Aminata Touré: “There is a feeling that Africa is about to invade Europe, which is completely wrong.”
GP Podcast on Migration und Peace
Aminata Touré is a Senegalese politician and human rights activist. She served as Prime Minister of Senegal from 2013 to 2014 and held various positions at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). During her time as Minister of Justice, she was particularly committed to fighting corruption and later led several election observation missions for the presidential elections. Her expertise also lies in the areas of economics, good governance and gender.
Zimbabwean lawyer Ottilia Anna Maunganidze is an expert on criminal law, human rights, peace and security, as well as a freelance writer and speaker. She also heads the Special Projects Department of the Institute for Security Studies, a think tank based in Pretoria. In 2017, Ottilia Anna Maunganidze was selected by the Munich Security Conference and the Körber Foundation as one of 25 Munich Young Leaders.
Recording of the podcast
Our new episode focuses on the causes of migration, the role of African-European partnerships, the possible transformation of migration policy, and the responsibility of the Global North.
GPI: Climate change and environmental degradation are often a trigger for flight and migration. But climate change is not the sole trigger. Migration also raises question about responsibility, rapid action and how it can positively affect Europe. We are talking today with Ottilia Maunganidze, Head of Special Projects at the Institute for Security Studies. A champion of international law and human rights, she strives to promote peace and justice. We talk about how to do that in a moment. Before that, my colleague Christine Mhundwa from DW Deutsche Welle talks with former Senegalise Prime Minister Aminata Touré about a few basics you should know. Facts about migration – from an African perspective.
Christine Mhundwa: Thank you so much, Mimi. It’s really great to be talking to you, and I just want to introduce you to a wider audience. Danilo, I am happy and thrilled to be in the company of the former prime minister of Senegal Aminata Touré. This is somebody that I personally admire, one of the women on the continent that has really, really been a trail blazer. We’re opening up the conversation about migration. Mimi – as you are affectionately known to many in Senegal – I just wondered: from your perspective, when you look at and think about migration in in Africa, what do you consider to be the push factors? Bearing in mind that many people move within the continent before they even think about moving out of the continent. But what are those push factors causing people to leave their homes wherever they might be?
Aminata Touré: Well, first of all, thank you for the interview on this very important topic that turned into fantasy, into a debate that is not based on numbers. It’s very important that we sort of come back to the reality of the numbers. Because we have the feeling – and it’s of course agitated by some political groups for their own political interests – that Africa is about to invade Europe, which is completely wrong. When you look at the numbers, they are clearly showing that most Africans, West Africans, migrate to Africa. People from Sub-Saharan Africa people are a very small number among the migrant community in Europe. It is very, very clear. In Italy, for instance, they are of the migrant population far behind Europeans themselves or people from Asia. And you have the same numbers in there, even fewer in Germany. Maybe because of the colour of their skin they stand out in the crowd, but they don’t make the crowd. So, it’s very important that people know that most Africans migrate within Africa. 70% of Africans migrate within Africa, moving around from the West to the East or to the Centre. That’s what the numbers say. And let’s remember that we do have more than about 250 million international migrants and among them, you have a very tiny, small number made of Africans. So, what is being shown on TV is not the reality. We have to say that loud and clear. It’s about 8% and the rest come from Asia, from within Europe and from other parts of the world. Let’s not sort of fuel the fears of an African invasion of Europe. It’s just not the case. And that’s not what we want. What we want is to retain our own population here in the continent because we see it as an asset. Let me tell you that the median age in Africa is 20. It’s 42 in Europe; the average worldwide is 30. We’re even 10 years younger than the average age of the population and 22 years younger than the European population. We take it as a huge asset, and we don’t want our young people to cross the sea. I think that there really is a need to have a scientific debate on migration and to bring about the numbers and the reality. That’s the first thing I would like to say. The second one is that Africa is a very young continent, and we count on our young people to build our continent. We do have 200 million young people, and this is a huge asset for developing our economy, for developing our culture, etc. So, for those who don’t want them to come, let me tell you the good news: We want to retain them because we see them as a huge asset and we want our youngest, our brightest young people who are now in Europe, to come back. That is our ambition as we speak. But there is sort of a racial part of the discourse about immigration. Europe will need an addition of workers, that is for sure. I think it’s in the interest of Europe to have healthy debates on migration.
