far away from this welfare level is no convincing argument for this part of a society to share their income beyond a certain level. Support for economic, social and environmental developments and preserving or enhancing sustainability in Africa must be done otherwise than by strong migration inflows.
The argument about migration helping to fill the labour gap for countries with aging population is doubtful if we think about the strong trends of automatization also of jobs with low qualification. This automatization and the use of robots and artificial intelligence may even reduce the demand for labour. But for some time still many European countries could need migrants to enhance economic development.
Is emigration helping Africans?
But what about Africa? There are two arguments brought forward to favor migration: the high number of remittances and the knowledge transfer from the diaspora. Certainly, the remittances are of big help for many countries. But it is not a sustainable concept to rely too much on remittances. It diverts from the necessity to create a sustainable basis for economic and social development by the state authorities. Unfortunately, these remittances are very often not used to enhance investment and to create new jobs.
The knowledge transfer depends very much from the number of migrants returning to their countries of origin as well as from the know-how received and achieved.
Some speak even about the diaspora from Africa as being a „Marshall Plan for the West“. Undoubtedly, there is some good argument to think about the diaspora of benefitting more from the richer -immigration- countries than the poor -emigration- countries. But that should not be a strategy to follow – neither from the richer nor from the poorer countries.
Active involvement of the diaspora
What we do need is a comprehensive diaspora policy based on cooperation of countries of origin and destiny. Representatives from the diaspora may contribute to new jobs in Africa and Europe by enhancing trade relations and links between companies on both continents. Training in Europe and new links of diaspora people in Europe can be used to create new businesses in Africa and also reduce massive out-migration from Africa.
The African Agenda 2063 which has been developed by African countries themselves has in this respect a clear vision. It wants to enhance the beneficial link with the diaspora but wants to end the brain drain and all forms of illegal migrations as well as the trafficking of the African youth. And also some private initiatives like that of Fatah Samani in Kenya – Join the movement – want to encourage young people to return to their country.
Managed migration as realistic alternative
Such a balanced strategy may be very difficult to implement but it would be the right orientation and one which could be also of benefits for the EU countries. It is not useful and realistic to speak about stopping migration and of seeing only the negative consequences of offering asylum to refugees and of receiving a certain number of migrants. Regular and controlled migration in addition to giving asylum seekers a chance in Europe would be of benefit for both sides. What is a special challenging task is to give migration a structure where public authorities play the decisive role. At the moment we have a privatized migration “management” with many private – some of them criminal- actors deciding the fate of migrants. Just to block migration across the central Mediterranean route will only result in looking for other routes. But state actors on both sides of the Mediterranean must come into the play. NGOs may help and support but – European- politics has to play the decisive role.
EU strategies towards migration via the Mediterranean Sea
The European Union has for several years already adapted its policies towards Africa with strong inputs from converges about irregular migration. The EU is putting its policies not under the unrealistic title of closing the “Mediterranean Route” but under the still difficult task of „managing“ migration from Africa. In a Communication of the Commission to the Council and the Parliament with the title: „Migration on the Central Mediterranean Route – Managing the flows, saving lives“ policies of stabilizing the situation in Libya are seen as central to manage migration. But also, the „EU Trust Fund for Africa“ and „Partnership Agreements on Migration“ have a central role to play and they are targeted to prevent migration flows towards Libya or other Northern African countries. Partnership Agreements which have already been concluded are working with and in Niger, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal and Ethiopia. But as we can see they are only partly effective and need more enforcements in the relevant countries. Besides, more countries would have to be included in these Partnership Frameworks.
The most difficult negotiations are those concerning the readmission agreements. Especially when these agreements should also include migrants already on European soil. In this respect the proposal elaborated by the European Stability Initiative (ESI) according to which readmission should only be enforced for new migrants – after an agreed date- could be much more realistic. Such a rule could be accepted by African governments but also the EU Commission has to acknowledge it.
We can also find proposals in the framework of the „Joint Africa – EU Strategy“ which is
especially targeted towards possibilities to promote conflict prevention and institution building. Conflicts and weak institutions are very often preparing the ground for illicit economies like drug and weapons trafficking and illegal migration.
