Perhaps, Angela Merkel was not wrong in her perception regards the refugees: “the refugees in Europe are not as numerous as this rich continent could not treat with dignity. However, the EU is currently exhibiting on daily basis its inability to effectively manage the situation”, said the German Chancellor.
Poverty migration tears European countries apart, undermining the right to freedom of movement and jeopardizing the entire European project. Even if the refugees from war-torn countries like Syria and Afghanistan are currently the headlines, and most migrants still come from West Africa.
Many politicians have at least realized that it can not be a solution to push people back into the sea. Instead, they’ve set out to tackle the major causes of the issues that are capable of subjecting families into desperation of risking their lives traveling across the Mediterranean.
In the case of Syria and Afghanistan, the causes of migrations are due to military, strategic and development problems. It’s about failed states, terrorism, the West and the Islamic world. In West Africa, however, things are clearly different. Here you could actually relatively easily fix the causes of migration – if there were political will and structure.
At this moment, the European Union is negotiating an economic agreement with the West African countries, known as EPA. In fact, one should assume that there is a common interest in an agreement that helps the economy in these countries to get going. After all, it is precisely the economic hopelessness that frustrates the African migrants to Europe. If they had a decent job in their own countries, they would not even think of risking their lives to get to Europe. But, it is because of societal inequality, poverty and conflicts.
Alone: the agreement proposed by the EU does not contain much more than the familiar concepts, which will lead to nothing but the same vicious circle. It promises short-term profits for European corporations and holdings for a small African elite. With the known consequences: increasing inequality in the region, rampant poverty, smoldering conflicts.
While presidents and prime ministers in Brussels are holding one press conference after another over Europe ‘s refugee crisis in front of journalists from around the world, a few steps away a nearly unknown section of the European Commission is busy To negotiate free trade agreements that could solve the problems in the part of the world where most migrants come from in one fell swoop. But the EU is stalling its best chance of keeping the migrants in their countries.
At present, only three out of 16 West African countries are banning the ratification of the agreement: Nigeria , Mauritania and Niger. Most of the other countries are dependent on European development aid and have long bowed to pressure. Perhaps they also believe that the agreement is the best they can get.
But Nigeria accounts for 78 percent of the economy and 180 million of the region’s 330 million inhabitants. And the riots in the north and extreme south of the country have made it clear to our government what is at stake in these negotiations. It can only accept an agreement that will allow better economic prospects for large parts of the indigenous population. The situation is different in a country where 56% of 15-34 year-olds are unemployed or marginally employed.
Economists from the West African Economic Union ECOWAS and the World Bank claim that Nigeria would benefit from the EPA agreement. The Nigerian economists have come to different conclusions: they predict that EPA would turn our markets into a garbage dump for European products. It would not only significantly diminish the chances of our small and medium-sized companies, which would have no chance against their European competitors. In the medium to long term, the Nigerian government would also noticeably escape tax revenues.
If you realize that our government is already barely able to perform essential governmental tasks – basic education for all, general health care, etc. – and we urgently need resources to professionalize our judiciary and police, then it is difficult to understand how the present agreement can be considered a good idea.
Sometimes it takes the political courage of a country to show that there is a better way. Malaysia blazed the trail in the 1997 banking crisis: unlike the IMF, the country did not liberalize its banking and currency sectors at that time, making it far better off the crisis than it was predicted, much better than its predecessor neighboring countries. Malaysia’s outrageous rejection of Washington experts has since become a new orthodoxy for those looking for serious reform. It is madness to do something the same way and still hope for different results.
Because the agreement requires unanimity, it can be blocked by the three remaining countries. But there is no guarantee that we will get a better deal. For that, the EU should be ready to change its policy. Just looking for a few quick bucks after Flying Africa and accepting that your own business is at the expense of the continent is a thing of the past. Europe should know it better now.
Only who should work for a new policy in Europe? Who should ensure that European companies build factories in West Africa so that people can work and earn decent wages to buy the products Europe wants to sell? African migrants may have disappeared from the front pages, but their desire to have better opportunities elsewhere still exists.
Since January this year, another 50,000 people have left Africa for Europe. Now they are in internment camps and languishing. 3,000 of them died while on the run. The dead and the living are an indictment of us all. If Europe really wants to stop the mass exodus of economic refugees, now is the time to push for a different policy.
Nzubes Truth, in the past month had written an open letter to EU on the need for developing the African agricultural sectors, so as to curtail the migration crisis. To read the letter; Click here