By Zhao Minghao Source: Global Times Published: 2015-12-1
The EU-Africa summit on the refugee crisis was held in early November in Valletta, capital city of Malta. The meeting has not only highlighted the escalating crisis, but also put the spotlight on underdevelopment in Africa. A large number of people from African countries, such as Senegal and Eritrea, are attempting to cross the Mediterranean, while the Sahel region is falling into disorder due to the crisis in Libya. They firmly believe that only arriving in Europe will bring them a better life. However, over 2,200 Africans have been tragically drowned in the sea this year.
The European refugee crisis is actually a part of the big picture of global migration. Africans are often called "economic refugees," because they have left home for better economic and educational opportunities for themselves as well as their next generations, although many of them are also fleeing low-level war and chaos. In September this year, the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker announced the establishment of a 1.8 billion euro ($1.93 billion) fund to help African countries, which aims at tackling the roots of emigration from Africa. Juncker hoped to help create more employment in the region, making more Africans want to stay in their homelands instead of rushing to Europe. However, the move came either too late, or lacked financial support. It was unable to solve the fundamental problems.
According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, a total of 59.5 million asylum seekers have been displaced from their homelands worldwide so far, and 35 million among them are from Africa. There are currently around 1 billion people living in African countries, and most of them are young. The UN International Children`s Emergency Fund estimated that by 2050, nearly 41 percent of all births will be in Africa. The population growth will bring the continent not only power of development, but also huge challenges. In particular, the supply of energy resources, infrastructure, and educational opportunities is hard to meet the demand.
Why have African countries realized an annual GDP growth rate of over 6 percent in recent years while at the same time many Africans are fleeing their homelands? The phenomenon is quite a puzzle. Growth is not development. For African nations, how to promote sustainable development and benefit their people is therefore a core task.
Africa is now facing prominent challenges. To begin with, the structure of its economy and trade is seriously imbalanced. This year, quite a few African economies, including Nigeria and Angola, were hit by the falling price of crude oil and staple commodities. The currency devaluation, inflation and the increasing public debt of many nations have also made the already grave economic situation in Africa worse.
Some researchers point out that the leadership of political elites in African countries is declining. Compared with the figures that led the countries to independence, current leaders more focus on elections and interests of certain tribes or groups.
In addition, extremism and terrorism are now growing and infiltrating into Africa. Organizations like Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab and Al Qaeda are linking to each other ideologically and practically. Providing weapons alone cannot defeat terrorism. When joining terrorist groups becomes a way to survive or make money, the African young people will no longer be willing to put down their guns. Resolving the refugee crisis is far from enough when it comes to the puzzle in Africa. The EU should hence find enlightenment from Chinese experience in supporting Africa - treating the continent as an equal partner.
The Sixth Forum on China-Africa Cooperation will start in Johannesburg, South Africa on Friday. It is anticipated that the forum will greatly boost the relationship between the two sides. Above all, both China and Africa should review their ties in a broader strategic perspective.
The author is a visiting fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.