West is culpable inAfrican migrant crisis

2017-11-21 09:55
Rajen Singh is communications deputy director in KZN provincial government but writes in his personal capacity.

Rajen Singh is communications deputy director in KZN provincial government but writes in his personal capacity. (File)

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Opinion: Recently, 800 migrants perished off the Libyan coast when they were crammed in the middle deck of a 20-metre boat, after it capsized in the early hours of the morning.

This was after the boat collided with a Portuguese cargo ship. Only 28 survived, and 24 bodies were recovered, and all this took place in pitch-dark conditions, eliciting pure terror. Most of the victims were non-swimmers. It emerged that the skipper of the boat was drinking and smoking dope while steering.

This year, over 84 000 migrants have arrived in Italy, while over 2 500 have died trying. People fleeing north Africa is a human crisis fashioned by the political economy of the West. It is a crisis about desperate people living in atrocious conditions of poverty and war, who have no other choice but to take the enormous risk of forced migration. The West is responsible for the huge chasm in wealth between it and from whence these migrants flee, as well as the wealth gap between those in power and business, and those living in abject poverty. A senior EU official warned that in five years’ time, migrants to Europe will be in the millions if urgent action is not taken.

He went on to say that migrants are prepared to cross treacherous waters to reach Italy and Europe, which have a responsibility to adapt and change their crucial foreign policies to the advantage of migrants and refugees to stem the relentless flow. In the wars waged in Libya and Sudan, infrastructure, electricity, sanitation, irrigation, water treatment and local industries have been destroyed to the extent that these countries are now dysfunctional. Funding must be diverted to these needs directly and not to those in power. There is illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing to the tune of R20 billion per year in west Africa, and illicit logging worth R30 billion. Fishing vessels are unregistered and non-tax paying, taking these primary products to the West and adding enormous value to finished products. Much of these find their way to the source countries at exorbitant prices, deepening poverty further.

European countries mining in Africa gain tax concessions, further depleting the income base of these countries. The West needs to plough back aid to the grass roots and not to corrupt governments and non-governmental organisations.

In 1974, Kenya had a population of 14 million. In 40 years the population increased to 34 million, a 140% increase. The average population growth in Kenya is 3,6%, while that of Europe is less than one percent. The West should fund massive education and awareness drives in respect of population dynamics, nutrition, teacher and youth development, and drive the fact that quality education provides the backbone for a sustainable economy. A sustainable economy will not create an avalanche of migrants. There is also a need to fund intensive education in governance and administration so that corporate governance is strengthened in both the private and public sectors.

The West must pay serious attention to Africa in respect of desertification, rural to urban migration, agriculture development, water harvesting, drought intervention, dam construction and viable rural economies through direct investment so that people here, remain here and develop locally.

It is essential that there is direct funding to projects so that funds do not evaporate through corruption and maladministration. While the West is culpable in the African migrant crisis, Africa has a full bouquet of issues and challenges, many which are self-inflicted, which have set it back and from which it needs to emerge. The words of Nobel Laureate Bishop Desmond Tutu resonate with the plight of Africa and the migrant crisis. “When missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said: ‘Let us pray’. We closed our eyes. When we opened our eyes we had the Bible, they had the land.”

• Rajen Singh is communications deputy director in KZN provincial government but writes in his personal capacity.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  opinion and analysis

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