Poverty in industrialized countries: A priority for the G7 and the G20

The development of Africa has once again been subject of discussions of the G7 and G20 summits this year in Italy as well as in Germany. In their minds they are occupied with the question of how to address the “root causes of irregular migration” of tens of thousands of Africans to Europe. For both Italy and Germany, it is a question of facilitating investments by their business companies in Africa to create jobs with the illusion of being able to guarantee decent work to the 350 million young people aged 15 to 24 who populate the continent. Ironically, it was the same governments who, through the international financial institutions (IMF and World Bank) and through their Club of Creditor Countries (Club de Paris), pushed African countries to austerity programs called “adjustment” which have hitherto impeded the creation of viable jobs for African youth. It is hard to believe in the good faith of these new saviors of Africa who struggle to find a solution to the unemployment of theirs in Europe.

Behind the benevolent advertising campaign to save the lives of the “poor African migrants” before reaching the Mediterranean Sea, it is no less a matter for these countries to move towards the promising market of Africa. Indeed, economists’ reports continue to boast of the potential for growth in the future of this continent which fuels the predatory thirst of international finance. This is demonstrated by the targeted approach of Italy and Germany in their “Compact” or “Marshall plan” for some strategic countries on the continent and not necessarily those most in need. The same approach is revealed in the new investment plan that Europe is selling to the African continent and which will be the subject of the next African Union – European Union summit in Cote d’Ivoire in November. The summit will address, among other things, employment opportunities for African youth. Obviously, it is  from the G7 and G20 African development plans a strategy for seeking a new lease of life for their crisis-prone economic system, the revival of which may depend on the resources of the African “poor continent” and of the youth of its population.

Since the subprime crisis in 2008 and the formalization of the G20 to ensure the new global economic governance, the solutions are still waited for. The promise to combat tax havens, the need for taxation of financial transactions, the urgent need to recast international economic institutions and the ordering of the international financial and banking system are not prioritized in action. The solutions that could really transform the lives of people on our planet, create viable jobs, bring social and fiscal justice to the North and the South are set aside. Instead, the search for maximum profit for capital, stock market speculation, and the growth of the wealth of the rich to the detriment of the social and the environment are still valued. But in the South, as in the North, the social crisis is growing. The World is experiencing increasing harshness with the risk of conflicts and rebellions of new social classes composed of those who rely on precarious work to just survive and whose job is constantly threatened. To camouflage this critical situation, with the help of the media, The governments constantly brandish the scarecrow of “terrorism“. They also stigmatize the foreign “thief of employment” to make them wrongly bear the burden of the crisis and justify crazy spending for “security and defense of the territory“. Citizens feel caught up in a system defended by a political-economic-securitized–financial alliance and, in response, they are increasingly boycotting elections, which do not offer alternatives in their eyes or a hope for a better life in future.

Highlighting Africa at the G7 and G20 summit is hiding the growing misery in the industrialized countries: That of the unemployed workers in Europe and the United States, victims of neoliberal globalization, the relocation of companies to markets where cheaper labour forces are exploited and the use of systematic automatization. In the few skills crafts and trades present in supermarkets, markets, etc., machines replace men for even more profit on capital. The misery of young educated people who have been left in precarious jobs as their skills are not met by any market demand remain more than ever in crisis about their future. The misery of highly indebted workers is laying in societies that offer them a race to leisure as the only escape from the alienation of work. The misery of the students who, even before they start working, find themselves under the burden of the debt because the system makes them understand that if they want to have a good life in this society they must start by going into debt for their studies. They are therefore obliged to make a bet on the future in these societies which become a “giant casino“. Luckily some will find a job and pay off their debts throughout their lives or by misfortune they will incur new debts or have no recourse other than suicide.

The last of the miseries of these societies and the most astonishing is the loss of humanist values. Societies that have transformed solidarity towards the foreigner of passage into an offense punishable by the law. Societies that rejoice in refusing humanitarian visas or asylum applications to people fleeing death. Societies in which praise for “rigorous” religious doctrines, such as in the Middle East and beyond the Atlantic, “totalitarian” secularism or “populist” political parties, calling for hatred of the other as in Europe, is commonplace. Rigorism, Populism, Totalitarianism. The real problems in the G7 and G20 countries are just as alarming as the tens of thousands of young Africans sacrificed at the altar of security migration policies. So when are G7 or G20 summits devoted to misery in industrialized countries?

(This article is written by Samir ABI, Permanent Secretary of the West African Observatory on Migrations)

2 thoughts on “Poverty in industrialized countries: A priority for the G7 and the G20

  1. Good perspective to the G20 current adventure to EU’s Emergency Trust Fund experiment. To think that European entrepreneurs should be encouraged to throw money into Africa is first a narrow calculation. This is because capital has not and will never be a philanthropist. Of course, the real intention is to frame in a way to say Africa needs 80 million jobs per year to keep and maintain employment for their peoples, especially the youth, so Europe is inviting her investors to seek out African markets as this is helping to keep Africans on the continent and by so doing you make money. Truth is capital will only come to where it is secured and can make crass accumulation.

    Secondly, there is still the missing narrative, at least from the way EU is constructing her Africa migration intervention that somewhat discounts and underplay the fact that more Africans are moving within Africa. For Africa, we can do more for ourselves by making movement within the continent more easier and friendly. One step will be the full implementation of the adopted 2015 AU resolution on visa arrival for ALL Africans in 2018 at the summit hosted by South Africa.

    Of course, we will also need to continue to make serious and steadfast governance demands on our governments. For me, political will is enforced and not given. I mean, Europe’s migration reaction is partly because her citizens are losing faith in mainstream political parties and turning to extreme pretenders and bigots of far-right politics. And that is if they are not losing faith in the entire political and democratic processes, which have been granting obscene concessions and privileges to the rich, elite and big businesses to the detriments of constituencies and constituents that elected these politicians and governments.

    Lastly, why no focus on arresting Illicit Financial Flows and disciplining the financial markets so as to free up resources for financing social protection in Africa?

  2. Dear Mr. Abi Samir,
    Many thanks for this critical analysis of the responses to the current migration crisis affecting Africa, Europe and other parts of the World. Let us continue to engage in these discourses aimed at offering solutions to the glaring disequilibrium of the world economic opportunities characterizing the contemporary world economic order. Only through concerted efforts of the North and the South (Centre and Peripery) to address the widening world economic disparity, shall the global compact on safe, orderly and regular migration be meaningfully achieved.
    Very kind regards,
    Dr. Dan Opon

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