By Muyiwa Adetiba
Economic migration did not just start today or yesterday. The holy book gave an account of how the Israelites got to Egypt. It was an economic migration.
They were free born people, who migrated to Egypt in search of food and survival because their leaders squandered their resources during the years of plenty.
Egyptian leaders on the other hand understood the economic cycles of bursts and booms, and prepared for the proverbial ‘rainy day’—or sunny and barren days as the case was at that time. Economic migration is more often than not, a manifestation of bad leadership.
The Israelites were few in number when they left Israel. In fact, they were extended members of only one man. The Egyptians therefore found it easy to accommodate them. They were put in a lush part of Egypt.
But they committed some of the sins of most economic migrants. They over stayed. Even when the lean years were over, rather than go back home to pick up the pieces, they stayed behind to enjoy the luxuries and provisions of a competent and fore sighted leadership. Secondly, they indulged too much in the pleasures of the night and multiplied in numbers. So what initially started as an economic accommodation of a neighbour in need, became a source of cheap labour, then slavery and eventually, a threat to the extent that newly born babies had to be killed.
This must have gone on for at least half a century since it predated the birth of Moses who as a full grown man, led his people to freedom. This economic cycle of cheap labour is still with us today in various forms. What starts as a need on both sides becomes competition as the migrants begin to demand for space—economic, social and cultural space. It leads to fear of domination and eventually culminates into various forms of xenophobia.
Brexit is a form of xenophobia. The populist waves currently sweeping across Europe are a form of xenophobia. Donald Trump rode to power on the crest of a form of xenophobia. The resentment and killings in southern Africa are a form of xenophobia. ‘Ghana must go’ was a form of xenophobia. The common thread in all of the examples is the fear of losing control—economic, political, cultural and even population.
The thought of serfs of yesterday becoming co-owners of today is unpalatable to those who see themselves as original settlers. Yet, the paradox, is that it is a trend that will continue for as long as ageing settlers don’t pro-create and renew their earth.
Structures have to be maintained. That takes labour. Service has to be provided. That takes labour. New infrastructures have to be erected. That takes labour. Revenue has to be generated. That takes labour. Imagine what UK would look like if all the migrants in their first, second, third generations had to be sent packing. Or US. Or France. They would be totally unrecognisable. Besides, the sense of entitlement of the settlers has made many of them to become lazy and unproductive.
Many of them shun menial but necessary chores. Ideally, what many of them would want is to keep the economic migrants as hewers of wood and drawers of water for ever. That has not happened despite their best efforts at limiting the advancement of migrants through different glass ceilings. So they will keep needing economic migrants. And these migrants will keep evolving to cause them angst.
On the other hand, it is a fact and a paradox of life, that the poor are the ones over populating the earth. It is among those who cannot afford a decent meal or shelter that you will find families with seven, eight or nine children. Those in Europe who can afford to feed a football team comfortably make do with a couple of kids or nothing. So Europe, with their wealth is shrinking in population, and developing countries with their poverty, are bursting with underfed children. To make matters worse, Europe had in the past deliberately deepened the poverty of Africa for its selfish needs. And if possible, it will do it again, by encouraging malleable and corrupt leadership. Europe needs cheap raw materials and cheap labour.
It needs inept and corrupt leadership to ensure their steady supply. If Africa is to get out of the vicious cycle of slave rearing however couched, it will have to do it by itself without the help of erstwhile colonial masters. I am thus amazed and amused when people turn to Europe for succour. The truth is that Europe needs the very things—in labour and materials—that Africa needs to be self-sustaining.
Last month, a group of Nigerian Christians went to Israel on a ten-day pilgrimage. Within the first three days, three people had disappeared. This was despite the thorough screening that was supposed to have been done to weed off suspects. This was in spite of the fact that passports and tickets were collected at point of entry.
These defectors without passports and tickets, have unwittingly surrendered themselves to a life of slavery. If what is rumoured that the defectors will get a certificate of short stay, renewable every three months is true, then there is a tacit connivance by the authorities. This can only make sense because there is a need for cheap labour which can be monitored and controlled. They can then be pushed out whenever the need arises or a fresher supply comes.
So the caravan of economic slaves will continue to arrive into Europe through land, sea and air because Europe needs them. What Europe wants is to be able to control the influx, not to stop it despite its rhetoric. It is therefore up to developing countries especially Africa, to stop modern day slavery into Europe. It can do it through a series of self-sustaining policies beginning with political education. To start with, Africans need to stop breeding like rabbits.
Let the West find its own labour or pay for it. Then it needs to stop depending on hand-outs. Its leaders should stop looking up to the West and storing its treasures in Western coffers. It also has to stop craving for the things it cannot produce and be satisfied with what it has. Intra African economic cooperation has to go beyond lip service.
In fact, it has to be aggressively pursued from now onwards. African leaders have to first, look up to the continent, before looking up to the West. Opening up its economy to the West serves no one, but the West. Africa is one of, if not the richest continent in the world. There is no reason for it to be the cheapest source of labour to the world.