Start with human rights, democracy to help Africa, expert says

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (C), Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno (2-R) and EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini (L) sit for a meeting at the Elysee Palace. Paris, 28 August. [Thibault Camus/EPA]

Only increased EU-Africa cooperation on education, employment and integration of youth can defuse the migration time bomb in preparation for the next decades, but the starting point is democracy, the president of the Hellenic-African Chamber told EURACTIV Greece in an interview.

Sotiris Mousouris is the former Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations and President of the Hellenic-African Chamber. He participated in last year’s EU-Africa Business Forum, held in Brussels, with the presence of key business actors and political representatives.

He spoke to EURACTIV Greece’s journalist Eirini Sotiropoulou.

Do you believe that migration flows from Turkey to Greece will increase if the Mediterranean corridor closes from a possible EU-Africa agreement?

I think that sooner or later the south would come to the north. I predicted that 20 years ago and unfortunately, there are many problems along the way. What is happening in Libya is unacceptable, inhumane. The problem lies in the fact that Africa is overpopulated. At the same time, there is poor income redistribution and inequality. Therefore, these flows are inevitable.

The issue is how we can keep the young people in Africa. It is imperative: A very careful assistance program from the north, from the developed countries to intensive issues. Also, education constitutes a way with which we will manage to keep them in their own country. Alternatively, I do not believe that this flow will stop easily and I don’t know what else we can do within the humanitarian framework.

The current population in Africa is expected to double by 2050, requiring about 23 million jobs in order to sustain growth. At the same time, unemployment is high among young Africans, who lack the skills they need so as to meet the ever-evolving labour market.

Exactly, the population will double from 1 billion to 2 billion. There is currently a strong presence of China in Africa, which, however, has its own goals and serves its own interests. Europe demonstrates determination and willingness to intervene in Africa with very carefully selected and targeted programs, both for education and for youth employment.

In what areas should EU-Africa cooperation be strengthened?

First of all, on governance, human rights and democracy. I think there must be more cooperation in these areas, because in Africa, especially since Mandela and his successor, Thabo Mbeki – unfortunately not with the current President of South Africa – a great impetus was given to the democratisation of the African continent and we had successes in many countries.

This should lead Europe to strive to strengthen the cooperation because in a democratic state, there is usually growth and a fairer distribution of income.

From then on, an engagement in the economic sector with programmes on labour market absorption, as well as technical and other education programmes for Africans will help.