Emigration, Bleeding the African Continent Dry


January 2, 2006 19:07 | by Emilie Rive

Looting of raw materials, single crop cultivation : the responsibility of multinational corporations for Africa's suffering.

Friday 25th November, 2005 : 22 bodies found off the coast of Sicily. Sunday 27th November, 2005 : 22 more bodies disappearing in the Straits of Gibraltar, destined to remain forever anonymous. Did they come from Africa ? Doubtless, many of them did, like many who attempt to cross the barbed wire at Ceuta and Mellila. Africa, "exodus heartland," has for long been the dependable source for satisfying cheap short-term labour needs. French firms headhunted - the word seems particularly appropriate - directly, often bypassing official channels. Then the oil crisis served as a pretext for halting immigration, but the agreements at the time spoke of a "temporary decision", and "deploying every means to eliminate the 'African causes' ".

These agreements have become a dead letter. "That is when the freedom to come and go was taken away, and that immigration became inflexible in France" Sidi Tidiane Gueye, president of the Federation of Workers from Africa, explains. Today a fear of black people, which is not entirely the result of chance factors, has taken hold, and the government and the Interior Minister are exploiting this. If we were to believe them, "our" immigration is not capable of being assimilated: it is disturbing, the immigrants themselves are untrainable, and they are largely illiterate. Raising the question of training is an alibi, an excuse.

What they want is "value added immigration". But it is unacceptable that each year nearly 64,000 executives leave our countries. Alfa Omar Konaré, President of the Commission of the Union Africaine, speaks frankly of a "slave trade in brains". It's a well-organised plan which aims to nullify Africa's right to develop. The source of poverty is the theft of resources. The emigration of the poorest takes place above all towards neighbouring countries or regions. When an African leaves for France he or she needs some capital which will not then be used on the spot, even though it will produce benefits later.

"Africa's poverty is artificial" Sidi Tidiane Gueye points out. "Foreign businessmen and multinationals flourish without generating any real spin-offs for the population. Cotton, oil and minerals are obvious examples. The raw materials are not processed on the spot, and technology transfer just doesn't happen. Multinationals take no part in job-training and in the creation of jobs in countries which they have moved into. Why be surprised that people leave ?"

This problem is one that has to be solved by adopting a different immigration policy. There is an alternative to this policy of security and repression : why not a policy founded really on cooperation, well thought-out and decentralized ? Why not invest in the process of co-development ? We must understand that the migration of people around the world is a global issue, that there are 200 million migrants, two-thirds of whom are in poor countries, and that the worsening of poverty can only increase the pressure. The enemy is not immigration but poverty.

Emilie Rive is a journalist on the French daily L'Humanité, where this article first appeared. It was translated by Maurice Brasher. To read more articles from L'Humanité translated into English, go to http://www.humaniteinenglish.com/

See also