Resetting the relationship between Europe and Africa, we must confront the demons of the past, the past of the slave trade and colonialism.
European countries still have to atone fully for the brutal exploitation, civil wars, genocides and the crushing of independent movements they carried out in Africa. Many Europeans still have to learn how to talk, think about and behave differently towards Africans without any feelings of superiority.
Until this atonement takes place, the past will always be with us. As William Faulkner says: “The past is never dead. It’s not even the past.”
We must ensure that the relationship between the rest of the world (including the EU) and Africa moves away completely from being the continuation of colonialism by other means.
Africa is suffering most in the world from vaccine inequity with just eight per cent of the population receiving at least one dose of the vaccine.
UNCTAD estimates that €76 billion (four per cent of the continent’s GDP) leave Africa illicitly every year to rob it of the funds needed for infrastructure, power supply, water, universal access to health, education and broadband internet service.
In 2020, 70 per cent of goods from the EU to Africa were manufactured goods. Over 61 per cent of goods from Africa to the EU were primary goods: food and drink, raw materials and energy.
The ILO says that 21 per cent of African youth are not in employment, education, or training (NEETs), another 19 per cent are underemployed, while the rate of extreme working poverty is 36 per cent.
Perpetuating these asymmetrical trade exchanges inhibits the growth of indigenous manufacturing and services sectors in Africa. These sectors are needed to create the necessary jobs in this continent where 60 per cent of its 1.3 billion people are under 25.
We need African solutions for African problems- Evarist Bartolo
Unless these trends are reversed, more young Africans will seek a better life elsewhere. We must work together to make life better for all these young people in the countries where they have been born and bred so that moving to another country becomes a matter of choice, not of necessity.
We must work together and understand each other on how to regulate this movement of people between Africa and Europe. We must learn from effective existing legal pathways of regular migration and extend them where necessary.
When it comes to irregular migration we need to secure borders and fight human traffickers in sending, transit and destination countries; grant asylum to those who qualify for it, treating all migrants with human dignity and without racial or religious prejudice. We need effective training and funding schemes to reintegrate returned irregular migrants in sustainable business activity in their countries of origin.
Africans need to unite and work together more closely and, as they themselves say, find African solutions for African problems. Conflicts in the continent enable outsiders from other continents to exploit these divisions and even nurture them.
The African Union’s goal to create an African Continental Free Trade Area “to silence the guns” is more indispensable than ever. We need to support fully the African Union’s goal “to end all wars, civil conflicts, gender-based violence, violent conflicts and prevent genocide in the continent”.
There is still a lot of work to do in this very complex continent of 55 countries, each with its own specific reality and level of development.
As the conflicts in Sudan and another 16 countries painfully show, one-third of the African continent needs to develop more democratic governing institutions that act with integrity, are accountable to citizens and are subject to the rule of law. Africa needs to move away from heavily state-led and controlled economies to a model which enhances the role of the private sector.
Geologists say that, in 50 million years, the two continents will meet and become one mega-continent: Eurafrica. Surely, we do not need to wait so long to move closer faster, not just as good neighbours but as equal partners.
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