Europe Surge: The Missing Link


Last Updated on November 5, 2017 by Memorila

Mustafa Folami decried African refugees and countries that throng Europe for aids and posited that Africans must invest in themselves to exit the rat race.

african-refugees-02-480x360There has been an upsurge of refugees from one part of the global village to the other. It was recently reported in leading media the story of the Eritrean refugee who walked all the way from Asmara to London. The question on the lips of keen observers is, “What are the factors responsible for this mass exodus from one hemisphere to the other?”

This caught the attention of the erudite professor, Ali Mazrui, in his work The African State as a Political Refugee. Mazrui opined that “Partly because of the end of the cold war, the African state and the political refugee its failures are creating, shares a number of characteristics. In global terms, the African states has got increasingly marginalized, been pushed into the ghetto of the world system. Like Africa’s refugees, many African states were already living, at least partly, on hand-outs before the 1990s. Since then, the situation has become worse. Francophone economies have lost the financial asylum they used to enjoy from the French franc. Just as a disproportionate number of the refugees of the world are in Africa, a disproportionate number of disabled and impoverished states are also in Africa.”

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In contradictions of the colonial economy, the public scholar Professor Claude Ake stated how the economic dependence of the metro pole remained unchanged after independence and was dragged into the mercantilist capitals of world trading centre. The indices given above points to one thing: Africa’s Interface with Globalisation.

Writing on the challenges of globalization to African economies, Dr.Remi Medupin asserts, “The origins and character of globalization can be understood through the following alternative sketches provided by Professors Bade Onimode and Ali Mazrui. But before we delve into the analytical outpourings of Mazrui and Onimade, we take a visit to Eriteria.

“Although there is no war or famine in Eriteria, it accounts for the second largest number of asylum seekers arriving in Europe, after Syria. From the account of Weldab who did not want to give his full name, who had paid a fee to go to Europe the first time he had to flee. But it went wrong on the border with Sudan. When he was arrested on the Eriterian side and spent two weeks in police cells, ‘in just two days I saw nearly 500 refugees coming through dozens of illegal routes on the heavily guarded border.’

“Like Weldab, most refugees are young people wanting to avoid conscription, which is compulsory after finishing school for both men and women. It is supposed to last 18 months, but if not picked to continue their studies after this time – people can be force to stay in the army until their 40s.

Many refugees sail in dangerous conditions
Many refugees sail in dangerous conditions

“According to a BBC report, in order to discourage young people from carrying on to Europe, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and others have started projects like metal-and-wood workshops at the camps. But UNCHR field officer Safi Tunga says the migration continues. But this is still Weldab’s intention despite his injury and despite the fact that the journey could end tragically in a desert or the Mediterranean Sea. Europe is the goal and he is determined to get there.

While his determination is real the currents of the island of Lampadusa is waiting without any smile for the victim under her bosom. But how long shall we wait for this merciless drift to continue?

In understanding the plight of Weldab and the Eriterian state we go back to highlight one historical fact about pre-colonial Africa, which is that the continent was basically at par with the now industrially superior economies of the North. As Walter Rodney (the pan-African, radical historian scholar) in his popular text, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, reminded us, “In the 15th century, European traders to Africa had to make use of African Asian consumer goods, showing that their system of production was not absolutely superior. Europeans relied heavily on Indian cloths in several parts of West African coast through European middlemen. Yet, by the time that Africa entered the colonial era, it was concentrating almost entirely on the export of raw cotton and the import of manufactured cotton cloth.” This is what Martin Khorr in his book, Globalisation and the South, rightly observed, “Globerlisation has become the defining process of the present age. Historically, globalization has been unfolding over the past five centuries. It began when firms in the economically advanced countries increasingly extended their outreach through trade and production activities to territories all over the world. However, in the past two decades, (economic) globalization has accelerated as a result of various factors, such as technological developments embracing television, internet, telephone, computer.”

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In understanding the historical nexus in relationship to contemporary economic realities is, we turn to Bade Onimode. Professor Onimode in his various submissions have surmised “Africa’s underdevelopment is a product of the interplay of external and domestic factors including slavery and colonialism, economic mismanagement, ill-conceived structural adjustment policies, interstate and intra state conflict, failed regionalism, unfair trade terms, foreign debt, aid dependency, poor goverance, weak state, and institutional decay.” But Onimode did not throw in the towel in this state of Afro-pessimism, he went further afield.

He posited that the emergence of the present global system involves six pre-dominant phases as follows: Firstly, rise of world capitalism into global system through slavery, colonialism, industrialization and the associated intra-European rivalries, involving the forceful integration of the third world into this global capitalism. Secondly, the dialectics of uneven development between the industrialized countries of North America, Western Europe, Japan and the developing third world countries of Africa, Latin America and Asia within the same unified process of global accumulation;

Thirdly, the integration of Japan into world capitalism and the end of British global hegemony at the end of the 19th century; fourthly, post-1917 socialist challenge to world capitalism; fifthly, the rise and consolidation of American hegemony from the end of the second world war to the present. Sixthly, the present setting: the emergence of newly industrialized countries (NICS), especially in south-east Asia, the European Union and the new power game between great and middle powers.

In all of this, Onimode’s submission is that Africa interface with globalization has been a process of incorporation into the global economy which has led to systemic marginalisation of Africa in world trade since 1980s. If Onimode is a passionate scholar on African economy it is to Machiko Nissanke, a passionate scholar on global development we turn to.

