The economic power of Africa’s migrants

Fleeing from war zones, migrants are not simply helpless victims adrift in refugee camps. Many are skilled workers who enrich the economies of their host countries, which more often than not are other African nations.

The stereotype of African migrants swarming into Europe for the purpose of leeching off European Union (EU) states for free social services and engaging in criminal activities may be the image cherished by European bigots and xenophobes. However, there is little reality to the scenario, an April 2016 report by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) asserts. Far from seeking European shores to invade and EU countries in which to settle, the majority of African migrants on the move choose as their destinations other African countries. Only a minority of migrants leave the continent.

Somali money exchanger

A money exchanger trades US dollars for Somali shillings in Mogadishu. Photo courtesy AMISOM/Stuart Price/Flickr

The UNECA report, Challenges of International Migration in Africa, was unveiled in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, during events coinciding with African Development Week, a time set aside by the African Union (AU) and UN to assess Africa’s economic and social progress and the efficacy of programmes aimed at uplifting African peoples. Perhaps the most succinct summation of the report is that Africa’s gain is Europe’s loss, for hard workers and skilled labour are essential to any economy. African migrants, like any foreigners moving into a new country, unless they are wealthy, tend to take jobs or perform services that are undesirable to the local people, from putting in long hours at small shops in the townships of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa to working as domestic servants in Algiers, Algeria. African professionals like dentists, nurses, engineers and managers forced out of their homes by conflict or in the cases of countries like Zimbabwe, by a collapsing economy, expand the pool of skilled professionals that is the life-blood of any nation’s economic growth. Read more

IOA Redefining African Development Report

Meeting targets or creating change?

African nations are currently in the process of adopting two new ambitious and often overlapping development agendas: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – the successor to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – is an effort to confront global development challenges, while Agenda 2063 is a 50-year action plan launched by the African Union (AU) directed at addressing continent-specific issues.

With the international development agenda now set for the foreseeable future, ‘Redefining African Development’ explores the mixed success of the MDGs in Africa and investigates how the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) compare to their precursor, and how they overlap with the AU’s Agenda 2063. Specifically, the question of whether apolitical development agendas can fuel transformative change without equal focus on strengthening key institutions and expanding civil liberties and political freedoms.

Assessing peace prospects after the Central African Republic’s elections

The CAR has made a serious effort at a free and competently-run election as a first step to bringing stability to one of the region’s most volatile countries. Only the eradication of militias will ensure ultimate peace.

The salutations from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that followed successfully conducted elections in the Central African Republic (CAR) were more than a pro-forma expression of cheer underscored with a note of relief that the insurgency-torn nation had pulled off a peaceful election. Under Ki-moon’s authority, the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the CAR (MINUSCA), with its 11,000-strong fighting force, is the glue that holds the country together. The decision to keep in place or withdraw the forces belongs to Ban. The holding of the presidential and ongoing legislative elections and the transitioning to a functioning government that will follow are key points in determining how long MINUSCA will stay. The UN has botched a sex scandal involving MINUSCA soldiers exploiting and abusing boy and girl child refugees by covering-up the crimes, which were eventually exposed in the media. During the fracas, Ki-moon threatened to disband MINUSCA if the contributing nations did not investigate their soldiers’ misdeeds.

A Rwandan soldier guards a refugee camp in Bangui. Photo courtesy US Air Force/Flickr.

A Rwandan soldier guards a refugee camp in Bangui. Photo courtesy US Air Force/Flickr.

MINUSCA’s main challenge is the rebel group, the Séléka. Predominately Muslim in membership but not a jihadist organisation seeking an Islamic state, Séléka ousted President Francois Bozizé in March 2013. In the ensuing months, Séléka committed atrocities against civilians and an opposing Christian militia called the anti-Balaka. With Séléka in possession of much of the country in 2014, peace was restored in an agreement that saw Bangui mayor Catherine Samba-Panza become president of an interim government. Keeping a lid on further violence as elections for a permanent government were carried out has been MINUSCA’s preoccupation. The task has made MINUSCA the UN’s most expensive mission ever. That the elections resulted in an administration headed by Faustin Archange Touadèra, who earned 62.7% of the 14 February 2016 runoff vote, was validation of the forces’ presence. On 20 February 2016, the Elections Commission declared that Touadèra had won a landslide 63% of the vote. Read more

US adds hundreds of millions of dollars to the fight against North African terror groups

A look at where the funds are needed for maximum impact against ISIS and others

On 16 February, word was leaked by a US Department of Defense official that US President Barack Obama was budgeting US$ 200 million to fight Islamic insurgents in West and North Africa. The news preceded the actual presentation of the Pentagon’s 2017 defence budget request, in which the US armed forces are allotted US$ 7.5 billion for activities worldwide. Which African countries would benefit from the military and intelligence spending was not immediately apparent. However, the targets of the spending can be safely assumed – Boko Haram, based in Nigeria, and the Islamic State (ISIS), most active in Libya.

Photo courtesy Pete Souza/The White House

Photo courtesy Pete Souza/The White House

The vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US military, Air Force General Paul Selva, told the media that military spending would incorporate efforts against all of Africa’s jihadist groups, including East Africa’s terror organisation al-Shabaab. Based in Somalia, al-Shabaab is the focus of a counter-insurgency effort by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which does receive some US military and intelligence support. Given similar US assistance in West Africa for the anti-insurgency campaign against Boko Haram, the added US military spending will likely be used against ISIS. Boko Haram’s attacks on Cameroon, Nigeria and neighbouring countries have been particularly brutal, but like al-Shabaab, the group is a regional menace. ISIS though, is a global theat. ISIS militants or sympathisers have conducted high-profile attacks in Europe and even struck the US. Neither al-Shabaab nor Boko Haram have known members in the US, and while there are, no doubt, sympathisers of those jihadist groups in the US, they have not – as of this writing – carried out terror acts on American soil the way ISIS has done. When President Obama speaks of international terror groups, he does on occasion list al-Shabaab and Boko Haram. Mostly, he mentions ISIS, which he refers to as ISIL. Public opinion polls show that Americans can identify ISIS but may not have heard of al-Shabaab or Boko Haram.

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