As part of his State of the Union speech, President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker announced over €3 billion from the EU budget and the European Investment Fund to be invested in Africa.
The investment will support and develop municipal infrastructure, small and medium sized enterprises and micro finance to create jobs and encourage further investment in Africa. With the support of member states and other partners the total amount for the Investment Plan is forecast to reach €88 billion.
Junker’s motive is to reduce the migrant flow to Europe, particularly through Mediterranean countries like Italy.
In a continent rife with conflict and corruption, it is well known many African migrants flee their homes in search of a better life. UNHCR Senior Communications Officer for North, West and Central Africa, Leo Dobbs outlines;
“The figures for arrivals in Italy show that they include a mix of people fleeing poverty and seeking better opportunities, or refugees fleeing persecution or conflict.”
Most migrants are from Sub-Sahara, immigrating through normal channels to North Africa and onto Europe.
African Migration and Development Policy Centre Executive Director, John Oucho pointed out the economies in North Africa struggle with the passing migrants.
“North Africa can not accommodate migrants from Sub-Sahara when their own nationals don’t have any jobs,” Oucho said.
While this new proposal will not dampen any conflict in Africa, it has the potential to address the other reason people are on the move.
Oucho highlighted youth unemployment as one of the main issues.
“I don’t see how African countries could solve the problem, unless the EU invests in making sure the youth are getting those skills and investing [them] in development initiatives.”
As part of the project criteria for the EU Investment, there will need to be a focus on job creation for women and youth.
“Though investing for the sake of investing without understanding the political and social environments in Africa is simply missing the chance to make this work,” he said.
The Investment Plan for Africa states it will foster good local governance as part of the initiative. Oucho hopes the projects will realise the importance of having “a bottom up approach to development.”
Oucho stressed the value of engaging with regional areas and governments who most often miss out on opportunities.
“The governance system has to change. Each region has their resources that could be developed. We need to let them explore their own initiatives [and] decentralise power,” Oucho said.
“The private sector engaging in development needs to talk with [the people], rather than just deal with national governments.”
The EU investment plan will only work in countries at relative peace, to ease migration on the grounds of lack of opportunity.
Though as Leo Dobbs mentioned, the UNHCR “always stresses that a political solution is key.”
“We have long advocated a link between humanitarian work and development, [and] a long-term goal aimed at tackling some of the root causes of conflict, including human rights abuses and lack of security,” Dobbs said.
Until the issue of governance and political turmoil is addressed, there will continue to be an influx in migrants. Unless of course the new investment plan functions so well as to provide jobs and stable living for migrants and nationals alike in African countries neighbouring conflict.