Lets face it, the refugee/illegal migration problem so ‘compassionately’ featured in the world today is the symptom of the political and economic malice gripping the many peoples in the South. The fact is when people take the risk of dashing or barging through Europe’s heavily fortified gates; it shows of their utter desperation to leave their home countries in the face of death. The ‘coming to North’ project is hatched out of desperation with refugees/illegal migrants relentlessly pursuing to achieve it; come what may. They know pretty well of the economic disparity that exist between the privileged North on one hand and the greater portion of the South on the other. To the amazement of many their ability to articulate and describe life experience is more lucid than any pundit or seasoned Politician. In other words the variance between the life style of the haves and the struggle for existentialism of the have-nots is not lost to each desperate but adventurous traveler from the South. These wretched immigrants are survivors of violence at home and away from home. Some never had a job in their lifetime while many are underemployed to be deterred by empty talk. In that case it is insane to expect such desperate human beings to dread the perilous road ahead. You have seen nothing yet. They are after all ‘ Harvest of Empire’ as the book by Juan Gonzalez describes. Simply put, the tempo of migration flow will not slow down a bit but accelerate further to draw us all in a web of an increasingly less sensuous world where daily sea drowning, indefinite holdings in warehouses (a la Israel), state sanctioned and vigilante sponsored killings will be the norm rather than exception.
It does not require you to be a genius to find out that in greater part of the South the pace of economic development is not in sync with population growth to welcome those coming of age to lead a meaningful life. The fact that Ethiopia was the home of 10 million people at the time of the Fascist invasion (1935-1940) and now close to 100 million or West Africa that at the time of abolishing slavery was 25 million and today Nigeria alone is crowded by at least 160 million souls tells it all. The geometric Population explosion notwithstanding, the deformed States formed after the decolonization of the African continent were never up to the task of consolidating state apparatus that could mitigate famine and unemployment. The reason is that the educational infrastructure and the skill-training program set by the elite and their policy drafters are by no means designed to equip one with tools to challenge life at home. Almost all are replica of the North, which had the fortune of passing through the gradual transformation of its society brought about by the industrial revolution centuries ago. If the chips are down one cannot help but state the fact that the misfortune of Africa is the fortune of the North, hence the attempt to copy and apply experiences and achievements jealously guarded by the North is futile at best. I might add the opportunity for the North to show its benevolence gesture toward the subject people is past due century ago. Their agenda to make full use of everything South, in this case African and with the exclusion of the Africans themselves worked perfectly well. What an opportunity that is, especially when one is to deal with segmented societies like that of Africa.
In this case it is purely madness to expect meaningful solutions will come out of the current tragedy or the tragedies before it. Tell it to the Congolese person who have been waiting since the dawn of the 20th century to receive dividend from the exploitation of his mineral wealth or Sierra Leonean farmer to enjoy benefit from the cash generating coca export introduced right before the end of slavery. The same goes for the African peasant in the Kenyan ridges or for the one in the Savannah of Africa forcibly made to switch to mono crop culture (coffee, coca, tea, cotton, peanut, pyrethrum) and toiled day in day out to sustain and more significantly satisfy the new acquired taste of the European consumer. In cruel irony it is the Northern societies and those tiny segment of Africans attached to it who reap the benefit from this skewed relationship. This is hard fact not even a diehard Northern (Eurocentric) will deny. The African continent where most of its young look northward today has in time supplied the North and the Near East with human chattel and material resource receiving nothing in return. Frankly, it is gold that motivated the Arabs of North Africa and later the Portuguese to venture into Africa’s interior. Still the continent supplies skilled and unskilled labor to the North. The reason is that the North’s aging population has to be fed, cleaned and has a decent send off party to the world beyond when his/her time comes. Who will do this menial job than the high school or college drop out African youth? Most of all Africa’s rare minerals such as Uranium and Colton (two most important strategic minerals) are open to Northern exploitation leaving behind, corruption, unemployment, autocratic rule and mass exodus.
The core problem of the refugee/illegal migration that seem to superficially pre occupy the North today is an Africa’s reality brought about by the unequal development between regions of the world. Of course, the trajectory of this development took shape few centuries ago where one part of the world dominating the other. Fueled by slavery, conquest, and the industrial revolution the division of labor become clearer in time. Here Africa is at the bottom rung of the ladder producing autocrats, corrupt and embezzlers more than goods and services while opening its leg wide open for ‘voluntary’ rape. The Youth is aware of that but operates in a sea of darkness where the majority of people are segmented and illiterate to function in unison. Practically most of Africa including those inhabiting the northern portion is afflicted with such disease long cured in the Northern hemisphere. It is a disease, which did not spare new states like Eritrea where the ruling class appropriates what is in the ground while using the youth as canon fodder to satisfy the whim of the leader.
Thus identifying the problem becomes the first step to ‘recovery’ as they say in alcoholic anonymous. The next step will be how to deal with it internally with the interest of the nation and the continent in mind. This does not mean that the North is off the hook. To the contrary in the current sad of affair it is the North that is to blame and remains indicted until such time balance is restored. Be that as it may, the solution lies within the new generation of Africans who are required to map a strategy of survival; existence and comfortable life currently enjoyed by the rest of the world in particular the privileged North.
