28 Nov 2014

Is the EU-Africa Free Trade Agreement Inimical to Africa’s Economy?



By Emmanuel Iruobe

In recent times, there has been some ‘back and forth’ argument over the legality and long term usefulness of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the European Union (EU) and several African states, according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).

The EPA encourages African countries to open up to 83 percent of their markets to European imports while tariffs and fees are planned to be gradually eliminated. In exchange for this, African states are to receive customs-free access to the European market. While there may be some economic sense here, a number of African countries are not in support of the arrangement, the major concern being that they may lose their competitive trade advantage to European companies.

Kenya was among the countries that refused to sign the deal, and it got significant import tariffs imposed on many of its products for that reason; this reportedly led to numerous layoffs in several African firms. Eventually the East African country caved in to the pressure two weeks ago and signed the trade agreement. This, in the opinion of a growing number of people, might just be called “economic bullying.”

Notable EU officials have criticized this arrangement. One of such is German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Africa Commissioner, Günter Nooke, who claims the EPA counteracts Europe’s development policy efforts. “Economic negotiations should not destroy what has been built up on the other side in the Development Ministry. Germany and Europe contribute large sums of tax money toward various development programmes in Africa, but the economic agreement with African states cancels out these efforts,” he said.

Andrew Mold, UN Economic Analyst for East Africa, believes the African economy will eventually be threatened by the agreement.

“The African countries cannot compete with an economy like Germany’s. As a result, free trade and EU imports endanger existing industries, and future industries do not even materialize because they are exposed to competition from the EU,” he commented.

On the other side of the divide, there are supporters of the deal. One of such is Michael Gahler, a Member of the European Parliament (MEP), who believes the deal offers African countries the chance to strengthen their own markets while also creating flexible mechanisms, as African governments are not compelled to implement precise requirements until after two decades.

“Kenya should use this time to do its homework by building up its infrastructure, strengthening the rule of law and fighting corruption. We Europeans have experienced, first-hand, how much prosperity is brought on by the free movement of goods. We want to help African regions take similar steps,” he concluded.

Understanding that the World Trade Organization (WTO) had declared this kind of “one-sided market opening” unlawful in 2000, another MEP, Sha Keller declared “We are pointing a gun at their chest!”

“Developing countries have a gun pointed at their chest – either they sign or their market access to the EU is restricted, the EPA is the opposite of development cooperation,” Keller added.

Can African governments continue to hold up under such economic pressure from Europe? What will be the final outcome of this deal if successfully implemented? These are the sort of questions expected to be on the minds of many Africans as the drama unfolds.

Emmanuel Iruobe (@EmmanuelIruobe) is Freelance Writer at Ventures Publishing International

This post first appeared on Ventures Africa 

The views represented here are those of the author and not necessarily those of ECDPM

What’s the biggest challenge for Africa in 2015?


By Maria Ramos

Tellingly, this year’s Survey on the Global Agenda 2015 revealed education and skills development as the biggest challenge facing Africa in 2015, followed by building sustainable governance systems and the delivery of hard infrastructure. Almost every stakeholder group ranked education as the most important issue; respondents also suggested that business is the stakeholder that will be most affected by Africa’s educational challenges.

While UNESCO predicts that Africa will soon be home to 50% of the world’s illiterate population, Maria Ramos, Chief Executive of Barclays Africa Group, points to the focus of governments and businesses on creating real improvements through training programmes and scholarships.
“We must make sure that governments remain focused on funding and investing in education and skills improvement, and that they encourage partnerships with donors, business and local communities,” she says.

But given Africa’s rapid increase in mobile phone users – 40-fold since 2000 – it is clear that technology will play a fundamental role. Ramos points to Ghana’s Open Learning Exchange which looks at innovative teaching and learning models, as well as South African experiments with digitizing the curricula and making it available on tablets.

“Apart from the fact that you take away a lot of logistics costs associated with it, mobile technology makes education accessible to young learners in remote parts of the country. It also addresses concerns about the quality of educators because you can upskill teachers quickly and provide them with ongoing support through a range of online platforms.


Education isn’t the only area where African leaders must engage with their people.

