Africa is a scar on the conscience of the world. Every year hundreds of thousands of Africans risk their life to get to Europe and out of poverty. The ones mainly benefitting are the people smugglers who pack them onto boats that are not seaworthy. This year 2,814 have already died, according to the UNHCR. It’s consequently essential that we enable Africans to get a better life at home. The World Economic Forum looks at how that can be done in this short video:
Have personally worked with African governments to enable them to grow out of poverty. It’s absolutely correct, as the video states, that agriculture is the easiest, and most intelligent solution, but with EU and US farm subsidies still in place it’s impossible for African farmers to compete on the global market. In Europe farmers actually overproduce and the commodities are exported to developing countries at prices so low it would be more expensive for African governments and private sectors to buy locally produced products. A complicating factor is that it’s not enough that only the EU abolish farm subsidies but the US has to do so as well. If not, countries buying cheap agricultural products from Europe will just buy American goods instead.
Paying for a dream
Many Africans who have managed to get to Europe to claim asylum are economic migrants and their applications hence don’t succeed. They have paid, or owe, thousands of dollars to people smugglers telling them that when they get to Europe they will get a job, house, car and a lot of money. It’s easy for us to say they should have understood it was too good to be true and that they could easily have googled and discovered that they were being taken for a ride. Don’t forget that we are literate and educated. And American readers should reflect on the fact that their forefathers decided to go to the US for the same reasons Africans come to Europe today. They also paid for a passage hoping to make a better life in the new world.
Am teaching asylum seekers in Sweden Swedish and basic political/social science. Currently have a lot of African pupils, some of them illiterate. One just found out that her request for asylum has been rejected and has appealed. Feel truly sorry for her because she was dreaming of a better life and felt her situation in Africa was so dire she had to risk her life to get to Europe. Sincerely hope she does not owe money to the people smugglers.
Western agricultural subsidies have to be abolished
We really need to make life better for Africans. And the smartest way of doing so is enabling them to trade themselves out of poverty. So the sooner Western agricultural subsidies are abolished the better. For Europe it would save billions of dollars that are now being spent on African asylum seekers hoping to get out of poverty.
On top of it we would put an end to a very lucrative income for criminal gangs smuggling people to Europe. One of the worst aspects of the smugglers is that they often come from the same country as the migrants they con into paying them for the dangerous journey. A couple of the asylum seekers I teach used the services of this man and told me that the wrong man has been arrested. They should know since they have met him several times. Hopefully they find, extradite and convict the right human trafficker soon.
But alas we have the obstacle of militant French farmers that will block the whole of France with their tractors if agricultural subsidies are abolished, or even reduced. Consequently the French government will have to find a way of pacifying them in order to save African lives and European money and, maybe ultimately, democracy.
The EU should invest in Africa
It’s also high time the European Union start invesing in Africa to increase the standard of living for the poor. It does not benefit Europe to have unstable and extremely poor neighbouring countries. On the contrary. How many billions are spent by the EU only on patrolling the Mediterranean and rescuing Africans in boats that are sinking?
There is some talk in Brussels about the EU investing in Africa. First beneficiaries are Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Ethiopia and Libya. EU lawmakers are also considering making deals with Libya and Egypt along the lines of the asylum agreement with Turkey. Am not happy about the latter kind of agreements though because it’s just like putting plaster on a wound that needs to be operated. Atter writing and publishing this article the Brookings Foreign Policy newsletter contained this article with suggestions on short term solutions to end the massacre on the Mediterranean
The dream of Europe
Dreaming of having the kind of life Westerners have in the movies is understandable. But how many uneducated Africans that arrive in Europe even get a decent life? A sizeable amount have their requests for asylum rejected. Many of them then decide it’s better for them to be illegal aliens in Europe than going back home and hence go into hiding and become easy prey for unscrupulous criminals and employers. The fact that living like that is more lucrative than going back to Africa says a lot.
Lamentably the huge influx of asylum seekers last year is making fascism popular in Europe, and globally for that matter, for the simple reason that sections of the general public blame anything foreign or new for their problems. Seems Hitler and World War II is already forgotten. Austria almost elected a fascist president recently and if the amount of asylum seekers coming to Europe isn’t reduced drastically fascism will become a force to be reckoned with. It’s horrendous in every sense not least for Africans who are illegal aliens here. Don’t need to tell you what kind of treatment they, and other economic migrants, would get from fascists, do I.
Tyrants and corruption
Someone will no doubt come up with the obvious solution which is to tackle corruption in Africa. Fully agree that it’s a huge problem. But that’s been attempted for decades. Lamentably positive developments can easily be wiped out when a new government is elected. Democracy, as Churchill once said, is the worst form of government, except for all the other forms that have been tried. Once you have new politicians in power they, for the same reason as the migrants, poverty, will start looting as much as they can.
What is welcome though is that the UN currently wants to prosecute the Eritrean dictator at the ICC in the Hague. Sure it will take time before that happens but it’s a step in the right direction that will show tyrants that the long arm of justice is out there. Human rights abuses will not be tolerated forever.
So we need to come up with a solution that enable Africans to get a good life. Abolishing Western agricultural subsidies would be a good start. It would also give people in Southern and Central America a better life and reduce the amount feeling they have no choice but to go to the United States. Let’s face it, the majority of migrants don’t want to leave their home but do because they feel there’s no future for them there. Angelina Jolie is doing a lot to higlight the suffering of migrants which is good because it makes much more people pay attention to the problem. It’s high time for governments worldwide to step up to the plate and make the world a better place for all. Vested interests such as farmers and multinationals have to take a cut in their earnings for the good of society as a whole. If not, prosperity in the developed world will have to cope with problems far worse than the current ones. Not least since it’s estimated that global warming will make North Africa and the Middle East much hotter and make it even more difficult for poor people to live there.
Do you agree with me that the international community will have to make an effort to improve life for Africans? Should Europe and the US stop subsidizing their farmers to enable not only Africa but developing countries worldwide to start exporting themselves out of poverty? Is it a good idea for the European Union to invest in Africa to make it easier for Africans to support themselves at home? Should a global scheme be implemented where all developed countries agree to take a share of people displaced by wars? Should tyrants be prosecuted at the ICC in The Hague? Is it likely that the global community will step up to the plate? For decades we have understood the importance of abolishing Western agricultural subsidies but they are still in place. What will it take to get the West to give priority to saving lives over making money and getting re-elected? Is it likely that the refugee crisis in Europe will be enough? Or at least a start?
Video: World Economic Forum – Picture: Foreign and Commonwealth Office