Christine Mhundwa: While we’re on that note, I’m thinking about young Africans, young people who don’t want to leave their home countries and want to stay where they are. They want to be able to make a living for themselves. Indeed, at the recent Dakar Forum, we heard from young people who addressed African leaders talking about the fact that they wanted a future for themselves on the continent. It wasn’t their innate desire to go abroad, necessarily. I want to ask you the question now as in how can we secure that future for young Africans? How do we put in place the structures, the security that young people need to be able to envision a future for themselves on the continent? Is there room for partnership with the Europeans, so an AU-EU partnership, to do that? And what does it look like in terms of building a better African so young people aren’t forced to have to look for a life outside of Africa?
Aminata Touré: Well, that’s what we are trying to do as decision makers, I mean former decision maker for myself. Let’s remember that before COVID, we had very high economic growth. We were around 6.5 percent in Senegal, and other parts of the continent were thriving. I invite all the European media to report on what is working in Africa. They tend to focus on what is not working. We have a growing middle class and Africa is now the last frontier of economic development. I mean, people from all over the world are competing here to do business in the continent. So, my response is: We want to bring economic development so young people see the opportunity in investing, in being part of the development of their own continent in the sector of agriculture, in industrialisation. There is a big ambition of the continent to industrialise itself instead of importing goods and materials from other parts of the world. We want to make sure that we produce what we need here. And that’s what explains the economic growth that we are seeing. Africa is booming in many parts of the continent. Of course, we still have our challenges. We don’t hide them under the carpet. We have to make progress. But this progress is going on and we need a positive narrative of what is going on, so young people clearly see that their future is here, that the present and the and the future are here. As a matter of fact, in some parts of Africa, we are seeing young Europeans coming down here. In many parts of lusophone Africa you see young people coming from Portugal, coming from other parts of the world trying to do business here. So, they clearly understand that there are a lot of opportunities here. We want our young people to grab them. We invest a lot in vocational education so they can meet the requirements of the job market, but also so that they can become entrepreneurs. We are also trying to sort of boost the opportunities within the cultural sector, like music. You can see how many countries are blooming. I think about Nigeria in the international scene when it comes to music. Other also offer themselves to strive. I talk about the agriculture, industrialisation, textile industry and technology, too. So if I were younger, there is no other place I would like to be than here in Africa.
Christine Mhundwa: Absolutely. And you know, when you talk about that burgeoning music scene: I was having an outlook conversation – we’re looking at what’s on the horizon for the continent this year. And the journalist I was talking to was really hoping for our arts and culture to come back, those music festivals we have in Africa, those cultural fairs. They not only bring us together but show another side to the continent, another narrative, which is so important because we really have thriving arts and culture. And it’s really refreshing to hear somebody from your position acknowledge the arts because a number of artists on the continent have felt that they’re not well appreciated. But to see the sector for the potential that it has from an economic growth perspective is really refreshing to hear. Last but not least, you effectively debunked the numbers about the narrative that is around migration, specifically migration to Africa. We have a new administration here in Germany. Chancellor Olaf Scholz of the SPD in partnership with the Greens and the liberal FDP. These are new to the scene, new to government, at least on the part of the FDP and the Greens. And for many of them, this will be the first time dealing with Africa at a policy level in government. And I just wondered what your message would be as a voice from the continent for some of those new government officials who are coming in, who are on the Africa desk, who are thinking about Germany-Africa relations and, perhaps to a wider extent, Europe-Africa relations. What would be your message around migration and, overall, the relations between our two continents and perhaps more closely, Germany and Africa?
