In an interview with the German newspaper Die West on Wednesday, March 29, 2017, Mr. Antonio Tajani, the newly elected President of the European Parliament (January 17, 2017) said that “Africa runs the risk of becoming a Chinese colony.”
He goes on to say that China is only interested in Africa’s commodities. He then raises a hysterical alarm by predicting that waves of tens of millions of African migrants will be invading Europe very soon. And to put the final nail on the coffin, he proposed that Europe build “hospitality camps” to retain Africans on the continent, with hospitals and schools. The facilities would be under the control of UN and European forces.
The President of the European Parliament took a big step into an old narrative of fear of the “unknown” by warning Africa about Chinese invasion… just as American school children were told in the past that if they failed to buy humanitarian stamps, waves of Chinese would come and take their lands and candies.
China is a late comer in Africa but has surpassed every international “African partner” by the volume of its exchanges with the continent. The more than $220 billion of China – Africa trade – ten years ago, it amounted to about $60 billion -contribute greatly to the economies on the continent.
This has a positive impact on the lives of millions, helping to create a middle class, the primary social foundation for democracy. The best way to “help Africa” in countering world domination would be for Mr. Tajani to call for adherence and implementation of the outcomes of the Addis Ababa 2015 Conference on Development Financing, to end trade-raid on the continent’s commodities and stop capital flight.
In March 2006, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, responding to a question about Chinese invasion of Africa at a lecture in Washington, DC, said: “All I can tell you about the Chinese, is that when they promise, they deliver and they deliver on time.” This may be what drives Africa to China.
Suggesting that Europe and the United Nations should build “hospitality” centers in Africa to house Africans so that they would not invade Europe is but a reminder of Nazi concentration camps. Would the people in the camp be free to leave or would they be allowed to bring along their extended families? Has Mr. Tajani thought of a solution in case other “hungry Africans” decide to invade the camps?
The President of the European Parliament seems not to have basic information on migration, and how many Africans try to migrate to Europe.
At the Dakar, Senegal Conference on Migrations, Governance and Development in West Africa in October 2016, official statistics showed that only 13 percent of African migrants seek to move outside of the continent, with majority of them doing so legally. Eighty seven percent of Africans migrants go from one country to another as they have for centuries.
Mr. Tajani should not just worry about China in Africa. Every country in Europe does business with China, every European President or Prime Minister runs to Beijing in search of lucrative contracts, why can’t Africans also go there?
It is always about the market. In 2015, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said that “the perception that China is the new colonizer is a complete misrepresentation [.] Achievement of mutual benefits is the basis of Sino-African cooperation.”
Thousands of young Africans drowning in the Mediterranean Sea is a moral scar on the conscious of both African and European leaders. It’s not an image to be used to reinforce xenophobic sentiments. Since Europe fears waves of Africans, it should work with Africa in the spirit of true partnership towards sustainable solutions that include international economic justice. The death of thousands of refugees should not be waved as scarecrow.
There is something deeply demeaning, disrespectful and condescending in referring to Africa as a playground, where China does what she wants, where Europe could build and maintain d(r)etention camps while in the background exploitation of the continent’s resources continues.
Africa and Europe have had more than 1000 years of history of exchanges which mostly favored Europe. Now, Africa wants to look elsewhere, for new solutions and it should be left alone to make its own choices and its mistakes. Africa has learned from Europe may be new realities dictate new choices.
In these times of rising extremism and anti-immigrants’ sentiments, the words of Mr. Janine are very worrisome.
Abdoulaye W. Dukulé, Contributing Writer