How the G20 should change its approach to migration and development in Africa
The G20 has recently turned its eyes on Africa. Its finance ministers have launched a “Compact with Africa”, aiming to support economic development and strengthen relations with the continent. For Europe, Africa is particularly relevant because of its geographical proximity.
The G20 and the European policy establishment have become more interested in Africa because of a fear that ever increasing migration inflows are unpopular with the public. And indeed, irregular migration into the EU, mostly by boat, has increased substantially since 2008. But this irregular migration is still only a fraction of total immigration, which is actually fairly stable at around 500 000 per year.
At the moment, annual migration from Africa to the EU only represents 0.1% of the EU population. But the numbers will likely increase in the future. The population of Africa is expected to more than double by 2050, reaching 2.5 billion. The demographic pressures are the strongest in Sub-Saharan Africa, where fertility rates are exceptionally high at 5 children per woman and where the average income per person is below $3500 in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms. For these reasons, emigration will continue, and Europe will remain an attractive destination.
Many explain this migration through the large difference in income between Africa and Europe. This leads many to believe that economic development is the best way to reduce migration. But unfortunately this conclusion is too simple, as development and migration interact in complex ways. In fact, in very poor countries emigration often increases with rising GDP per capita.
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