Paradigm shift is necessary for the survival of the young and the unborn. Without that it is difficult to envision a bright future for the continent. To address Africa’s problem is a herculean task but not an impossible one in as long as priorities are set and actions and policies are primarily focused inwardly. In that case investment in human resources should take precedence. However, investment in the development of human resources does not imply shoving a negligible number of the young to university and college level education but also drafting and adapting survival curriculum where individuals are engaged in agriculture work regardless of their domicile/origin, rehabilitate the land and respect the natural vegetation for future reward. Rational exploitation of resources including the minerals underground is possible only when masses of people are involved in its rational use. Literacy, an important component in human development allows citizens to tackle problems of livelihood and also encourages them to look beyond their narrow confines to build bridges between peoples near and far. It is through the demystification of ‘ the fear of the unknown' that unity of purpose is born, solidarity forged and compassion celebrated. In the final analysis, it is hard to hoodwink educated/literate people using demagoguery tactics.
The recent tragedy in the Mediterranean brought to the surface the ugly reality of the world gone unchecked for decades. Generally speaking ordinary Africans regard national independence as gimmick. The reason is that besides the cosmetic change where major cities are adorned with asphalted roads and many prestige items such as the St Peter Basilica look like Cathedral built at the heart of the Ivory Coast’s Administrative capital, nothing much in a way that transform people’s lives for ever were done. A continent where one sixth of the world population lives has energy consumption of less than 3.5% of the world total. The worst part of this story is that 95% of that energy is consumed in cities and towns across the continent. The average unemployment rate in Africa ranges between 30 to 50%. To top it all, using the mantra of national or shall I say tribal security the elite invests on armaments that are only gainful to the manufacturers and merchants of these heavy and light weapons but not the people whose resources are squandered irrevocably.
Sadly enough nations outcompete each other to sign deals to remove Africa’s resource at a friction of its value. While foreign corporations make hefty profit few in Africa especially those at the top comes out as winners. Show me a country in Africa that has wisely, no matter how insignificant, used its oil and mineral revenue for national or regional development. I would say none. Is it Angola whose population lives under 2 dollar a day or the wounded giant Nigeria, always in the news because of the habitual thievery of revenue by those on the top? Perhaps Sudan and South Sudan who refused to share the insignificant revenue from oil but choose to go to war and create havoc on the population? The Sudanese Affair does not end here but went further to draw two tribal warlords in South Sudan to go at each other’s throat for the left over.
Eritrea is a latecomer in the game of mineralxploitaion but not novice to shady operations, all the better to foreign corporations. Many student of Ethio-Eritrean politics realize that the ruling EPLF presides over a secret society that has perfected the modus operandi while leading monastic life in the Sahel Mountains of Eritrea. No wonder why many Eritreans at home yearn the period where the Derg was in power like their fathers and grandfathers who lived with nostalgia of Italy’s presence in Eritrea. What a pervert way to think. In reality though, the Egyptian Falah, the Fulani cattle herder, the Mombasa petty trader, the peace starved Somali mother, the Ethiopian peasant, the Pedi miner in South Africa, the desert dweller Tuareg, are simply making statements when they choose the past. Not that the past was flowery and dandy but because they saw no tangible change in their lives to conjure the era of apartheid, colonialism and archaic feudalism.
The Italian Prime Minister Signor Matteo Renzi apparently touched by the recent tragedy said something novel and fresh in front of the Italian parliament. Here, I refer to his words full of compassion and also for his call to European leaders to face the challenge of our times, underdevelopment, poverty and ignorance in the Third World. Unlike those assembled in Brussels to discuss the catastrophe, this young Italian top official seem to admit sub-consciously that Europe and its offspring have lived on the back of the South for so long that they need to redressed the moral as well as ‘legal’ issues. Actually the Colonialists and the powers to be always blamed Africans (when dishing monies for ‘development aid’) for not pulling up by their bootstrap to make a difference. This of course is an important a topic by itself deserving separate time and space to elaborate. Suffice is to say that Africa’s predicament begun when curious Europe begun lurking around its shores centuries ago. The rest is history. As for Signor Renzi and his eloquent speech, I would say it went unheed especially when one reads carefully the press communiqué issued after the EU summit. Shame on them for focusing on deterrent measures long proved unworkable.
The message the Italian Premier wants to convey to the world elite is that the root cause of the problem is underdevelopment. His statement is on the spot except with some nations like Syria and Iraq with sizeable number of refugees who at one time were self sufficient and orderly societies before the overthrow of the distinctly patriarchal but ruthless autocratic rulers. One argues the call by reactionary Arab kingdoms and Emirates together with flagrant intervention by outsiders exacerbated the situation turning it into lawless land. Undoubtedly, underdevelopment in Africa need to be tackled not only by eliminating the corrupt and embezzlers from the face of the continent but for the North to stop cajoling, pampering and protecting them as well. Is this too much to ask?
Let me be brief and give an example closer to home. If the Canadian mining corporation believes that the interest of Eritreans and in particular of those agro-pastoralists from where the gold and other valuable minerals is extracted will be served best by its mining operation, it is grossly mistaken. However, this is not an honest mistake one inclined to overlook because inherently the interest of the mining companies and international financial institutions is better served by dealing with the Zumas, the Mobutus, the Debys, the Netos not the Kwame Nukrumhas or the Thomas Sankaras. Unfortunately, the last two are a mere mirage in our mind.