Aminata Touré: I would advise them, as I said, to bring about reality in public discourse. They have to change the narrative. Bring the numbers! As I said, you have around 250 million international migrants and Africa only accounts for 21 million of it. We are 10% of international migration and most of it is internal migration within Africa. So, just say loud and clear that we are a tiny portion of your migrants in your own country. That’s one. Don’t let the extreme right wing fuel public discourse, taint it, colour it with racism and spoil the minds of people. That’s not the reality. Africans are in the continent, and they are travelling within their continent. Second, Chancellor Merkel came to Africa not long ago. I think there is a lot of opportunity, as I cited them, where Germany could build very strong economic links and scientific exchange with universities, I talked about culture as well. I think Africa is open for business, but on a win-win basis. Germans are known for trying to build a sustainable relationship, a fair relationship. So, they should invest more in exploring economic opportunities, to invest in the continent. That would be my message to them. I think they should look at Africa with a different lens. It is a blooming continent, it is a very active continent, it is a young continent that is trying to emerge in the international scene. We are trying to build upon the expertise and the brightness of our young people. Let me remind them again that 70% of the population in Africa is below the age of 35. This is a formidable asset. And that’s how we look at it.
Christine Mhundwa: Thank you so much for your insights. Coming to us from the Senegalese capital, Dakar.
GPI: Thank you, Christine Mundhwa in conversation with Aminata Touré, former Prime Minister of the Republic of Senegal. We will pick up a few of those thoughts in a moment as we talk with Ottila Maunganidze, expert in security and migration issued from ISS. Ottilia, let’s talk about migration. The term migration is valued differently in Africa and Europe. How is migration understood in each case?
Ottilia Maunganidze: On the African continent, for the most part, migration is viewed through a demographic and a developmental lens. This means it’s recognised as something that will happen, that people will move whether to seek better economic opportunities or simply because they want to relocate to a new area. Whereas from Europe’s perspective, migration from outside of the European continent is increasingly viewed from governance or security point of view. That means that for Europe, the questions around demographics and development do feature, but not as prominently as questions of security and access.
GPI: In Germany and many other European countries the topic of migration tends to be associated with fear, the loss of jobs and sometimes even loss of cultural identity. How can these fears be allayed?
Ottilia Maunganidze: I think in Europe, likewise in the rest of the world, we have seen the constructive role that migration has actually played, whether it is questions around employment or inclusion as the world gets more globalised around advancing a more cosmopolitan society. That’s not to say that questions around integration, of whether or not new migrants will take up jobs that would otherwise be reserved for nationals don’t come up. Those issues arise not only in Europe, but even here in the African continent. In terms of allaying the fears, I think the emphasis has to be on the actual developmental benefits. We’ve seen that migration encourages and stimulates trade, that it also encourages skills transfer and exchange of information beyond what would be limited to just your country. This in itself actually helps the long-term development, not only of countries, but of regions and the world. So, while there are some reasonable concerns that people can raise around a high influx of migrants, we ought to be focusing more on the benefits that arise from migration nationally, regionally and globally.
GPI: Migration is not a new phenomenon, but climate change is a somewhat more recent reason for flight and migration. How does this change the situation and responsibilities?
Ottilia Maunganidze: I’d like to correct something, Danilo. The idea that people move as a result of climate stresses is by no ways new. A lot of urbanisation on the African continent has been driven by people who used to live in rural areas, but whose livelihoods have been threatened by flooding or droughts. So, moving as a result of climate is not new. Perhaps what is new are the numbers of people that are displaced and who have no prospects of returning. Now, the only way to address the impact of climate is to address the triggers for climate change This is a longer and perhaps more difficult conversation to have because it is around carbon emissions. It is around burden sharing between countries that have historically contributed greater to climate change than those that have not. And it is also about recognising that the more our climate systems change, the more we need to think about newer ways of constructing our cities and our lived spaces so that they are sustainable. That’s a long-term project. In the immediate term, when you have a high influx of migrants as a result of a tsunami or as a result of drought or locusts, you need to have quicker mechanisms of response. It means you actually need to have available housing before people come into the area rather than trying to construct as people arrive, because we have seen, particularly in urban spaces, the grave impact that this has. It’s easier – and I’ll end on this point – easier where you already have a developed nation, but where countries are still developing, constructing new accommodation for people is not as easy and can take time, and it can result in other tensions between the people that were already living in that area and the incoming migrants, whether internal or international.
