The European Union proposes to open up markets for Africa, in the hope of reducing migration flows.
Africa is the world’s second largest and second- most populous continent. The continent is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, the Isthmus of Suez and the Red Sea to the northeast, the Indian Ocean to the southeast and the Atlantic Ocean to the west.
Africa is known for its trade routes throughout history. North Africa was a central point for trade activities to the entire Mediterranean region. Outside of Egypt, trade was generally controlled by the Phoenicians who dominated North Africa. Much of the eastern trade was controlled by the Greeks, including along the Red Sea with Ethiopia.
The Egyptian City of Alexandria was known as one of the greatest hubs for Mediterranean trade for many centuries. Nubia, in Sudan traded with interior African countries such as Chad and Libya, as well as with Egypt, China, India and the Arabian Peninsula.
Despite these trade routes through history Africa’s GDP today is barely a third of the United States’ GDP. However, the World Bank expects that most African countries will reach ‘middle income’ status by 2025.
EU and Africa over the past years have had several frameworks in place for trade. The Cotonou Agreement is in between the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States. It aims at eradicating poverty while contributing to sustainable development and gradual integration of the ACP countries into the world economy.
The second framework is the joint Africa- EU strategy adopted in 2007. This strategic partnership is focused on peace and security, trade, regional integration and human rights. These are a few among many other frameworks between the two continents.
EU has decided to open its doors to the African markets completely, in hopes of reducing migration. Africa is a country ridden with poverty, ethnic conflicts, widespread corruption and despotic regimes. These are the few causes for the dire economic problems in the continent. The decolonization of Africa was rife with instability aggravated by cold war conflicts.
Infrastructure is another problem in Africa. Their lack of basic infrastructure does not provide for basic life in most parts as these countries are sparsely populated and landlocked. Due to these reasons, investment in infrastructure and maintenance becomes expensive; hence, demotivating foreign investments.
All the above-stated reasons are causes for migration largely from African nations to Europe. They also migrate due to requirements of cheap labour in the informal sector. Europe became a preferred destination to migrate to in search of better living standards. Immigration has been a growing problem for EU which has caused them to look at innovative ways to send migrants back to Africa.
Opening up of markets for African goods will ensure employment for millions in the continent. German Development Minister Gerd Müller also suggested that as part of an agreement with the EU, African countries should take back migrants who entered the bloc without proper approval. In return, the EU should open up avenues for Africans to come to the EU for legal employment.
Only around 1,000 out of 3.5 million German companies are active in Africa, Müller said, highlighting the massive potential in the continent of 1.2 billion people. On the other hand, China, Russia and Turkey have aggressively entered the Africa market. This idea was supported by a number of farmers and Angela Merkel.
The idea of quota- and duty- free African agriculture exports to the EU was also supported by the German Farmers Association.
Our assessment is that these trade agreements help in setting up legal employment in Africa but might also help in improving their standards of living. We believe that such agreements might help Africa reach its Sustainable Development Goals.