Before we get to Nissanke let’s have a short stop over at the views of Alassane Quattara on this volatile discourse. Delivering an address at the South Africa Economic Summit in Harare, Quattara posited, “What is globalization? It is the integration of economies throughout the world through trade, financial flows, the exchange of technology and information and the movement of people.” According to Quattara, this has given rise to integration in world trade and capital flow in the world economy which without doubt has led to an increase in the world GDP. As a result, economic success in today’s world is less a question of relative resource endowments or geographical location than it used to be in the past.

Some refugees meet their deaths in their quests to reach Europe
Some refugees meet their deaths in their quests to reach Europe

Quattara admitted that, “there are also risks to globalization. The ability of investment capital to seek out the most efficient markets, and for producers and consumers to access the most competitive source, exposes and intensifies existing structural weaknesses in individual economies. Also, with the speedy flow of information, the margin of maneouver for domestic policy is much reduced, and policy mistake is quickly punished.” The concept of Homogenization and Hegemonization as espoused by Mazrui makes Quattara’s submission to be on an unsteady ground.

In 2004, the United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER) embarked on a large-scale research project on the impact of globalization on the world poor. It was coordinated by Machiko Nissanke and Eric Thorbecke. It was to determine the mechanism and channels through which globalization affects the poor directly or indirectly in each of the major regions in the developing world: Asia, Africa and Latin America.

In their submission, they surmised “Globalization provides a strong potential for a major reduction in poverty in the developing world because it creates an environment conducive to faster economic growth and transmission of knowledge. However, structural factors and policies within the world economy and national economies have impeded the full transmission of the benefits of the various channels of globalization for poverty reduction, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.

“World income distribution continues to be very unequal and many poor countries particularly in Africa are stagnating. Moreover there is more empirical evidence that openness contribute to more within country inequality in reaping the benefits of globalization. Although the share of the population of developing countries living below $1 per day declined 40 percent to 21 percent between 1981 and 2001, this was mainly achieved by the substantial reduction of the poor in Asia, particularly in China. Notwithstanding the drop in relative poverty, the total number of people living under $2 per day actually increased worldwide. In particular, poverty has increased significantly in Africa in both absolute and relative terms.”

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The issues raised in the above submission call for a policy reversal in sub Saharan Africa. According to Medupin, “Africa faces a big dilemma, which is deciding on whether to open up to the globalization process as it is (in the hope of obtaining some of the benefits) or take a more cautious approach to avoid risks. He opined, “instead of rapid liberalization, a selective approach to liberalization is more appropriate. The aim is to strike a balance between opening the domestic market and protecting it to take account especially of small producers. Also, there is the need to promote efficiency of natural resource use and invest in Human capital as a solid foundation for regional economic integration. But the inability of African states to reinvest in Human development is a factor in the mass exodus of energetic African youth to Europe.”

At this juncture, the question that begs for answer is: “Could this be the only reason why African youth are migrating to Europe?” We found the answer in the submissions of Joseph Stiglitz, the 2001 Nobel Laureate for Economics and former Chief Economist at the World bank. He opined, “Globalization and its discontents, cannot simply work for the developing countries like Nigeria”.

According to professor Stiglitz, a decade after the Uruguay Round, more than two-thirds of farm income in Norway and Switzerland came from subsidies, more than half in Japan, and one third in the EU. For some crops, like sugar and rice, the subsidies amount to as much as 80 percent of farm income. The aggregate agricultural subsidies of the United States, EU and Japan, for example, if they do not actually exceed the total income of sub–Saharan Africa, amount to at least 75 percent of the region’s income, making it almost impossible for African farmers to compete in world markets. The average European cow, get a subsidy of $2 dollar a day (World Bank measure of poverty), almost 60 percent of Nigerians live on that. This means, it is better to be a cow in Europe than to be a poor person in a developing country of Africa.

The Burkinabe Farmer, for example, lives in his country with an average annual income of just over $250.He ekes a living on a small arid land (threatened by desertification); there is no irrigation, and he is too poor to afford fertilizer, a tractor, or high grade seeds, unlike his colleagues in California that can farm a huge tract of hundreds of acres using all the technology of modern farming: tractors, herbicides, insecticides, high yielding seeds with subsidy on irrigation.

Refugees from Syria
Refugees from Syria

From here, you can understand why the tannery in Gusau is drying up, why the textiles industries in Kaduna are laying off manpower. And where do all these bustling energies turn to: like Weldab, it is to the tempting Juice of Europe. But Tatalo Alamu warns, “The salvation of Africa remains in the hands of Africans, and it requires thinking in terms of historical absolutes if only to prepare ourselves for future shocks!”

In rounding up his summation of his sociological journeys, Daniel Bell said, “If the way is lost, everything is lost!” For Africa, the way is not lost, in spite of what some scholars have described as the Second Scramble for Africa. An oasis of hope seems to be keeping hope alive with the recent injection of over $100,000 into entrepreneurial skills and power training by the TEF Foundations. The arrow head of this new hope is the former managing director of United Bank for Africa (UBA), Mr. Tony Elumelu, who asserted that Africa cannot continue to fold her arms as event unfold in the Global Village. He said, his foundation intends to give out $10,000 seed money to young entrepreneurs across Africa in other to refocus African youth in believing in the Africa of their dreams.

How the Elumelu’s oasis will become a sea change for youth in sub–Saharan Africa is waiting in the wing of time. Perhaps, this may be a wakeup call to various agencies of government in Sub-Saharan Africa to re-access their roles in making sure that pro-poor palliatives are injected into their economic policies to reduce the effects of subsidy removal in key sectors of the Economy.

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