Ramos highlights the significant improvements in “governance, fiscal management, macroeconomic management and greater accountability” made in countries like Rwanda. She says accountability remains the biggest obstacle to developing appropriate governance. “When you limit democracy and you have a lack of accountability to citizens, you undermine the basic principles that facilitate economic development and ensure broad political stability.”

While investment in human capital is critical, the need to address the infrastructure deficit is equally important.

Africa is facing infrastructural challenges – not least with regards to the provision of energy – that have an impact on economic development. Countries including Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa and Ethiopia have made significant progress in both the renewable and non-renewable energy sectors, but growth and development can only be sustainable with additional targeted investments. And yet the results of this year’s Survey show pessimism around this issue. Almost 40% of respondents doubted that Africa’s infrastructural problems would be dealt with in a meaningful way in the near to mid-term future.

More optimistic observers point to the fact that the build-up of infrastructure is supported through foreign direct investments and trade with other emerging economies – such as the record $200 billion China-Africa trade flows – and agencies such as the African Development Bank and the World Bank. But for Ramos, a significant development is that regional and local investors are starting to chip in. This also helps to shift from traditional investments based on the extraction of natural resources to more “strategic investments focused on a broader set of development opportunities and long term sustainability”.

The Outlook on the Global Agenda 2015 report is now live.

This article was written for the World Economic Forum’s Outlook on the Global Agenda 2015 report, based on an interview with Maria Ramos.

Author: Maria Ramos is Chief Executive of Barclays Africa Group.

Image: Students share a desk during a mathematics class at the Every Nation Academy private school in the city of Makeni in Sierra Leone, April 20, 2012. REUTERS/Finbarr O’Reilly

This Post first appeared on the World Economic Forum Blog

The views expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of ECDPM

What are Africa Diaspora doing about Ebola?


by Sadia Sisay

I have been asked this question by both Sierra Leonean and Liberian Diaspora as I am from both of these countries. I also note that the comment pages following Ebola articles are rife with the question – What are ‘they’ doing for themselves?

I will get to what the Diaspora are doing later. The helping ourselves question is a tough one. There is no one I know who would like us as Africans to be in a position where we appear to be so helpless, where our health systems are breaking down, our economies collapsing and our children not being educated due to schools being closed.

Unfortunately, Ebola is a worldwide problem. Yes, we need help caring for our sick but more importantly; western intervention will help stop the spread around the world. So Ebola is not just Africa’s problem, it is the world’s problem.

No matter how much we complain about bad governance in Africa , the fact that western governments were slow to act and what could have been, the situation is what it is today. Every hour 5 more people contract Ebola in Sierra Leone. The talk of what could have been takes time. We will hopefully take that learning forward but for now we need the help of other countries to stop this nightmare that is Ebola.

This leads me to the Diaspora. I cannot talk much for the Liberian Diaspora. I have limited knowledge of what efforts are in place. I can say there are Sierra Leoneans who are incredibly committed and passionate to do their bit for the Ebola crisis. Now I am not saying everyone is doing what is the ‘right’ thing in times like these but if governments and international organisations could not get it right immediately then individuals need to be cut some slack.

There are two sides at play here, many in the Diaspora do not trust what is being done by other Sierra Leoneans. Fighting the Ebola fight can sometimes be met with criticism from our own communities and you are deemed to be jumping on the Ebola bandwagon. This I find strange. Do we say that Bono, Bill Gates or any influential person that has had a cause jumped on a bandwagon? Or is that term only for individuals with a passion to help but do not possess the world stage?

Well, I ask for that bandwagon to slow down and I will jump on it. If giving my time to be part of groups full of of dedicated, passionate individuals from the Diaspora, who give time and effort to Ebola, then I know I would rather be on their side than on the side of apathy. I may not know of all the efforts being made by Sierra Leoneans, particularly in the US but the Diaspora in the UK has not been lethargic to Ebola and there are so many examples of how people have mobilised efforts.

For a start, more treatment centres are being built, more beds are available for sick patients but without health care professionals they are useless. The NHS has agreed to cover full pay and benefits for all NHS workers that take the time to work in Sierra Leone. A team from the Sierra Leonean Diaspora driven by the charity SLWT has tirelessly worked the recruitment drive on.

