Should the African Union accept European Union’s $2 billion offering?

The European Union recently announced plans to offer African countries $2 billion in order to tackle the issues that are giving rise to migration from Africa to Europe. According to the European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, the resources will finance programs to create employment opportunities, provide basic services and improve overall governance, in order to decrease the number of African migrants and asylum seekers in Europe.

While the EU is still soliciting more funds from other European countries to contribute, the African Union (AU) is debating whether to accept the fund or require foreign companies on the continent to pay tax, of which the continent loses $50 billion through tax fraud annually. During the talks, which were deemed tense, African leaders emphasized that addressing the migrant crisis will require much more than money. Ventures Africa spoke with Liesl Louw-Vaudran, a journalist, Africa analyst and consultant for the Institute of Security Studies (ISS) to explore what this fund means, and whether the AU should be interested, or push for a more directed approach at stemming migration.

Ventures Africa (VA): This fund is targeted at creating employment and stemming migration. Should the AU accept this fund or are they right to insist on investment?

Liesl Louw-Vaudran (LLV): The first question to ask, is that what is this money for? Is this a new development aid? Or old promises being made again? I think maybe we are beyond just having big figures thrown around, and the African Union and African countries know that it is much more complicated than that.

There was a lot of talk about these development projects. But it seems that the issue has now moved beyond these aid projects. In Malta, as the AU chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said, that from Africa’s point of view, there is an insistence on looking at legal migration rather than other initiatives. The AU itself is at fault because illegal migration and human trafficking, have been going on for decades and they have never had so much as held a summit with heads of states to discuss migration.

The first time high levels of migration were on the agenda was this past June at the AU summit, here in Johannesburg, when the AU commissioner for Social Affairs addressed African leaders about the issue, but no real decisions were made.

Also, they didn’t even go to Malta with a unified front, which is critical for any discussion. It appears that it’s uncomfortable for African governments to talk about migration and because it points a finger to the lack of opportunities for young people and the lack of democracy and development in African countries. But now, hopefully, this is a start and African countries and the AU will start looking at it seriously.

VA: So do you think AU should accept this fund?

LLV: Yes. I am not sure what the current decision is, I was not in Malta myself, but I think if there is some funding for capacity building within the AU to deal with migration issues, human trafficking, and other crises on the continent, then the fund should be accepted.

The root cause of trafficking is economic crisis and although Africa didn’t cause the crisis in Libya it is today, one of the main trafficking routes. There is one from the horn of Africa, through Somalia and Eritrea, through Sudan and Ethiopia. There’s also the West African route from Northern Nigeria and through Tunisia, Agadez, to Sabha in the South of Libya. The traffickers and the Tuaregs are all involved in this trafficking. The South of Libya has become the convergence of human trafficking and drugs and arms. Africa was not the cause of that crisis, but it is a contributor.

So if the money is going to help the AU to build its capacity to fight conflict and enhance economic development, then by all means.

VA: Do you think accepting this money will formalise an agreement and restrict Africans from moving freely around the world?

LLV:  I think the chairperson made that point, that legal migration is really what Africa wants. For migration not to be criminalized. It is for an African to arrive in Europe or elsewhere and not be looked upon as somebody who is about to commit a crime. To say whether accepting the money will shelve our agenda of calling for legal migration is a difficult question to answer.

Africa has accepted development aid for a long time, but it doesn’t mean Africans will say ‘we will stay home and not migrate’.

Obviously, Africa needs certain capacity building that the AU itself as an institution cannot give because it is trying to be self-funded. It is struggling and it needs funding for its peacekeeping operations. Even getting qualified personnel to work at the AU is a huge challenge. So if the fund goes to a good cause, it’s fine. I do think also that generally, there is this big move away from just wanting to accept aid, instead of trying to solve problems ourselves.

And when it comes to the issue of migration, Africa is clearly saying to Europe and other countries that we want to do this legally. Of course there’s a bit of complexity in this.

VA: If AU accepts the $2bn how will it be shared among its member countries to ensure employment creation and all the other things the EU has listed out? Will it even be effective?

LLV: That’s extremely difficult to say, and I don’t think it’s going to be a lump sum that will be handed to the AU. I think Europe has a lot of development projects on the continent and they haven’t really identified places that are sources of migration.

For example, France has a project in Mali in a region where a majority of their migrants originate and they are doing development aid there. So I think the Europeans are going to determine the agenda.

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