From Venezuelan refugees fleeing a doomed economy through Rohingya migrants escaping ethnic cleansing in Myanmar to innocent Sudanese, Congolese, Somalis and other Africans caught in senseless political and religious squabbles, as well as economic hopelessness, migrants and their predicament have become standard fare in international news media.United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres says “migration is inevitable” given the nature of humans to seek better living conditions when in dire need or beset with existential threats. Latest figures indicate that about 260 million people in the world live in countries other than their country of birth and 26 million (10%) are refugees or asylum seekers. This means that the world is mostly concerned about this category of migrants who are “forced” to flee their home countries to escape poverty, bad governance, war or political persecution.
There’s no gainsaying the fact that developing countries, especially in Africa, are the biggest losers in this disturbing trend. The bulk of those seeking better lives outside their place of birth are young, energetic and perhaps, the most adventurous. The exodus is depleting what is already an unacceptable low level of quality manpower, which certainly cannot be good for the blighted continent.While Europe and, lately, the US are bothered about rising migration into their countries, there is evidence to prove that some of the advanced countries who are net recipients of migrants actually benefit from the phenomenon because of their dwindling “native” populations and growing “ageing populations”.
In some countries such as Germany and the Nordic states, a boost in the number of young people will do their economies more good than harm, even though a section of the German population is increasingly losing their patience with their government’s pro-migrant policy.
Regrettably, African leaders seem absolutely oblivious of the danger and loss to their economies. Arguments that the outward migration is good for Africa because of the remittances that come from the Diaspora communities are untenable and short-sighted. No economy can depend on such an unpredictable external source of income for sustainable growth and development, quite besides its insignificance, relative to other conventional sources such as taxes, responsible exploitation of natural resources and the pursuit of sound fiscal policy.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel clearly told Nigerians during her official visit to the country late August that Germany’s streets were not paved with gold, as many ignorant, illegal immigrants imagine. Earlier in the month, the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and Spain, four main destination countries for African migrants, met with leaders of Chad and Niger at a summit to find ways of resettling “particularly vulnerable migrants” after determining their eligibility in pre-asylum camps. Notably, however, the camps, which would be in the African countries, would receive European financing; not African!
African leaders must begin to see such deals as “embarrassing” and thinly disguised vote of no confidence in their abilities to manage their countries or provide the basic necessities of life for the people they claim to serve. Commentators say African leaders cannot continue to be oblivious to the embarrassment their citizens cause the entire black race when they risk dying in the Mediterranean in a desperate hope of finding a better life rather than stay back in their own economically blighted countries.
Chad’s President Idriss Deby reportedly said “we are all committed to reducing the damage, the death of Africans crossing the Mediterranean” but blamed the age-long “fundamental problem” of development. “We need resources”, he cried.
His colleague, President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger also fingered poverty as the culprit, but hopes to “find alternatives for people smugglers to leave criminal activity,” portraying them as the main catalysts for the mad dash for Europe and the rest of the developed world.
African leaders have forever been correctly diagnosing the problems of poverty and lack of development resources even though Africa is known to be one of the world’s most resource-endowed continents. It is equally known that recognizing a problem is not to be equated with finding a solution. Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari says his administration cannot support illegal migration but offers to help repatriate migrants “stuck” halfway en route to Europe. That is commendable, but he and his contemporaries must offer much more.
What economy watchers the world over want to hear this millennium is not the age-long, convenient sing-song of poverty, which has proven to be self-inflicted. African leaders in the AU must begin to look inwards, get their act together and lead one billion-plus people out of penury and avoidable misery, by committing to good governance in running their economies to catch up with the developed countries that are so tantalizing to their deprived peoples.
By Joni Akpederi