Why not make Africa a new Europe?

The Star Early Edition - - INSIDE -

THE mi­grant flow from Africa into Europe has been a sig­nif­i­cant prob­lem for a long time and the never-end­ing wars and poverty in parts of Africa only ex­ac­er­bate the sit­u­a­tion.

These peo­ple, who have as much right to live dig­ni­fied and high-qual­ity lives as Euro­peans, risk dan­ger­ous jour­neys to­wards an un­known fu­ture, with the hope find­ing a bet­ter life. How­ever, con­flicts con­tinue and as poverty spreads, the prob­lem will prob­a­bly grow and more down­trod­den and im­pov­er­ished peo­ple will look to Europe in the hope of find­ing a safe haven and a dig­ni­fied life.

Yet, it is clear the peo­ple of Africa or the Mid­dle East can­not all be ac­com­mo­dated in Europe. There­fore, af­ter pro­vid­ing tem­po­rary re­lief for ur­gent cases and vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple, the so­lu­tion should fo­cus on im­prov­ing the liv­ing con­di­tions of the lands in ques­tion.

To­day we know that apart from the mil­lions who wish to take refuge in other coun­tries be­cause of an im­mi­nent threat to their lives and dig­nity, there is also a sig­nif­i­cant group of peo­ple who want to do the same to achieve higher liv­ing stan­dards. And they surely de­serve to live high-qual­ity lives, just like ev­ery­one else. Ev­ery per­son is born equal and a per­son’s birth­place should not de­cide if they will be re­spected, val­ued and live a hu­mane life. How­ever, since it is im­pos­si­ble to fit the en­tire pop­u­la­tion of the world in cer­tain ar­eas only, we should work to achieve the de­sired liv­ing stan­dards ev­ery­where.

In other words, the so­lu­tion to the refugee and im­mi­grant prob­lem should fo­cus on two main points: It should not be for­got­ten that the Euro­pean colo­nial pow­ers played an im­por­tant role in the im­pov­er­ished and strife-rid­den state of Africa. While Europe de­vel­oped, pros­pered and built a civil­i­sa­tion of rich cul­ture, art and sci­ence, cer­tain Euro­pean lead­ers of the time, in pur­suit of their colo­nial dreams, breached ev­ery hu­man right and moral value and ter­ri­bly ex­ploited Africa. So much so that be­tween 1881 and 1914, in what is now called the “scramble for Africa”, 90% of the con­ti­nent came un­der Euro­pean con­trol.

Over time, de­spite its nat­u­ral re­sources, beau­ties, cul­ture and art, the con­ti­nent be­came im­pos­si­bly im­pov­er­ished. To­day, de­spite its rich nat­u­ral re­sources, 75% of the world’s poor­est coun­tries are in Africa.

In 2010, 414 mil­lion peo­ple were liv­ing on $1.25 or less a day in sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa, al­most one in three peo­ple in sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa are un­der­nour­ished and 589 mil­lion peo­ple in the same area live with­out elec­tric­ity. And traces of those days still linger in cer­tain ar­eas.

For in­stance, France still re­ceives a so-called colo­nial tax from its former African colonies, which amounts to around $500 bil­lion a year. Many sources in Africa are still un­der the con­trol of cer­tain Euro­pean coun­tries. Fur­ther­more, never-end­ing clashes, civil wars and con­flicts con­tinue to de­stroy the con­ti­nent and force mil­lions to look for shel­ter and help.

How­ever, it is pos­si­ble to make Africa a new cen­tre of cul­ture and civil­i­sa­tion. It is pos­si­ble to make Lagos an­other Paris, Dar es Salaam an­other Rome or Ad­dis Ababa an­other Lon­don. The con­ti­nent has more than enough po­ten­tial to make this hap­pen. For in­stance, ac­cord­ing to the UN Eco­nomic Com­mis­sion for Africa, “Africa ac­counts for three-quar­ters of the world’s plat­inum sup­ply and half of its di­a­monds and chromium. It has up to one-fifth of the world’s gold and ura­nium sup­plies and it is in­creas­ingly home to oil and gas pro­duc­tion, with over 30 coun­tries now in this cat­e­gory.”

In ad­di­tion, these won­der­ful lands were home to im­pres­sive civil­i­sa­tions in the past. For ex­am­ple, while Europe was strug­gling in the dark­ness of the Mid­dle Ages, Tim­buktu was home to the first uni­ver­sity. In the 12th cen­tury, in a city of 100 000 peo­ple, this school had 25 000 stu­dents who came from all around Africa to ex­cel in knowl­edge and a va­ri­ety of tal­ents. To­day, it is per­fectly pos­si­ble to make it again a cen­tre of ed­u­ca­tion and cul­ture, a hub of art and mu­sic, a safe haven that prom­ises a good, dig­ni­fied life to both its res­i­dents and vis­i­tors.

In­deed, we have seen this trans­for­ma­tion many times in the past. For ex­am­ple, un­til the 1960s and 1970s, the UK, Ire­land, Italy, Nor­way, Spain and Por­tu­gal were pri­mary sources of em­i­gra­tion and mil­lions of peo­ple mi­grated to coun­tries like the US, Aus­tralia and Bel­gium. How­ever, as liv­ing stan­dards rose in these coun­tries, the trend re­versed and the sources of em­i­gra­tion turned into mag­nets of im­mi­gra­tion. There is no rea­son why Africa can­not achieve this, given its po­ten­tial, its nat­u­ral re­sources, its cul­tural back­ground and di­ver­sity, cou­pled with the will­ing­ness of the world to help.

But first, the mod­ern coloni­sa­tion should stop im­me­di­ately. Af­ter that, un­der the aus­pices of the UN, each coun­try – pro­por­tional to its GDP – can con­trib­ute to a fund re­served for the devel­op­ment and im­prove­ment of liv­ing stan­dards in Africa. When this hap­pens, not only the in­hab­i­tants of this beau­ti­ful con­ti­nent, but Euro­peans will ben­e­fit as well. They will fi­nally be re­lieved of the so­cial and eco­nomic chal­lenges brought about by mass im­mi­gra­tion and will have a new des­ti­na­tion, al­most a new ver­sion of Europe, where they can go and en­joy a high-qual­ity life in a com­pletely dif­fer­ent set­ting amidst a dif­fer­ent and ex­cit­ing cul­ture. How­ever, un­til this is done, the im­mi­gra­tion in­flux will clearly con­tinue.

So let’s take con­crete steps to solve the root causes of the prob­lem and make ev­ery place of hu­man set­tle­ment in the world a de­sir­able lo­ca­tion.

Let’s make ev­ery place in the world a de­sir­able lo­ca­tion to live in

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