“For many years we have been very focused on Asia. I think that in future we should turn our sights more on Africa. It is of great interest to Europeans that African states have good economic prospects.” Angela Merkel to Europe
The Mo Ibrahim Foundation released a damning report last week, that summarily showed how African governments have failed their booming youth population, leading to the high rate of illegal migration.
For the umpteenth time, African presidents and governments must be reminded that governance in the continent must, as a matter of urgency, change. The paradigm shift that is beckoning is not such that gives one the liberty of choosing whether to follow suit or not; it is either one follows the path of genuine developmental enterprise or one gets butted out of those offices they treat like their families’ heirlooms.
Decades of gluttonous leadership robbed Africa of its pride of place among the league of nations. Every institution established to run the systems malfunctions out of abandonment and sharp practices, leading to poor everything: healthcare, education, economy, justice, name it. Now, more than ever, there is the call to either get serious with fixing these problems or wait for the expected explosion that has begun, little by little.
If any leader wants to continue the traditional pattern of merely being, say, a president, for the sake of it, the current issue of overpopulation is a wake up call to such slumbering leader to lose sleep immediately.
For someone like Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe, it has dawned on him that it was not all about defeating a Nelson Chamisa as the task of reviving the economy seems to be wrestling him down. While a certain Robert Mugabe may have not lost sleep over that in times past, Mnangagwa cannot afford that luxury in 2018 because things have changed. Zimbabweans are now more aware, meaning they will also demand more. If he sleeps, he finds himself in trouble.
This is the new urgency that years of nonchalance now place on the current set of leaders around Africa. If you are not ready for that challenge, then don’t even think of the government house. South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa is battling to secure his place in next year’s election, as is Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari. There is higher pressure, not just from opposition politicians but from the people themselves; things, indeed, are changing.
We cannot categorically give an exact number of young Africans that have died in their quest for greener pastures abroad since 2010 till now, the period that saw an unprecedented increase in migration to Europe and America. After years of having children whose futures were never a priority of governments in Africa, the continent now realised that mistake when they saw a huge number of youths they pretended not to know about, knocking on the doors of the EU countries and the United States, asking to be taken in because the countries they were coming from had no food, no job, no healthcare, no accommodation for them.
True, Africans were not the only ones illegally climbing European fences and all, but we have a huge number of them in the past few years. Legally and illegally, Africans are leaving the continent daily and both have almost equal effects on the continent.
Illegally, between 2010 and 2013, the annual count of migrants ranged from 58-91 million. But the increase became dramatic from 2014 when the number ranged from 139-168 million in 2017. The highest however, was in 2016 when up to 196 million people left Africa to illegally reside in Europe and the United States.
This has caused a new polarity in world politics as leaders shuffled between conscience and responsibility. The thought of some humans floating on the seas became a burden, yet, letting them into ones country involved higher budgets for the governments. It is now a major factor in European elections and policies, what one thinks of migrants.
These migrants are changing global policies just because their leaders for the past fifty years were rather celebrating the money they saw in government coffers rather than planning their societies.
In the EU, majority of the leaders follow the path of Victor Orban (Hungarian Prime Minister), Horst Seehorf (German Interior Minister) and Matteo Slavini (Italian Interior Minister), who are totally against opening borders to illegal migrants, no matter the situation. They are afraid, rightly so, of their resources that these migrants will consume. Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, is on the verge of losing her office as a result of taking the opposite stance by welcoming the migrants.
It is expedient for African leaders at this time, to listen to Merkel. She has the better idea in handling the influx (or outflux if you like) of migrants from Africa. Merkel is worth listening to because her motherly, if one may choose that word, concern for migrants has cost her her place in German and EU politics. Merkel means well and is ready to assist in solving the major cause of illegal migration from its roots.
It is deceptive to think that wars and crises are the biggest push factors in illegal migration, very deceptive. Sub-saharan countries like South Sudan, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon and Mali may look on the surface like the leading countries where migrants come from, due to the crises but Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana, countries that are more peaceful than the previously mentioned, have contributed more migrants.
In fact, according to a Pew Global document, fifty-one percent of African migrants in the US, legally or otherwise, come from Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and (if you want to be surprised) South Africa. This is to summarily say that the economic flatness or fluctuation of African countries remain the biggest push factor for the youth leaving in their numbers. And this must be fixed immediately.
It is now the onus of these leaders in Africa to harness the funds they get abroad and the Merkelian idea to make, at least, a ten-year plan of zero-illegal migration. Merkel preaches industrialisation, which seems to be too difficult for African leaders to do, while China preaches infrastructural development. These foreign assistance must be harnessed domestically, on terms of the Africans themselves.
The key thing is getting the population busy. They have to create a robust education system to en-skill the youth, create industries to occupy graduates, and give enabling economic policies for entrepreneurial impetus to flourish. This will boost the economies, infrastructures will naturally spring up on their own. But will they hear?
They are looking for loans here and there, to spend more years servicing. Meanwhile, since the turn of the new millennium, Africa has received up to 206 billion dollars from China. We will not talk about the loans and aids from the US that have even been existing before now. In 2007, during the first ever Africa-EU Summit, the EU pledged more than 54 billion dollars to the continent, from then till 2020. No matter how small, Africa has been generating its own money as well, which if added to these foreign loans and aids, should have gone far in industrialising the countries.
But corruption is on one side, gulping chunks of what they get. In 2013, Global Financial Integrity said Africa had lost up to 1.3 trillion dollars to corruption in three decades alone. The fight against corruption is now a political hashtag in Africa’s politics but the systems that engender corruption plus the running cost of governments are still not sincerely dealt with.
Apart from countries like Maurtania, Rwanda, Botswana, more recently, Ethiopia, and a promising though confusing Tanzania, many other countries can be best described as really struggling.
So the time for serious and sincere governance is now and needs no more delays. Sadly, Agenda 2063 may finally be more of a documentation than a feasible programme because there is little or no commitment from the governments to see to its life, with five years having slipped through their fingers.
The Chinese give loans to build airports and send their workers from China. They build different infrastructures in Africa all by themselves. Their business ventures in Africa have more Chinese working in them than Africans, which means that the China-Africa relationship opens doors for more Chinese employments and gives them the large market to export the least of products. Such deals cannot fix the unemployment problem that is causing youths to migrate abroad.
This is where Merkel’s advice of European companies coming into Africa makes plenty sense. It is now left for African leaders to identify areas that their economies will thrive the most and open them up for foreign investments. They have to set sights on how many unemployed to get absolved annually in relation to their current labour population. This will give a ten-year clear picture of where they are headed. These things are not rocketscience.
China-made infrastructures are great but investments that will open up industries are greater. Prioritising infrastructures over industrialisation looks like setting the cart before the horse. Industrialisation itself comes with infrastructuralisation. Angola and Nigeria only know how to export their crude oils. Imagine the number of employments they lose by not refining all the PMS they need. What does it take?
So there really has to be a harnessing of these opportunities that abound to African leaders. Enough of propaganda politics; the realities are too bad for anyone to look the other way. Africa no longer needs leaders who only want to share wealth. The leaders needed now are those who can create and manage the wealth of their nations.
McDike Dimkpa is a contributor to The African Progressive Economist and the opinions expressed here are his own.