EU should focus more on regional governance in Africa

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Only a small amount of African migrants look to Europe's shores, intra-Africa migration is actually the norm. [DG ECHO/Flickr]

Migration is a priority issue all the way from Oslo to Cape Town, so the EU and Africa need to work together more effectively in order for it to be better managed in the future. Aderanti Adepoju describes how this can be done.

Professor Aderanti Adepoju is the founder and coordinator of the Network of Migration Research on Africa (NOMRA).

At present, over 31 million Africans are migrants who live outside the country of their birth, the majority within the African continent itself. In 2015, about 14% of arrivals in Europe were African migrants.

Several migrant related events in recent years, most notably perhaps the April 2015 shipwreck that claimed the lives of 800 Africans off the coast of Italy, have significantly raised the discourse on migration to centre stage in both public and political arenas, leading to the Valletta Euro-Africa Summit in November 2015.

The challenges posed by African migration are many; stretching from risks of brain drain to a lack of orderly, legal and effective labour migration. The question is therefore what the EU can do to support Africa to properly manage migration?

In the study ‘Migration within and from Africa’, published today (12 September) by the Swedish Migration Studies Delegation (Delmi), I argue, among other things, that the EU should focus more on regional governance in Africa.

Africa now experiences all types of migratory configurations within and outside the continent. More than half of Africans that migrate internationally do so within Africa, and only 27% go to Europe and other countries. Intra-Africa migration is thus the norm.

In West Africa, 70% of migrants relocate within that sub-region, 65% in Southern Africa, 50% in Central Africa, and 47% in East Africa. The exception is North Africa, where Europe and the Middle East are the favoured destinations.

There are eight African sub-regional economic organisations, most of them dominated by the economy of a single country, and movements of people have mainly been directed towards these countries, namely South Africa and Botswana in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC); Gabon and Democratic Republic of Congo in the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS); Kenya in the East African Community (EAC); Côte d’Ivoire and Nigeria in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and Libya in the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU).

The three remaining sub-regional economic organisations are COMESA (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa), CSSS (Community of Sahel-Saharan States) and IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development).

This being the case, although increasingly a global phenomenon, migration in Africa should be addressed within a regional framework since these sub-regional cooperation unions are the building blocks of the larger African Economic Community.

In its support of regional governance in Africa, the EU should focus on supporting and reinforcing many of the instruments that exist between members of the European Union, not least to facilitate labour migration within Africa.

The migration-attractive countries have the potential to greatly promote the flow of labour migration, especially in communities with agreements that provide for free flow of skilled labour and rights of establishment in other member countries.

The frameworks developed by ECOWAS (through the ECOWAS Common Approach on Migration) and the African Union (the African Common Position on Migration and Development) could be adapted by other Regional Economic Communities (RECs) in managing organised labour migration, both inter- and intra-regionally.

Functional sub-regional and regional economic organisations could facilitate intra-regional labour mobility, and promote self-reliant development in Africa. Recent attempts to formally ratify the memorandum to set up an African Common Market by 2025 should be viewed in this context.

To the extent that migration is, and will continue to be, South-South, including within regional economic communities, concerted efforts should be made to strengthen the institutional frameworks of the eight regional economic communities, and also to promote managed inter-REC labour migration through multilateral agreements built on the effective demand and supply of required skills.

The on-going processes of regional economic integration in Africa, through regional economic communities, are designed in large part to facilitate labour mobility and economic development. Many regional communities or community precursors now exist, including the above-mentioned ECOWAS, SADC and EAC, as well as regional dialogues such as the Migration Dialogue for West Africa, and the Migration Dialogue for South Africa.

It is potentially very fruitful to follow these examples, intensifying the efforts of African states to enter into bilateral, multilateral and regional agreements. These agreements have an important role to play in promoting labour standards and reducing irregular movements, mostly to Europe.

What role then, can the EU play within this scenario? Capacity deficit, both human and capital, tends to constrain the full implementation of existing and new initiatives. Current efforts to adopt an African common passport, similar to that of the EU, and promote a protocol on the free movement of persons should be encouraged and supported by the EU.

EU countries should also assist in revamping vocational and technical education and training in Africa to minimise the mismatch between skills and available jobs, and promote employment in small and medium-sized enterprises, thereby reducing the urge of youths to emigrate.

Migration data remains fragmentary and incomplete, hindering comprehensive evidence-based migration policies. EU countries should thus usefully tailor their assistance towards the collection and processing of such data. In addition, support by the EU for the establishment of an Africa Advisory Board on Migration Management would help Africa stakeholders discuss and develop appropriate consensus on migration development issues.

The example of the Swiss government’s support for the annual national migration dialogue in Nigeria should be replicated and expanded to good effect.

Partnership and cooperation between the EU and African countries should be the driving motto for shared responsibility on migration issues. Only then can we hope to see better migration management in the foreseeable future.

Subscribe to our newsletters