GPI: But does that mean that more people are migrating now because of recent climate change, than in the past?
Ottilia Maunganidze: It’s difficult to say, Danilo, because at least from research that the ISS has done, most people won’t attribute climate as the reason that they moved, so it’s then difficult to get the figures right. It’s often when there has been an extreme weather event. So for cyclones here in southern Africa that have affected countries like Zimbabwe, South Africa and Mozambique, people immediately cite climate as the cause for moving. This is different where the climate impact is a slower one, for example droughts: A lot of people will choose to remain at home for as long as they can. So when that climate event is the reason for moving, when interviewed, a lot of migrants don’t attribute climate as the reason they moved. They will, for example, cite difficulty in terms of their livelihoods. They will cite that they don’t have as easy a market as possible for their produce, but they don’t always say that the reason they moved was climate change. That makes it difficult. Perhaps this may be a good time to introduce some of the work that’s being done through a global risk foresight tool that has been developed by Adelphi in Germany together with the Potsdam Institute for Climate, and that is looking to actually map this. So, beyond relying on people saying that they moved as a result of climate change, actually looking at climate change, but also looking at the changing weather patterns and their connection to people on the move. Relying on science rather than qualitative feedback from people as to why they moved. So for now, I cannot say definitively that we have more people moving as a result of climate, but hopefully in the near future, we’ll be able to say that with great accuracy.
GPI: People rarely leave their countries voluntarily. What motivates people to flee dangerously? What needs to happen on the ground?
Ottilia Maunganidze: There are some people that do make their own choices to move voluntarily. But like you point out, a lot of people move unwillingly. The range of issues we’ve spoken already about: Climate and climate change, but also conflict or difficult financial and economic contexts and situations of violence lead to this. We see, for example, across the globe where there is conflict, violence and crime that more people flee those contexts seeking a better life, where it’s more peaceful, where there is less violence and less conflict.
GPI: The point is, how can migration be less deadly? What needs to happen so that people don’t lose their lives in the Mediterranean or in the Sahara, and finally, at the European borders?
Ottilia Maunganidze: People embark on dangerous and risky journeys because legal channels to migration are either restrictive or constrain their ability to relocate. I can’t imagine that there are people who prefer to cross the hot and unrelenting heat of the Sahara or cross the Mediterranean if legal channels were easier to access. That means a mindset shift in terms of border management and migration governance that allows for people to be able to move through legal channels so that people opt less to be smuggled across borders and more to cross with valid passports that get entry stamps at legitimate ports of entry. This requires a dual conversation, one that is held internally on the African continent and another that is held again internally in Europe, and then a final conversation between Europe and the African continent around encouraging legal pathways for migration and enhancing international protections. Without those three conversations, it will be extremely difficult to limit the number of people that are choosing dangerous, sometimes fatal journeys across Africa and into Europe.
GPI: The new German government wants Germany to become an immigration country. To what extent could an immigration law facilitate migration for both sides and solve problems such as the shortage of skilled workers in Germany?
