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Brexit (Britain’s vote to exit the European Union) happened and the world suspected that something was amiss given the celebrated achievements of the bloc, and that the UK would lose out once it left the European Union. And then Donald Trump won the United States’ Presidency, a feat he achieved on a dose of racism, nationalism, anti-immigration, anti-establishment, anti-globalisation promises. Now there are real fears that the global world order is in for a serious and rude [re]awakening that might torpedo a lot of events, including posing serious threats to Migrants, migration and development.

It is noted that migration is a historical human phenomena that will continue to occur as humanity exist. It has benefited humanity and civilisations. Commentators affirm that migration impacts positively upon all stakeholders. They allude to the fact that sending countries and the migrants themselves benefit, because migrants find jobs, develop their skills, earn some money and remit part of it to their countries of origin, while destination countries benefit from the skills and labour they receive from migrants. It was migrants that rebuilt Europe after WWII; today, they are also providing a solution to the current demographic gap of most European countries which in essence are increasingly becoming aging societies.

In relation to remittances with respect to Africa, the World Bank records that remittance from African migrants is worth almost $61 billion (2013 figures), which is 10% of the global share. Correspondingly, millions of persons and households have been insulated and retrieved from the poverty trap as remittances contribute to providing basic essentials for several families such as food, clothing and shelter, medical and education services, as well as financing for small and micro business start-ups.

Others opine that migration is viewed as a positive factor, because it leads to a balance on the labour market and because international labour migration is expected to contribute to reduced inequality and to lead to a better distribution of the advantages of globalisation.

It is this last assertion of the impacts of migration on globalization – that Brexit and the election of Donald Trump in the November 2016, US election – are challenging. Yes, it is no doubt that migrants are going to be at the receiving end. For African migrants, the coming months will be tough and daunting. Trump promised to deport 3 million (“criminal”) migrants in his first 100 days in office. Already, Europe is perfecting plans to commence the deportation of African migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers. How can a more “open” Africa for Africans and a conscious rethinking of globalisation benefit [African] migrants and impact development positively? What role exists for trade union organisations in migration governance? How can they advance a right-based approach in the interest of migrants as part of the responses to these threats?