UK-MED with the help of this team are recruiting for healthcare workers to join the Ebola teams in Sierra Leone. If anyone reading this is a healthcare professional and wants to give a minimum of 4 weeks to go and help, please go to http://www.uk-med.org.

Another example is that a few weeks ago the Sierra Leonean government declared a three day lockdown to ensure that cases of Ebola were found and for citizens to be better educated. No one could go out without a pass. You can imagine what that would be like in the UK even with our fridges and larders.

There are a lot of communities that live on the hustle of daily life. They get food depending on what they do on that day, so a lockdown was going to cause hunger in these communities.



One Sierra Leonean in the Diaspora, Memuna, was not going to let people go hungry. She came up with an idea to provide meals to some of these communities. In less than two weeks she had organised with local charities on the ground, set up a team to cook and deliver food and managed to distribute 2600 meals safely. No mean feat. She worked day and night to get this done. I know because once she told me her idea I joined her cause. (or bandwagon as some might say).

The success of this has led to the birth of Lunchboxgift. We have formed this charity to provide lunchbox meals in time of crisis. Though borne out of the Ebola crisis we aim to grow this into an organisation that can provide lunchboxes anywhere they are needed.

In Sierra Leone the usual practice is for families to bring in food to the sick in hospitals. As you can imagine, that cannot happen in the treatment centres for Ebola. Our next project is one that will feed lunch every day to Ebola patients and local staff in the treatment centres in the Western area of Sierra Leone.

As this requires many hands on board, we have teamed up the diaspora led charity Let Them Help Themselves Out of Poverty who mostly work in Uganda, a country that understands the fight against Ebola. This will enable us to pool resources and skills within the broader diaspora network

If anyone wants to support us getting our lunchboxes to people that need food, a basic requirement to survive, then please go to http://www.mycharitypage.com/LunchBox and find out more.

I could continue with more examples but it will be too long a blog. What is clear is Ebola needs the world to fight it. From large-scale operations only governments can provide to single individuals who can make a difference. 

Sadia Sisay (@2bu_ on) lives in London and is originally from Sierra Leone. She works in the pharmaceutical industry after training to be a cancer nurse. She regularly blogs for Africa On The Blog. 

This post originally appeared on Africa On the Blog

The Views Expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of ECDPM

Photos courtesy of Lunchboxgift.com

5 Nov 2014

AU 2063: Let’s start with good governance



By Mmusi Maimane

Good governance is not just about laws that ensure political stability, it’s a vehicle for changing lives at both a social and economic level. But good governance can only happen when it’s driven by good leadership. Leadership which respects mechanisms which ensure accountability.

Recent events on the continent have shown us the role of strong institutions and Constitutions or what can happen when these are ignored. The political instability in the Kingdom of Lesotho showed us what can happen in the absence of Parliament and its functions. The swift and peaceful transition between Zambia’s President Michael Sata’s death to the swearing in of President Guy Scott showed what a strong Constitution can achieve. The protests in Burkina Faso show that manipulating and disregarding the Constitution can bring a country to its knees.

What we cannot deny is that where strong governance prevails, good follows.

Good governance is not just about laws that ensure political stability, it’s a vehicle for changing lives at both a social and economic level.

Good governance is a conduit for building and maintaining infrastructure that allows for economic growth; it allows for health infrastructure that ensures healthy societies; and it ensures that those elected by voters are held accountable. Above all, good governance ensures that we achieve the targets described in the African Union’s (AU’s) Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want.

But good governance can only happen when it’s driven by good leadership. Leadership which respects mechanisms which ensure accountability.
The continent has produced great men such as Nelson Mandela, but it has also produced corrupt leaders who refuse to be held accountable. Post liberation, they enter into politics of the stomach. Self-preservation, rather than building nations that are they are custodians of, becomes the norm.

They live in R246 million houses while their nations face poverty and rising unemployment.

Critical to this is that leaders must be accountable to strong parliaments. Lesotho is an example of what happens when parliament is suspended, and democracy is suppressed.

Can we honestly say – hand on heart – that Parliament is working?