Ottilia Maunganidze: You touch on a point around demographics. Germany has an aging population with the median age in the late 40s. Comparatively, the African continent is a young continent with a continental median age in the mid 20s, with some countries at the moment having a very low median age of 19 or 20 years. There is a lot in terms of labour that can be gained from the African continent, but to do it right and to ensure that we don’t have those challenges that we discussed earlier around suspicion when it comes to migrants. Around them taking certain jobs, for example. You need to have skills transfer. You need to be able to have the right kind of training and exchange between countries, but also between continents. We’ve already seen that beginning to happen through the Global Skill Partnership that a number of European countries, including Germany, are a part of. What this does is it looks at the gaps in the German market. Does Germany need more people in nursing, in farming, in information and communication technology? If the answer is yes, can they be able to get that labour from elsewhere? And can the African continent be able to upskill people in those industries? We’ve already seen skills transfers and exchanges between Germany and Morocco and Nigeria, for example. The efforts needs to be in better identifying at the source the available labour and how it can be upskilled. Again, that is a conversation that has to be a two-way street. It cannot be just for Germany to say “We need labour” without identifying where it would come from and whether those people are skilled and able to work in the German labour market. I’ll keep repeating this: It is about consultation, it’s about communication, and it’s about actually getting to address what is a challenge for Germany while also lessening the burden on the African continent. So it can be, and there’s great potential for it to be, a win-win. But in order for that to happen, in order for both sides to benefit, you do need to get into the room, identify the needed skills and how to be able to ensure the right skills transfer relying on legal labour migration pathways.
GPI: Do you see a historical obligation or responsibility for Europe in the area of migration because of its colonial past?
Ottilia Maunganidze: An interesting question. Of course, the African continent remains a less developed when compared to Europe, and a lot of that has to do with the history of colonialism and in some areas, the history of apartheid and extractive industries. That means that Africa has been the source of wealth for the European continent in the form of goods that have been mined, but also agriculturally, while the African continent itself does not benefit. While there’s a lot in terms of a need to redress the colonial past, there is also a need to address current extractive industries operating on the African continent without it benefiting the African continent as much. Now again, this requires individual countries with previous colonisers still operating on the African continen, to bear some responsibility. That’s not to say that there isn’t also an obligation and a responsibility on the African side to citizens to enhance development and to ensure that we accelerate that development. Because it can’t just be Europe alone to address the challenges on the African continent. There also has to be local ownership on the way forward, and to do that, there has to be introspection on the African continent as well while recognizing the responsibility as it relates to reparations and restoration on the part of Europe.
GPI: Ottilia, let’s come back to the new German government. What demands do you have in terms of migration policy?
Ottilia Maunganidze: I’ll restress this and maybe just abridge it. First, it is around recognising that securitised migration policies are actually creating more unintended negative consequences than they are ensuring proper migration governance. There has to be a rethink around externalising securitised policies onto the African continent because it’s impacting freedom of movement as well as trade. The result is underdeveloping the African continent. Germany, while it has been one of the European countries that has not pushed so much for a securitised policy, has an opportunity now to really be a strong voice against securitised migration policies. The second is around skilled and unskilled labour transfers and ensuring that Germany, as well as its partners on the European continent, promote legal labour migration pathways. Because by doing so, we can be able to reduce trafficking in persons as well as smuggling and are able to create safer and more orderly migration. Finally, it’s about having a conversation with Germany’s neighbours and I say Germany’s neighbours because Germany doesn’t have a border with Africa. It also doesn’t have a border with the Middle East. But we recognise that a lot of people will move through Germany’s neighbours towards Germany. So, it has to have a conversation with its neighbours and a constructive conversation with Africa, the Middle East, as well as greater Asia around ways to ensure labour transfer that doesn’t undermine development for the countries that people are coming from. Perhaps a related point is around enhancing remittances as a means through which African and Asian countries can benefit when people have migrated to Germany and other European countries. This means lessening the cost of sending money back to the African continent and to Asia, and actually encouraging people that are working in Germany to be able to contribute to development. If these regions – Africa, the Middle East and Asia – are better developed, we can be able to see less migration, but better migration as well. So, it is in Germany’s interest to encourage a safe, regular and orderly migration. It’s also in Germany’s interest to ensure international protection and to ensure skills transfers, rather than it being only a one-way street.
Judith Ramadan, Project Management