Recently the EU together with Germany and France -with the presence of President Macron and Chancellor Merkel – have launched an „Alliance for the Sahel“. It is open for all EU member states and should promote rural development, the creation of jobs for the young, improve the energy infrastructure and promote food governance and security.
The EU has also started to target the youth question more specifically. 2050 when the African population will reach 2,4 billion, half of that population will be young people. Sub- Sharan Africa which momentarily supplies 3 million jobs a year will have to create 18 million jobs per annum to give all the young people a job. In this framework, the EU started to launch an „African Youth Facility“ and wants to extend the Erasmus+ program.
Without going into details we can find many strategies, programs and proposals which are targeting the development of African countries. But not all the EU policies – for instance the trade policies – are already coordinated with the development efforts. And the same can be said about public and private investment activities coming from Europe. There is still no comprehensive and clear targeted EU policy towards Africa.
Recently, the main motivation has been to reduce and manage migration from Africa towards EU countries. But it would be unfair to accuse the EU of only seeing migration as an overriding problem. However, some member countries seem to be very reluctant to develop and implement an – European – African policy which is long term based and which deals with Africa as a partner. Partnership is based on mutual interest and respect. This is why the management of migration must be a joint issue and based on common benefits and interests. Otherwise it will not work anyway.
How to design a realistic and comprehensive migration policy
The present situation with refugees crossing irregularly the Mediterranean Sea is highly unsatisfactory. People are killed, traffickers are rewarded and populists in Europe gain electoral support.
Furthermore, the disputes with NGOs which some see as helping irregular migrants and even to support illegal trafficking is not helping to find a constructive migration policy. Many NGOs are ready to accept common rules agreed with the Italian authorities, others are not willing to accept such rules. The cooperation with the Libyan authorities – and there are many – is also a matter of disputes and conflicts. Anyway, all reports so far speak of unacceptable and unbearable treatment of refugees in Libya. But, it is not surprising that European citizens ask for regulations and concrete actions to at least manage the migrations flows.
There is no easy way out of the present situation with many refugees and migrants risking their lives crossing the Mediterranean Sea. To stop this kind of dangerous crossings would be important for all people concerned. The mentioned proposal of the European Stability Initiative (ESI) for creating legal channels and conclude readmission agreements with the respective countries for all those who come newly and Illegally into the EU would be an important step forward. Nevertheless, we must acknowledge that with the present reduced but still high unemployment in Europe there will be only a limited offer for legal immigration.
To create „hot spots“ for conducting asylum requests outside Europe should be considered as well seriously. It is already an old idea, which the former British prime minister Tony Blair raised. But we should consider this idea seriously and realistically. The first condition would be to create we have to arrange a human environment in and around these hotspots. Such an environment has to be elaborated, monitored and evaluated steadily. These “hot spots” should be managed by either the EU or the UNHCR and all agreed human rights would have to be guaranteed for people who have to wait until their requests are dealt with. Also, in this respect the question of readmission would be an important issue. A strong cooperation with the countries where the hot spots would be established and with the countries of origin of asylum seekers would be necessary. But these countries of origin might not be very helpful because they are countries which are often characterized by bad political structures and governance. Anyway, it is not a proposal which should be put on the table in order to please public opinion, but an issue of sincere negotiations with relevant countries and of being prepared to finance and organize these hotspots. And without more channels of legal migration such hot spots could never work.
Anyway, all these measures must be embedded into a comprehensive development policy, whereby the youth of Africa must be in the centre of it. They must get the chance of finding sustainable living conditions primarily in their countries and the African continent. Migration to Europe should be helpful to gain knowledge and experience but should not primarily be an alternative to find a job in Africa. It is a responsibility of the industrialized world with its consumption and production patterns to give African youth a chance but also of African leaders to create adequate conditions for African youth in their countries so that they can gain a decent living.