What example do we set when Parliament fails in its duty to hold the Executive to account?

What kind of message do we send out when our President fails to stick to the rules of the House and refuses to answer oral questions?

President Zuma must follow in the examples of great leaders such as Nelson Mandela who understood that in the fight for democracy, the rules enshrined in the Constitution, must be followed.

Last week, during a Joint Sitting of Parliament, a debate was called regarding a policy document of the African Union - African Union’s (AU’s) Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want.

And yet we cannot even hold a debate with our own president on what is happening right here in our own country.

We owe it to ourselves, the continent and its people to ensure that that good leaders are elected. Leaders who place the needs of the nations and people before their own. We need to do away with the leaders with the “It’s our turn to eat” mentality, and elect leaders who would rather feed their nations.

We have a duty to prove the Afro-pessimists wrong, by doing what is right: building independent judiciaries, accountable executives and strong legislatures, which are guided by the Constitution.

Africa, in my view, is the next economic frontier that will unlock economic opportunities on the continent and the rest of the globe. But, again, we need good governance and good leaders. Leaders who choose trade over aid; leaders who find value on intra-Africa trade; leaders who put trade regulations in place the benefit both the import and export of goods and services.

Africa has plenty of work to do. But the good fight is never easy, and requires a united and coordinated approach in order to work.

Mmusi Maimane (@MmusiMaimane) is a South African politician and current Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly of South Africa. 

The views expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of ECDPM.

Photo courtesy of Government of South Africa

This article first appeared in Daily Maverick.

Dr Dlamini-Zuma and the AU’s Agenda 2063


By Chris Landsberg

Dr Dlamini-Zuma’s assumption to the position of Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC), was greeted with much controversy. There were widely-held assumptions that South Africa’s bid for this position was driven by ulterior motives, not in the least that it wished to build its international prestige so as to justify its status as an African “Lead” nation, and the more serious charge that it wished to use the Commission as an instrument for Pretoria’s foreign policy ambitions.

In one attempt to deflect attention away from the notion that South Africa was treating the AUC like an extension of her country’s foreign policy, and give credence to the idea that she was a visionary, functional leader, Dr Dlamini-Zuma soon embarked on the expansive exercise of coming up with a new vision for the continent, African Union Vision 2063. This aimed at cementing her reputation as a competent and effective visionary leader, and an organisation's person. She also wanted to bolster her reputation as a Pan-African in her own right after the bruising battle for the position against former Chair, Jean Ping, which left the continent a divided place.

Through the exercise of crafting a grand “fifty-year” vision, Dlamini-Zuma set out to “revive” Pan-Africanism and promote continental integration. She latched on to the idea of Africa “claiming the 21st Century as the African Century”, and that under her leadership, “Africa will promote peace, security, governance and economic development”. But there is little new and novel about these ideas. Since the end of the Cold War, and even before the formation of the AU, African leaders have placed hese goals at the apex of their agendas. Agenda 2063 also advanced the developmental ideas of economic growth, access to education, public health, and consolidation of democratic governance, peace, stability and human development. But these too were not novel ideas, with all Dr. Dlamini-Zuma’s predecessors advancing these ideas. In line with the new developmentalism, Agenda 2063 placed great emphasis on the state playing a prominent role in development through initiatives such as public investment and infrastructure development.

The Dlamini-Zuma inspired Agenda 2063 recognised firstly that there is a need for norm implementation and professionalization of the AU. Indeed, since its inception, the AU has suffered from a deep seated implementation crisis as it shown itself to be good at policy making and norms interpretation, but fundamentally weak when it came to operationalisation of policy and ideas. The idea of professionalisation of the AU staff and diplomatic corps is one that needs to be stressed here. There has often been the idea that many of the continent’s leaders send “dead-wood” diplomats to Addis Ababa, and not taking seriously the need for highly skilled and competent civil servants to serve the continental interests. Indeed, when Dr. Dlamini-Zuma speaks of “professionalisation” of the AU, we must assume that she has in mind overhauling the human resources and capability-enhancing dimensions of the Commission. The Commission remains a weak and moribund institution that can do with greater degrees of efficiency and effectiveness.

