WASHINGTON – How can Europe stop the endless tide of poor migrants arriving daily from Africa? Very simple, argues Matteo Renzi, Italy’s Prime Minister. The EU will offer a “Migration Compact” to the poor African states. Europe will provide about 60 billion euro in fresh funds for new infrastructure and other worthy economic and social development projects that will dramatically improve economic conditions, and therefore opportunities at home for the African poor. In exchange, the African governments will promise to enact measures aimed at preventing this endless migration of the poor towards what they perceive as better places to live in Europe.
A good plan?
Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Since we all understand that poverty and lack of opportunity are the main drivers of this potentially endless migration, let’s finance genuine economic growth and jobs in Africa, so that the poor will have an incentive to stay, rather than leave.
Yes, good plan indeed. Except that it is a really silly idea destined to fail. In fact it is so unrealistic that we can only call it dumb. I have no idea why this Migration Compact idea is even under consideration in Brussels; but it is obvious that it cannot be implemented. And even if it could be implemented, it would not produce the intended results: i.e. stop migration.
The numbers are daunting
First of all let’s look at some numbers. Africa’s total population is about 1. 1 billion people, most of them poor. Even if only a small percentage want to emigrate to Europe, that is several million. Second point, this proposed EU fund would amount to about 60 billion Euro, to be disbursed over a number of years. 60 billion Euro sounds like a lot of money. But it isn’t, given Africa’s size and population and the prevailing horrible conditions when it comes to the insufficiency or complete lack of the basics: electricity, clean water, schools, hospitals, roads.
In other words, 60 billion Euro, while not negligible money, is simply not enough to move the migration needle. Third and crucial point, several decades of failed or under performing development assistance programs aimed at Africa provide ample evidence that it is impossible to plan, organize, manage and efficiently implement large-scale initiatives involving multiple partners with diverse agendas.
And this Migration Compact mega project would combine all the problems encountered in earlier occasions. Let me name just a few. There will be a huge fund managed by a bureaucracy that will be hampered by byzantine, made in the EU procedures, rather than focus on substance: i.e. funding projects. Add to this the need to create a Master Plan involving multiple backward countries that would identify projects to be funded and related time lines –all this with the full cooperation of chronically inefficient and usually corrupt African governments.
Then you would need the creation of a robust monitoring and evaluation system that would identify execution problems at every point of the continuum, (planning, project design, environmental impact assessments, buy-in by local communities, creation of project implementation units at the ministerial and local government level, and so on), and craft appropriate and timely corrective measures.
And, last but not least, you would also need the creation of a workable mechanism that would allow disbursements only to the government that are in full compliance with the rules of this Migration Compact. This means that if a government does not actively discourage migration, funding to its project would stop.
it will not work
Now, anybody who knows anything at all about the challenges involved in designing and implementing even modest development projects in Africa would tell you that this horrendously complicated mechanism will never work as intended.
Creating a Master Plan with so many stakeholders involved would take years. Many projects agreed upon, however worthy, would make no real difference in creating economic opportunity, and therefore would not create a real incentive for poor people to stay home. Disbursements would be messy and untimely. There would be a lot of waste due to poor planning and execution. There would be additional waste due to the lack of proper monitoring. And of course endemic corruption would guarantee that a significant portion of all these new money would end up elsewhere. Last but least, whatever they pledged to do, most African governments will not be willing or able to stop migrants. They simply do not have the resources to do this.
A bad idea
Anyway, you get the picture. This Migration Compact idea is a monumentally ill-advised plan. The fact that someone proposed it as a practical tool to address an endless migration crisis is bad enough. The fact that the EU is looking at it shows that in desperate times desperate people are willing to believe anything, including magic.
Endless migration wave
Here is the thing. Europe is unfortunately on the receiving end of a massive secular migration. Poor Africans want to go to Europe in the hope of finding a better life. They’ll keep coming. However, slow growth Europe, unable as it is to take care of its own citizens, simply does not have the additional resources to receive and assimilate these illiterate masses. And yet, it has no solutions.
Having no solutions its leaders are inclined to debate and may be even approve the crazy dreams of a hapless Italian Prime Minister in charge of a country in which even garbage collection is often an insurmountable challenge.