A Challenge for Globe, but a hope for Africa

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By Fekadu Alemu

There is always a contradictory outlook in the continent of Africa; poverty, high illiterate over its historical richness, exclusive culture and lavish resource. On the other side, we are living in a rapidly evolving, hyper-connected world, where goods, capital, and people are more mobile than ever before. But, whereas countries have shown a willingness to cooperate on exchanging goods and capital, the international community has shown little appetite for improving how it governs human mobility. Therefore, the unresolved African delinquent irregular migration and other new challenges like terrorism (peace and security), violence, racism, xenophobia and intolerance are exposing both the world and Africa together.

As the report says one hundred million have migrated within or between developing regions in the hope of escaping from poverty, lack of prospects or violence. They often become victims of various forms of exploitation and discrimination – during recruitment, on their journey or at their new place of work.

This is because today’s globalized political and economic system produces two types of migration: regular demand driven migration to host countries and irregular supply-driven migration from countries of origin. Human beings are treated unequally based on their status. Irregular migrants most often suffer from high-risk transit options, criminalization in host countries, resulting in detention and forced return. Such migrants need assuring human rights and protection by countries of origin and host countries. The actual crisis shows that we are far from there. Regular migrants often suffer from corporate exploitation and therefore respect of labor rights, labor rights reform supported by advocacy groups and unions are of critical importance to sustain the positive impact of migration on development.

On the other hand, the majority African politicians have taken the current situation as a good weapon by politicizing migration and scapegoating migrants for socioeconomic problems such as unemployment, welfare-system strains, and deteriorating social cohesion. But there is still room for hope. When world leaders gathered at the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants on September 19, they reaffirmed migrants’ human rights and committed to strengthening global governance on this issue. Besides on the globe, there is still uncertainty on the development goals, amongst which poverty eradication and the respect of human rights, are undermined by the emphasis on border controls and security concerns, both in terms of political priorities and financial and technical assistance.

The 2016 Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) stated that “today, ungoverned migration is threatening geopolitical stability, burdening border controls, and creating chaos around the world. The current mechanisms for managing migration have clearly failed to meet existing needs. The world needs a new, comprehensive global governance framework to address all issues relating to human mobility.” Thus, those challenging crises need a collective action. This collective action is vital to Africa. Because, one of the current collective action of Europe is in Africa where there are irregular migration and displaced persons due to poverty, war, and violence. Those challenges also create opportunities for mutual benefits towards sustainable and inclusive development.

But the question is how the EU migration policies and Policy Coherence for Development, and the extent to which EU policies, have effectively contributed to bringing about sustainable development in developing countries? Of course, many discussions have been done since 2015 on the current crisis of increased irregular migrants that flows to Europe causing human tragedies at the external borders of the EU. Bob Van Dillen, Chair of the CONCORD Migration and Development Task Force says “The EU and its members have signed up to the SDGs, acknowledging the positive contribution of migrants and migration to sustainable development. Its policies, however, shift towards reducing migration, preventing migrants from coming to Europe and encouraging their return.”

With the adoption of the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants on September 19th 2016, the governments also decided to launch a process of intergovernmental negotiations leading to the adoption of a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration. The Declaration explicitly specified the contributions to the global compact by the Global Forum on Migration and Development.

According to participants the universal 2030 agenda for sustainable development is good news as it offers important leverage for inclusive and progressive policies that foster livelihood in host countries and countries of origin equally. Also, it offers a range of entry points to strengthen capacities for respecting social rights and the creation of decent jobs. Building walls and discriminating against migrants or refugees on the basis of ethnicity or religion is antithetical to the 2030 SDG agenda, which aims to free people from the shackles of poverty, reduce inequality, and promote shared prosperity.

The international community must now ensure that the new global compacts promote these broad ambitions. This will require national governments and global governance institutions to implement bold policies that make migration both easier and more orderly. It will also require them to protect migrants and refugees’ rights, prevent ethnic or religious discrimination, and provide emergency assistance when needed. And it will encourage them to maximize migrants’ positive economic impact on both their new countries and their countries of origin, by reducing financial and human costs and integrating newcomers into the labor market.

As the Chair of the GFMD says these options should not be mutually exclusive. If diplomacy prevails, and international arrangements are crafted carefully, one could imagine an outcome similar to the 2015 Paris climate agreement: binding commitments in some areas, non-binding guiding principles in others, and a shared promise by member states to take concrete action and to report their progress regularly. Such an approach would help to guarantee effectiveness.

One of the GFMD Co-Chairs, Germany, started organizing a special event to continue the exchange started in Dhaka on the role the GFMD should take in the process and the contributions it could make to the global compact.  Especially since the refugee crisis in Germany began in 2015, the EU has been trying to curb irregular migratory flows from Africa to Europe, establishing intensified diplomatic contacts and providing billions of euros of funding. Germany is an important player in this process. Chancellor Angela Merkel visited several African states in the autumn of 2016; the Federal Government invited a whole series of African delegations.