But Agenda 2063 is a highly-ambitious, even unrealistic vision statement. The very idea of a 50-year vision statement is somewhat far-fetched. There is of course no gainsaying that the idea is important for Africa to end all wars. But the statement that Africa should end all wars by 2020”, without backing such a statement up with the necessary policy and institutional rigour is almost meaningless. Even the promise by Agenda 2063 to speed up the idea of the Continental Free-Trade Agreement is one that has enjoyed the attention of many policy-makers before the arrival of this new vision statement.

What is needed is for the new AU Commission Chair to show just how much political muscle she has and to try and extract commitment from political leaders to pool sovereignty so as to move the continent to deeper levels of integration. On this score, Dlamini-Zuma’s greater achievement to date has probably been to unlock a series of igh-level talks between the AU Commission and regional economic communities (RECs) such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), and others. For years, talks between the AU and these entities were almost like a “dialogue of the deaf”, with little progress being made on the devolution of power and delegation of authority. Many RECs have undermined the AU Commission and other organs as they believed that, given that they were much older than these bodies, they have an inherent right of existence. These breakthroughs notwithstanding, Dr. Dlamini-Zuma and her team has their work cut out to sustain this dialogue and to ensure that it results in the foundations of an African union of States, with greater decision-making powers and authority being devolved to the RECs, in exchange for RECs respecting the authority of the AU Commission more.

In short, the challenge faced by the AU Commission Chair and her team is how to turn an ambitious vision statement that is long on promise and short on delivery into one that is able to translate promise into delivery. For one, we should not work on the assumption that all states are buying into the idea of the vision. Many would pledge their commitment to the vision verbally but fail to back it up in practice. Just as she has to try and ensure buy-in into the new vision, so Dlamini-Zuma also has to work on closing the gap between promise and delivery in Africa. Vision 2063 is correct in reminding us about the need to close the policy-implementation, and the continental divide, and to ensure that continental visions are operationalised. So just as there is a need to get Africans to speak with one voice continentally and abroad, so there is a need to get states to live by continental commitments and provisions. We are desperately in need of the idea of ‘continental sovereignty’ in Africa. Given that Dlamini-Zuma was victorious in defeating Jean Ping, it would be prudent for her to take the lead in the project of building continental sovereignty.

Chris Landsberg is professor and SARChI Chair of African diplomacy and foreign policy at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), and Senior Associate at the UJ School of Leadership

The views expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of ECDPM

Photo courtesy of UNAMID


20 Oct 2014

Cutting Africa’s Governance Cake: Insights From Two Key Assessment Tools


By Steven Gruzd

Does being an active member of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) help a country improve its rankings in the Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG)?

The just-released 2014 IIAG indicates a slow but steady governance improvement for the majority of the continent. The IIAG measures governance progress or lack thereof across four areas: Safety and Rule of Law, Participation and Human Rights, Sustainable Economic Opportunity, and Human Development. Thus the IIAG’s view of governance is holistic, looking not only at democratic aspects, but also socio-economic factors. This approach is shared by the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), the continent’s premier tool for improving governance across four thematic areas: Democracy and Political Governance, Economic Governance and Management, Corporate Governance and Socio-Economic Development. The voluntary APRM, established in 2003, now sports 34 member states, 17 of which have already undergone their first reviews. So what insights does the latest IIAG provide into how effective the APRM has been in improving governance in its member states?

The table below shows the IIAG score in the year that these 17 APRM states completed and published their reviews, and indicates whether their IIAG governance score has improved or regressed since:


The data shows mixed results. For a small majority of countries (10 out of 17 or 58%), there is some progress. Out of these, Rwanda is most improved (+8.4). Given the criticism of Paul Kagame’s increasingly autocratic rule, it is of little surprise that Rwanda’s progress was achieved mostly due to improved Human Development. The second highest achiever, Ghana with an improvement of
+4.1, shows a more balanced progress across the different areas, even though it has actually regressed on Security and the Rule of Law since its review in 2005. The third top country on the list is Lesotho, which improved its score by +3.9 in a relatively short period (four years). However, according to research previously conducted by the South African Institute of International Affairs and the Centre for Policy Studies the APRM would not be able to take any significant credit for this, given the extremely low profile of the mechanism in the country. Furthermore, given the attempted coup in September 2014, the country’s score may decrease significantly in next year’s index.

