An honest engagement strategy for Africa can help mitigate migration

An honest engagement strategy for Africa can help mitigate migration

As the legal battle surrounding Sea Watch captain Carola Rackete continues to command headlines, the controversy highlights the futility of the EU’s attempts to deal with the wave after wave of migration to European shores. Clearly, the continent is aching under the pressure and current efforts to take in these poor unfortunates across the bloc only seems to be exacerbating the pull factors involved.

At the same time, the underlying structural issues in Africa, from which a large percentage of immigrants hail, are being neglected. If migration is to be effectively mitigated and a long-term solution to the problem found, Europe needs to help African countries develop into attractive propositions for those wishing to leave by supporting them through opportunity creation. Such a stratagem would be beneficial for all parties – after all, every migrant contributes to the economy, culture and society of their home countries.

Yet doing so requires Brussels to offer a unified approach to attacking the issue at its root. Given that a recent report revealed that most African migration actually takes place within African borders, such a policy would make perfect sense. The report, compiled by the UN, identified unemployment, conflict, political instability and social mobility as the main reasons that Africans choose to migrate – normally to conveniently placed neighbouring countries. Job opportunities are the most influential factor, according to the Mo Ibrahim Foundation.

Senegal: good governance breads opportunities

The EU has already reached out and offered to step up its support to promising African countries. Senegal, for example, has long occupied central place for promoting good governance and democratic principles. With migration becoming an increasingly serious matter, it is no surprise that German chancellor Angela Merkel and UK PM May visited the country to strengthen bilateral relations and bring businesses to the country. The EU states see promoting business opportunities as a means for Senegal’s youth to find employment and build a livelihood at home.

Their strategy seems to bear some fruit, as Senegal has moved to improve its governance since President Macky Sall put in place a Ministry of Good Governance and National Office against Fraud and Corruption (OFNAC) in 2012. This has caused the country to  jump up by nine points on the CPI index, but has also had a positive  impact on the economy.

While allegations exist that the president’s younger brother was improperly involved in awarding drilling contracts to a foreign firm in the important oil sector – allegations that the African Chamber of Energy rejected as an attempt to taint the sector and the president –  international observers seem confident that Senegal may succeed in avoiding Africa’s “resource curse”. Senegal possesses strong institutions and bureaucracy capable of enforcing the rule of law as the country builds up its oil and gas industry .The fact that Sall is a French-trained geological engineer is also considered an advantage in managing the industry and popular expectations of an economic bonanza.

Rwanda: poverty reduction for a better future

If Senegal is showing promising green shoots for the future, Rwanda appears to be something close to the finished article. Having suffered through the horror and tragedy of the 1994 genocide and the enduring fallout, the country now seems to have finally come out the other side. Ranked above OECD countries like Italy and Greece on the CPI index, Rwanda is also remarkably rated as the 9th safest country in the world by the World Economic Forum (WEF). Throw in a GDP that has increased almost six-fold in the last 25 years and it’s clear that the Rwandan future looks rosy.

The EU is Rwanda’s largest development partner, prioritising private sector development, investments and job creation. Indeed, the EU’s involvement in reconstructing the country after 1994 were so successful that Rwanda is regarded a possible model for the rest of Africa in terms of fighting the causes of flight and creating prospects for local populations – some difficulties notwithstanding.

How has this been achieved? Through unorthodox means at times. Its experimental adoption of consensual politics appears to be paying dividends, while the controversial use of Gacaca courts successfully expedited justice for genocide atrocities and demonstrated to the populace that the perpetrators would not go unpunished. Outside of these anomalies, prudent investment into the national infrastructure and transparent governance have made Rwanda thus far a success story of sub-Sahara.

Cause for optimism

Senegal and Rwanda are only two of several examples which demonstrate that Africa can flourish if given the chance. Botswana, Namibia and Cabo Verde also offer plenty of positives. The continent as a whole is demonstrating collective cause for optimism. Since the start of 2015, Africa has witnessed over 27 regime changes, signalling that the day of indefinite dictatorships might be coming to an end. 34 of the continent’s 54 nations have improved their governmental performance since 2000 and that has translated into better living conditions for the common people.

Adult literacy is up 10% since 1995, chronic malnutrition among children is down by the same margin  over the same time period and, building upon these small but significant successes, many countries have already introduced measures aimed at limiting migration. The EU must take advantage of this momentum and lend their own considerable resources and expertise to make sure current initiatives are expanded, taken seriously and followed through to a satisfying long-term conclusion.

With the European Commission’s External Investment Plan earmarking €44 billion for Africa and the Middle East by 2020 (and a further €123 for the six years following), it’s imperative that the money is spent wisely in building serious engagements with African countries that go beyond mere development aid. The African – and by extension, Europe – people will reap the benefits tenfold in the long run.

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