As a result, German is focusing her effort on Africa in 2017. Dr. Gerd Müller, the Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development of German, has been in Kenya and Ethiopia. The country is embarking her exertion to reach a new dimension of cooperation and partnership between Europe and Africa – at the political, social and economic levels. Germany, Europe, and the world must understand that Africa is not the continent of crisis, war and disaster.

The Federal Minister gave awareness to both partners- particularly supporting young people and women. Germany wants to focus on education and vocational training – a key ingredient to success. This is because as the Minister said one key element for the success of Germany’s economy is our dual vocational training system.

Last February 2017 in Nairobi, Dr. Gerd Müller weight in his speech “we are working to update and creating a new future-oriented agreement between Europe and Africa. I have presented a proposal: the cornerstones for a Marshall Plan for Africa are a new outline for an integrated overall approach. The document presents ideas on how to design this new partnership – politically, culturally, in terms of peace and security, and in terms of an economic partnership.”

Germany has 400,000 companies, and less than 1,000 of them are active in Africa. Germany’s trade with the African continent only accounts for two percent of foreign trade. Direct investment on a larger scale only goes to 13 countries. This accounts for about one percent of German foreign direct investment.  So, Germany believed that has to be changed. That is why the German Business Association in Kenya has doubled its membership in a mere two years, from 70 to about 140 companies.

Dr. Gerd Müller disclosed that Africa needs investment more than ever. It is expected that Africa’s population will double by 2050. 20 million jobs a year will then be needed. The speech made by the federal Minister stated that “yet Africa is spending an annual 35 billion US dollars on food imports. More than 230 million people in sub-Saharan Africa, almost one in four, are still suffering from hunger. We need a paradigm shift, a new dimension of cooperation. The African Union has already realized that. In its Agenda 2063, it has presented an ambitious vision: good governance, efforts against corruption, investment in education, and empowerment of women. Making that happen is, above all, a task for national governments. But we can and we must support Africa in its efforts to achieve its own goals more quickly. And we are going to do that – at multiple levels.”

Dr. Gerd Müller stated that African countries need to fulfill the following prerequisites to sustainable development:

First, a well-trained and healthy people are needed. That means they need a revolution in education. To me, this is the key element. If you have no vocational education, you have no skilled labor, no investors, no jobs and no tax revenue. Africa’s young people are the continent’s future and a great opportunity. That is why they are launching, together with the AU, the Skills Initiative for Africa. They are also financing infrastructure, materials, scholarship programs, and teacher training. In particular, they want to empower girls and women.

Second, businesses need reliability and confidence. Good governance and anti-corruption efforts are thus a matter of priority. But when it comes to corruption, it takes two to tango. German companies have to set an example! Transparency creates confidence. Accountability, legal certainty and the rule of law are prerequisites for companies to be willing to invest. In Rwanda, for example, they are supporting the government’s efforts to set up an audit institution.

Third, peace, security, and political stability are the basis for everything else. Nobody invests in a place where bullets are flying. The AU and Africa’s regional organizations are tackling the challenges. We continue to help strengthen the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA), through funding and through strategic and administrative know-how.

Fourth, enterprises need reliable financing. This is about export credit guarantees – in other words, more “Hermes” guarantees for more African countries –, and about investment guarantees. At present, the German government has given guarantees for almost 5 billion euros in a total of 44 African countries.

Fifth, enterprises need a stable infrastructure. There will be no investment if there is no reliable power and water supply if there are no good roads and accessible ports, if there is no broadband internet. This is both a huge challenge and a huge opportunity.

To sum up, Germany will give a new focus to our development policy. In the future, we will concentrate on reform champions. Countries that fight corruption, develop their tax systems, invest in education and work for gender equality will be able to count on more support from us. Private investment has to be increased and protected against risks.

And Africa needs a stronger political voice. This means that the continent needs a seat on the UN Security Council and a stronger role within the WTO. The relations between the African Union and the European Union, too, have to be strengthened. We need to reposition EU-Africa policies. We must concentrate scattered responsibilities within Brussels, and we need better trade relations.

For Africa and Europe, we want a new partnership for development, peace and a better future. The future of us all depends on this. The Marshall Plan with Africa is our invitation to enter a dialogue. Nobody would be so bold as to say “I know how it works.” But we are making proposals on how we could get active together these coming years. And these proposals are up for debate.

Lastly, the African Union Commission and the European Commission meeting will address also shared EU-Africa challenges which focus stability challenges and the root causes of irregular migration and displaced persons in Africa. It will also identify opportunities for mutual benefits towards sustainable and inclusive development.

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