At the other end of the spectrum, Mali has shown the most regression in the five years since its review, with its IIAG score declining by -6.3. Although the country’s governance was given a good assessment by the APRM, the 2012 coup and the resulting instability are to blame for the decline. Safety and the Rule of Law is the biggest area of concern, falling from 62.8 (2008 – year of the APRM review) to 48.6 this year. Benin’s worsening governance score, while not as drastic, is still notable at -3.1 in the past six years. Although Human Development is on the rise, once again Safety and the Rule of Law is the culprit for the country’s overall score falling from 67.9 to 55.6 in the past six years. Mozambique and Tanzania are joint third amongst APRM member states whose governance has regressed since their reviews. However, while it took five years for Mozambique’s overall score to decrease by -0.9, Tanzania’s score worsened in just one. Safety and the Rule of Law was the area which both countries scored lower in, although Mozambique also registered a decline in Sustainable Economic Opportunity, while Tanzania saw a rapid drop in Participation and Human Rights.

Consolidation or reversal of governance for the other 11 APRM members, as measured by the IIAG, varied between -0.1 and +2.1 since the time of their reviews. This indicates relative stability and incremental improvements for most. Yet, unfortunately there is not an obvious and direct positive correlation betweenhe IIAG scores and the countries that have undergone APRM review. Nonetheless, there is value in posing the counterfactual ‘What if?’ question. What might the outcome have been if these countries had not started the intensive and inclusive societal dialogues on governance that the APRM review demands of countries that sign up to the process?

Even so, theoretical speculation is not sufficient. Given the fact that the mechanism has entered its 11th year, it needs to do more to justify its existence and show the value add to sceptics, members and non-members alike. Generally, the reviews themselves have been very thorough and successful in pinpointing governance challenges. However, systematic eradication of these challenges through implementing a National Programme of Action has been lacking in most APRM member states. 

At least three things have to happen to enable the APRM to finally start living up to its potential. First, the continental leadership of the APRM should be empowered to convince their peers to prioritise NPoA implementation. This implies using the full range of peer pressure mechanisms and tools, such as monitoring and evaluation, regular and robust reports to the APRM Panel and
Heads of State, discussion of the findings in the public domain, peer exchanges on best practice and the like. 

Second, the mechanism’s Secretariat should be providing increased support to individual states to live up to their commitments, for example providing sound advice on how best to integrate NPoAs into national planning priorities, mobilise resources and setting up monitoring mechanisms.

Lastly, for the APRM to enable a transformative shift on governance concerns and challenges in the region, there is a great need to support societal dialogue and participation at the country-level. It is not enough for member states to be accountable to their peers at a continental level. Accountability starts at home. Support to civil society to engage on an ongoing basis with government and other stakeholders on the outcomes of the APRM reviews is critical. Innovative financing mechanisms to support ongoing civil society engagement with the APRM are a challenge, not only to African governments and the mechanism itself, but also for external partners that are interested in good governance outcomes in the region. It is worth exploring with all the stakeholders involved – particularly in the region – how best to facilitate and enable this last objective, especially in
view of the continent and its citizens’ quest for improved governance, peace and stability and socio-economic development. 

Steven Gruzd is the Head of the Governance and APRM Programme at the South African Institute of International Affairs. 

The views expressed here are those of the author, and may not necessarily be those of ECDPM. 

Photo Courtesy of Bureau of IIP.
 

INFOGRAPHIC: What is Official Development Assistance (ODA) spent on in Africa


Africa received nearly €42.7 billion in official development assistance (ODA) in 2011, nearly triple the amount a decade before. But the figures also represented a 35% cut on the 2006 aid budget, when G8 leaders agreed to write off €29.9 billion of debt - which might never have been repaid - and include the largesse in their ODA declarations.

Around 40% of the European Commission's Official Development Aid (ODA) goes to Africa every year. The continent has received more than a quarter of the €2.7 billion increase in the aid budget since 2005 and, in 2009, aid for trade to the African, Caribbean and Pacific States increased to €3.6 billion. But where does the money end up?