Socio-economic conditions, poverty, political factors, security and stability, environmental and climate change effects, as well as globalisation and technology changes are known push and pull factors that drive migration. What one notices is that migration discourse in Africa is seen from a narrow context of Africans leaving Africa for destinations outside the continent. But of course, the bulk of African migrants are in Africa! The International Labour Organisation (ILO) puts the estimates of migrant workers in Africa at 8.4 million in 2010, out of a total of 19.3 million migrants (persons living outside their country of origin) in Africa that year. For the World Bank, 31 million African people were living in countries other than their birth place, with 77% of the 31 million from Sub-Saharan Africa.
An African Union report showed that Sub Saharan Africa has an intra-regional rate estimated at 65%. Intra-regional mobility (migration within the Regional Economic Communities -RECs) represents more than 4 out of 5 migrants in ECOWAS. The proportion moving within the same sub-region is over 80% in West Africa, 65% in Southern Africa, 50% in Central Africa, 47% in East Africa, although only 20% in North Africa.
To accelerate integration and development, mobility within the continent needs to be further aided. It is therefore mind-warming to note that the African Union is moving within this frame of thinking. At the June 2015 25th AU Summit in Johannesburg, the AU took a stance on the need to pursue the effective management of migration issues. African leaders committed to the achievement of set objectives by 2018. These included amongst others: the speeding up of the implementation of continent wide visa free regimes including issuance of visas at ports of entry for Africans; expedition of the operationalization of the African Passport that would as a start facilitate free movement of persons that will be issued by Member States; improvement of labour mobility by establishing harmonized mechanism thereby ensuring that higher education in Africa is compatible and comparable to enable recognition of credentials that will facilitate transferability of knowledge, skills and expertise; and operationalization of existing action plans to combat Human trafficking and smuggling of migrants.
The ITUC-Africa has since run with these commitments. For instance, it wrote to African governments urging them to move with speed to achieve visa on arrival for persons bearing African passports. So far, we are seeing results. For instance, South Africa has eliminated transit visa requirement for Africans transiting through her borders to other African territories. Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, Benin, Togo, Mozambique, Botswana are some of the countries that have improved and making provision for visa on arrivalfor African nationals. Of course, Rwanda is still the most celebrated being the first to implement this initiative. The country is currently planning to eliminate visa requirements for Africans.
In addition to the financial remittances from an “open Africa”, a positive value accruable is the gains attributed to the social transfers (the flow of information and ideas): countries of origin are said to be able to benefit from brain gain, not to mention the positive effects of return migration. The improved understanding of different cultures will also help to reduce disagreements and conflicts, thus promoting peace and stability, ingredients Africa needs to drive and accelerate development.
Another concern is the current European Union strategy that suggests that Europe will strongly consider and deploy deportation as a means to address her migration crisis. The tone from the EU-AU Valetta migration summit was pretty much morphing this idea. Yes, we are seeing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s response to repair what is (shame though) considered her bad move on refugees accommodation. She is meeting with African leaders (Nigeria, Mali, Ethiopia and Niger) to “slowdown” migration from Africa. Already, Right Wing parties like the National Front in France is benefiting from the Brexit-Trump effects simply on account of their anti-migration-pro-White race stances.
To achieve this deportation approach, Europe is ready to offer resources for infrastructure development, security support and contribute to the green climate fund to address climate change. What is lacking or perhaps ignored is the position of pursuing a voluntary return by migrants. But if the idea is to assist developing countries to make their countries economically, socially and politically conducive for their people to live and work in is the idea, the question then is, will throwing money alone at the problem, help solve the crises? What are some of the more practical and effective ways of doing this?
It might be worth it to dwell on the need to rethink neo-liberal globalisation. Globalisation has left the majority (99%) behind and gravely deepened inequality within and between countries. This much was echoed with a strong caution by Forbes Magazine Report when it noted that “capitalism has generated massive wealth for a few but has devastated the planet and failed to improve the well-being of the human race on an unacceptable scale”. It warned that “unless it changes, Capitalism will starve humanity by 2050”. Europe should lead in this urgency to rethink the current neo-liberal dominance that preys on people and the environment.
Related to the above will be the need to look at how trade and investment mechanisms depress economic, social and political realities in developing economies. For Africa, the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) for instance, is a threat to the industrialisation aspirations of Africa. Its implementation might exacerbate migration push.
Similarly, the present ‘second wave’ of privatisation is yet another threat. Of course, the Washington Consensus of the 1980s effectively crippled and reversed Africa’s industrialisation surge. The pressure on African governments to open her Services Sectors to privatisation will worsen poverty and miseries on the continent, thus people will remain willing to get to Europe and elsewhere even if they die trying. Securing policy spaces for states to intervene in the protection of her citizens, especially in the roll-out of public social services provisions is critical in the middle and long term management of migration.
Looking inwards, African governments must commit to decent employment generation. Demographically, young people populate the continent, and most of them are jobless whilst others are underemployed. A commitment to implement robust education policies that combine vocational training with tertiary education will help address the unemployment crises. Here, we can learn some lessons from Germany that emphasizes vocational education for young people that is largely responsible for youth absorption into the labour market.
Apathy towards democracy in Africa is growing by the day. People continue to experience the inability to reap the dividends of investing in democracy. To the contrary, political positions are seen as means to quick riches for the political class, their cronies and the elite. Accountability in governance is needed. Here, Europe can support the quest of the African people to achieve transparency in governance. For instance, secrecy jurisdictions in Europe that abet the hiding and investment of stolen assets for Africans and from Africa should be discouraged. Halting tax dodging by big businesses so as to grow Africa’s revenues and economies in her development aspirations will be another.
For trade unions and Non-State Actors, a tireless advocacy for the protection of the rights of migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers and their families is fundamental. Xenophobic attacks, exploitation, exclusions and other abuses against them must be prevented. And when they happen, accountability must be demanded. Trade unions will do well by organising migrants so as to provide them voice and representation and by so doing, can contribute to the quest to protect migrants from the stormy days ahead.
Written by Akhator Joel Odigie, an activist and Coordinator Human and Trade Union Rights at the African Regional Organisation of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC-Africa).
[email protected]; [email protected]

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