The flood of African migrants, risking life and limb to cross the Mediterranean in search of better prospects in Europe has much to do with African leaders and ruling parties not governing inclusively, being corrupt and undemocratically.
The African countries from which the bulk of citizens are fleeing are also the worse governed, the most corrupt and the most autocratic and has the largest number of people politically, economically and ethnically marginalized. Off course, there is much more migration from one African country to another, then from African to the EU or other industrial countries.
Nevertheless, African regional and continental organisations are also not holding their peer leaders and government accountable to govern in their interests of all their people, rather than in the interests of their family, ethnic groups and political parties.
The US-led war on terror has destabilized African countries directly. The US-led invasion of Libya has caused a zone of destabilization, broken societies and political systems in the surrounding region.
But the US war on terror has also been used by many African leaders to enact repressive legislation, imprison critics, opposition and civil society organisations under the guise that they are alleged involved in terrorism.
Unchecked stripping of mining, agricultural and oceanic resources by industrial and emerging powers companies in Africa have also pushed many African migrants to Europe and industrial countries.
In 2001, a high-level UN Security Council panel of experts reported industrial country companies, including those from the EU and the US were help fuelling the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, by partnering with local war lords, the DRC President Joseph Kabila and neighbouring countries such as Rwanda, Uganda and Zimbabwe, to make lucrative profits out of mining at the expense of locals.
The 2001 UN panel, called the Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and other Forms of Wealth of the DRC, listed a number of foreign companies for looting the DRC. The DRC has large deposits of cobalt, copper, gold, uranium and coltan, a component of laptop computers and mobile phones.
The UN then warned unless action is taken against neighbouring countries and foreign companies that uses the cover of the war in the DRC to loot the country, it is unlikely that the violence in the DRC would stop.
According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHRC) by the end of 2017, more than 5 million Congolese have been displaced, in the world’s largest displace crisis, with many fleeing terrifying violence to neighbouring African countries and industrial countries. The EU has so far failed to take against EU companies which have abetted by exploiting the DRC’s resources, partnering with warlords and strongmen to cause the largest migration crisis on the continent.
Development in many African countries is undermined by one-sided trade agreements between African countries and industrial countries.
Recently, the EU’s Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with former African, Caribbean and Pacific colonies replaced preferential trade arrangements between the ACP states which operated for three decades prior.
The EPAs threaten African farmers and infant industries, as EPAs promote EU products and services entering African markets without any quotas or duties. EPAs undermine African attempts to build local manufacturing capacities, which create jobs – as often heavily subsidized European products flood African economies.
Import tariffs for raw materials from Africa such as oil are low in Europe – but they increase dramatically with each stage of processing.
The EU’s EPAs expect African countries to abolish the requirement for local content in locally manufactured and processed goods. The EU’s EPAs demand products from the EU to Africa to get the same level of government support in African recipient countries as locally produced products.
Forcing open African public procurement to EU companies will undermine local suppliers or the building of local industries dependent on public contracts. The elimination of tariffs on EU imports would reduce income for many African countries.
The EPAs undermine Africa’s efforts to diversify trading partners. The EPAs demand that African countries declare the EU as ‘most favoured nation’ whose products should not be subjected to higher levies than those of developing countries
In addition, EPAs demand that African countries extend all the benefits of any future trade agreements that an African country may enter into with other countries. This is preventing African countries from striking more competitive deals with new emerging economies such as India, Brazil and China.
Nevertheless, more people migrate between African countries than from Africa to Europe. In 2017, according to the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), there around 19 million international migrants moved within Africa, and 17 million Africans left the continent during last year.
The three East African countries of Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda in 2016 took just 3m refugees, much more than all the EU states did over the entire time since the increase in migrants to the region started in 2015.
Research by the US Pew Research Centre, based on data from Eurostat, the EU statistically agency showed that between 2010 and 2017 around 970 000 Africans sought refuge in Europe.
Many European governments, media and elites appear to continue to put less value on an African life. The large numbers of horrifying deaths of Africans crossing the Mediterranean appear to hardly move many European elite and citizens.
Colonialism, slavery and apartheid dehumanize, reduce the value of Africans, compared to whites. This appears to have changed for little in our times. Sadly, in the post-colonial period, new African leaders, governments and elites also continue to bestow less value on their fellow Africans.
African governments, regional institutions and elites also appear to lack outrage against the misgovernance of their peers, who have helped push desperate Africans to seek prosperity elsewhere. African civil society groups, business leaders and diaspora must express their outrage against both undemocratic African leaders and EU governments, leaders and businesses for their indifference to African deaths and their actions which fuel the underdevelopment of Africa and therefore its refugee crisis.
EU civil society organisations, citizens and corporates must pressure their governments, leaders and citizens who are complicit in Africa’s underdevelopment or for devaluing African lives.
The US and the EU must partner with Africa to solve Africa’s problems, not act on their own, as was the case in the invasion of Libya, which have unleashed more long-term crises.
Unless the EU support African democratic leaders, civil society in Africa and democracy campaigners; punish their own citizens and companies exploiting Africa’s resources; and agree to fair trade deals with the continent, Africa’s underdevelopment will persist, continuing to fuel Africa’s refugee crisis, which will continue to spill over into Europe.
William Gumede is Associate Professor, School of Governance, University of the Witwatersrand, and author of South Africa in BRICS, Tafelberg