This new infographic from Euractiv shows where Africa's ODA goes.




This infographic was originally published by Euractiv

The views expressed here are those of the authors, and not necessarily those of ECDPM

30 Sep 2014

Lampedusa - Why did so many Africans die?


By Ida Horner

The small Italian island of Lampedusa is still in shock following the death of at least 311 African migrants. The question that has preoccupied analysts as well as the rest of the world is, why did this happen?

An Interviewee on PM, a BBC Radio 4 flagship news program argued that so many Africans died because Africans cannot swim; the interviewee observed that if the immigrants were good swimmers they would have stood a very good chance of surviving because the capsized boat was very close to its destination.

Is this yet another stereotype about Africans inability to swim? After all, it is possible that the people on the boat were too tired and weak to swim after a long a journey. His comment further ignores the courage and determination displayed by a people in search of a better life for themselves and their families in Europe.

The reasons why people immigrate are complex and are to do with a confluence of factors such as poverty, human rights abuses, poor governance, and political instability in countries of origin. Irregular immigration of the kind we have witnessed at Lampedusa is risky and most observers accept that something has to be done to ensure that the Mediterranean Sea does not become a cemetery to immigrants.

Irregular immigration impacts both Africa and Europe. We must therefore ask what the European Union (EU) and the African Union (AU) are doing about causes of irregular immigration. Through its development policy, the EU has an impressive array of programs intended to address most of the factors that lead to irregular immigration including a Joint Africa -EU Action plan on Migration, Mobility and Employment 2011- 2013 on how both continents intend to manage legal and irregular migration. [Editors Note: This has been superseded with a Joint Declaration on Migration and Mobility 2014-2017 at the 4th Africa EU Summit in April 2014]

On irregular migration, there would be increased dialogue between countries of origin, transit and destination to tackle issues such as human trafficking and the selling of people. An example of such dialogue started with talks between Italy’s Berlusconi and Libya’s Gaddafi in which the EU is said to have promised Gaddafi 5 billion Euros a year to stop African immigrants over running European capitals and turning them black.

In spite of such measures irregular migration continues. Why is this?

According to Jimmy Kainja, Blogger and Media scholar based in Malawi:

“The EU has taken a lead but the ultimate problem and solution lies within African boundaries, not Europe. The African Union should take a lead. These are African citizens running away from their homelands. Solutions ought to be there. It is a shame that it is Europe that seems to care. The AU is happy to convene and discuss saving African leaders from the actions of the ICC than discussing the plight of its people. Folks buried in unmarked graves far away from their homelands.”

I would add that, one of the reasons for increased irregular migration is that whilst the EU has transferred a huge amount of resources to facilitate development in African countries, those resources are not always used appropriately nor evenly distributed.

Some amongst the African leaders siphon off the resources for personal use, with impunity in most cases. When this happens, citizens are left poor and unable to meet their basic needs such as access to food, health and education. Citizens that are preoccupied with putting food on the table are consequently unlikely to have time to engage in the political process and such become politically excluded and voiceless

In addition, some of the resources transferred to Africa by European countries find their way back to Europe.

Another issue for consideration is to do with decisions taken within the EU with respect to trade, agriculture, and security, particularly how well such policies fit in and or compliment the stated aims of the EU’s development policy and their impact on African countries. [Editors Note: See Policy Coherence for Development]

It is worthwhile too, examining the structure of EU trade agreements with African countries from the point of view of the extent to which such policies are equitable and how they contribute to mitigating the reasons why irregular migration is on the increase.

For instance a report by the Transnational Institute, entitled the European Union and the Global Land Grab, argues that the EU’s foreign direct investment policy was designed to favour foreign investors instead of balancing the power between the host countries and investor whilst the EU’s Trade Policy called Everything But Arms (EBA) has contributed to land grabs for the growing of sugars etc., for export into the EU.

The implication of these policies is that they work against the EU’s development policy with the effect of rendering it ineffective in impacting the reasons for the increased irregular immigration into Europe and contributing to human trafficking.

