Contrary to what many still believe, it is now Africa that dominates migration flows to Europe and not the Middle East. The 2016 agreement ratified between the European Union and Turkey contributed to reduce the number of migrants from the Middle East. Africa is the first land of global emigration.
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Sub-Saharans represented 79% of the migrants that went to Italy between January 1, 2015 and June 30, 2017. Meanwhile, Spain has also become an important migration route as the number of migrants that crossed through the “Western Mediterranean route” has already doubled compared to 2016.
If some of our fellow citizens leave the continent to flee wars and political violence, we can not underestimate the weight of economic migrations. The causes are multiple and well-known: mass unemployment, especially among young people, political instability and bad governance, demographic pressure in urban areas, abandonment of rural areas by government, social injustice and a form of fantasy about the promises of Europe.
Among all the possible solutions, numerous econometric studies have demonstrated the relevance of agricultural development in the fight against poverty. In a continent that accounts for 65% of the world’s available arable land, for a population that is still more than 50% rural, this is the best way to provide people with training and employment, a decent income, and hence stabilization.
In a joint study, FAO and CIRAD estimate that nearly 380 million young people, including 220 million in rural areas, will enter the African labor market by 2030. If we do not offer professional opportunities to young people in rural areas, they will have no choice but to migrate to large African cities in precarious conditions or even to Europe. Agriculture and rural development are the pillars on which our response to the migration challenge in Africa must be based.
While 80% of farms in Africa are less than two hectares, linkages between smallholder farmers and agribusiness firms need to be strengthened to create a harmonious ecosystem. By setting up integrated value chains to capture a greater share of added value and by ensuring regional self-sufficiency for certain commodities, these agropoles will provide jobs for people, especially women and young people.
Within the framework of the perspectives defined by the African Union, the NEPAD Agency ensures the establishment of agropoles and infrastructure corridors at the heart of Agenda 2063 for the agricultural transformation of the continent. A better connection to regional markets is key to creating a sufficiently large pool of consumers to justify the necessary investments.
The demographic danger takes a second, more unexpected form: the agricultural labor force is ageing in Sub-Saharan Africa. On average, farmers are sixty years old in many countries while youth is massively affected by unemployment. This is an opportunity to carry out a generational transmission so that experienced farmers can transfer expertise to young people. I often say that a farmer’s life is no different from that of a business owner. Agriculture is particularly transformed by the digital era, which young people will better exploit than the current generation.
It is useless to look towards the Mediterranean when we want to talk about the migratory issue. It’s already too late. It is by acting directly on the causes of migration that the inhuman situations found in Libya and elsewhere will cease. Let’s start by offering a professional future to our fellow citizens and by creating the conditions for inclusive and sustainable growth.