African politics must enhance education and training of high quality. Africa still has the world’s lowest school enrollment and education quality! And many young people are rather looking for a job in government than in private business. So government must promote private businesses and care for access to credits – again especially for young women – in order to create jobs in agriculture, industry and services. Education alone will not be enough, it will be necessary to create jobs which are more or less matching the qualifications gained via education- and vice versa. And all that must be done in the framework of a coherent policy to give African youth a chance.
In many countries, regions and cities of Africa you find already responsible and forward looking economic and political leaders who work on such a future. Though, in some countries you still find leaders looking rather for their own interests, running for office many times – often in violation of the constitution- and giving the young no chance to build the country according to tomorrows necessities. One only can hope that youth movements as mentioned above can successfully put pressure in the old systems and their representatives in order to open new political channels.
Africa has enormous potentials which are already visible in their innovations, arts, architecture and much more. Europe must stop to see in Africa an underdeveloped continent and a backward society. There is no justification for European/Western arrogance. As recent public discussions demonstrate very clearly, the colonial past has not been dealt with in an open and honest way by many European institutions like the museums presenting proudly African art and artifacts – with very unclear and suspicious origin.
Amidst top scientists, artist and architects of today you find many Africans.There are many points of reference for promoting new and encouraging solutions to Africa’s problems and challenges. Europe can and must support the necessary changes, but African leaders must take their responsibility sincerely. In its Joint Communication for a „Renewed Impetus of the Africa-EU-Partnership“ the European Commission and the High Representative design a road map for the years 2018 to 2020. Special attention is giving to the African youth and their needs from education to jobs. The question will be, if there are enough resources spent and if the EU finds the adequate partners in Africa which are ready to think beyond 2020. And furthermore will the EU member countries support such a policy and add its national activities to the European strategy.
A Marshall Plan for Africa’s youth
Some experts and politicians plead for a “Marshall Plan “ for Africa. One of the problems with EU policies in relations to Africa is that there are also other players on the market.
Not so much the US especially with President Trump who reduced development aid and increased military support especially against terrorism. That maybe is pleasing some of the leaders who would gain support for their personal perspective but is not a viable development strategy. The big competitor for Europe is China. This country does contribute to development but very often without a long term perspective from the point of view of African countries. It is rather a way of safeguarding supplies for China.
Nevertheless it would be of mutual benefit for Africa if all big players could find a common strategy and would develop a coherent policy with growing attention given to the needs of African countries. Europe, China, India, Japan the US but also international organizations like the IMF, the World Bank and UNDP etc. should work together to give Africa a chance for sustainable development. Even if that is for the moment not very realistic we should try to coordinate our policies. And Europe could start in proposing and implementing a comprehensive strategy and invite others to join. What we definitely would need is a “ Marshall Plan “ for African youth – maybe with a better name – representing the future Africa. The EU should set an example and others may follow.
Europe should in particular address the younger generation of our neighboring continent. Such a policy would look into the future and would show a clear alternative to the orientation on present leaders. We just have to win the heart and the minds of those who have to reconstruct Africa according to their needs and opportunities. Such a policy would also be a better fight against terrorism than any military strategy. The diaspora should be involved and an educational initiative must be started. The big private investors could be asked to contribute also financially to such a Marshall Plan. Many ideas could be collected and implemented. Europe’s citizens and taxpayers would be ready to help and support such a policy if enough energy is put into convincing them that migration can be managed much more constructively by a comprehensive and positive strategy.
Such a common Africa- EU strategy should work for an Africa of modernity and progress without denying tradition and Africa’s special patterns of development. To be part of a global economy must not contradict a special African way of development.
The EU – Africa youth project should strive particularly for:
- a diversified economy which is serving the interests of the people and not of a tiny elite – credit and loan systems which enable start ups – in agriculture, industry and services
- a systematic transfer of know how and experience from the diaspora towards Africa
- an investment climate which generates creativity and innovation
- a thorough education and training of African youth to prepare them for new jobs
- a comprehensive health system including reproductive health education for young women – political structures which enable participation and involvement of the young
- opportunities for the youth to build new sustainable cities as regional hubs
- an African youth which is proud of their continent but eager to modernize it
- an African youth for which also emigration may create opportunities but is not a must