Ida Horner is Managing Director of Ethnic Supplies, a social enterprise working to alleviate poverty amongst East African women involved in textile and handicraft production. She is also Managing Editor of Africa on the Blog, where this article first appeared.

She is a Community Development Consultant, chairing a community development charity ‘Let Them Help Themselves Out of Poverty’. Follow her on Twitter @idahorner

The views expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of ECDPM.

The photo is courtesy of Noborder Network.

For more analysis of the EU’s migration policy challenges, read the following blogs from ECDPM:

29 Sep 2014

To be or not to be a European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development?




"That's the question. It Sounds like an important position. But what exactly is the role of a Commissioner? And who appoints them and how? A picture is worth 1000 words!"

Here is a very handy guide, courtesy of the European Parliament, on how it chooses its College of Commissioners.

On Monday 29th September, the European Parliament will conduct a hearing for Neven Mimica to become the EU's Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development. According to the Mission Letter sent by Jean-Claude Juncker, President-elect of the European Commission, some of the priorities for Mimica should be:

  • Preparing the Commission and EU positions for the negotiations on the post-2015 United Nations Millennium Development Goal agenda. 
  • Preparing and launching negotiations for a revised Cotonou agreement. 
  • Working closely with the High-Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President, the Commissioner for Trade and the Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs to strengthen the EU’s strategic partnership with Africa.


Watch the Q&A at the hearing here


You can download Neven Mimica's CV and watch the hearing here


Video and Photo Courtesy of the European Parliament

Views expressed here are not necessarily those of ECDPM








25 Sep 2014

EU-Africa cooperation: where is civil society?


by Isabelle Brachet

At the beginning of April, more than 60 EU and African leaders met in Brussels to discuss the future of EU-Africa relations. The summit confirmed the commitment of both continents to the objectives set out in the 2007 Joint Africa-EU Strategy. However, leaders agreed that the implementation of the Joint Strategy should be further improved and that cooperation should be guided by a result-oriented approach. The summit adopted a roadmap to frame EU-Africa relations for 2014-2017.

The only reference to civil society in the Summit declaration is that the leaders “take note of the Africa-EU civil society organisatons’ forum meeting of October 2013 and of the youth forum of April 2014”. The Roadmap specifies that “It was agreed to (…) promote contributions from the private sector and civil society”. It further reads “We will ensure the full and active participation of civil society in our dialogue and our cooperation”. But how will this happen in practice, especially in view of the limited connections between the Summit and the EU-Africa Civil Society Forum?

The leaders of both continents opted for a more flexible institutional architecture for their cooperation, with Summits every three years, ministerial meetings when needed, and an annual forum to review progress in the implementation of the roadmap. Ad hoc expert working groups may also be established but, when possible, implementation will be driven by existing bodies. This is the case for example on agriculture, where cooperation will take place within the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Partnership (CAADP) partnership.

CAADP is the main African development programme to eliminate hunger and reduce poverty through agriculture. It notably requires African countries to commit at least ten per cent of their national budgets to agricultural development and seeks to raise agricultural productivity in Africa. The CAADP Partnership Platform is an annual meeting bringing together key stakeholders such as African governments, policy makers, civil society organisations and farmers’ organisations to assess progress made in implementing the CAADP goals.

It is a welcome move that this body will be the one to review progress in EU-Africa cooperation on agriculture because it is the most legitimate African institution to coordinate efforts on agriculture on the continent. However, CSOs’ participation should definitely be strengthened in the CAADP so that smallholder producers can participate in shaping their future. Smallholder farmers represent the main providers of food for Africans and are the biggest private investors in African agriculture.

So, what comes next? If the CAADP Partnership is to contribute to the implementation of EU-Africa cooperation on agriculture, it is one more reason for the European Union to support current efforts in Africa to ensure a stronger participation of civil society in the CAADP process. And ActionAid will certainly keep pushing in that direction, in Addis and in Brussels.

Isabelle Brachet is EU Policy Advisor at ActionAid’s EU Office

This article was originally published by ActionAid EU

The views expressed here are those of the authors, and not necessarily those of ECDPM

Photo Courtesy of Travis Lupick