We in the Netherlands have often looked at our neighbours as stiff, bureaucratic and a bit distant and noisy holiday guests at our shores. In development cooperation we thought we were doing much better in terms of being entrepreneurial and innovative. We had two subsequent governments massively investing in our innovation power. However, in the same period we have managed to turn a blind eye to the development partners that have helped us shaping our ideas. The Dutch connectedness to the world has given them great comparative advantage over other nations both in trade and investment policies. However, we lost our moral high-ground to our opportunistic trade spirit, which caused many multinational companies to virtually locate their head-offices in the tax haven we created for them.
In the meantime our German neighbours did a much better job in learning from history creating safe havens for migrants who were escaping war or economic exploitation. Germany realised that only economic development would bring the required changes that could curb migration. Hence, like the US invested heavily in Europe following the World War II, Federal Minister Gerd Müller organized a highly participative process in which 10 starting points were formulated that should guide future German investment in Africa. The Broker picked up on this development and also this week it featured at various gatherings in the Netherlands discussing the way forward towards inclusive global development, emphasizing the need to invest in Africa's next generation.
African ambitions come with African resources
Whereas the world did not attempt to look beyond 2030 while developing the SDGs, Africa adopted a much more long-term vision in Africa Agenda 2063 that also forms the basis of their negotiations with Europe and other international parties. You may think that 2063 is a bit far-fetched for a continent where the majority still lives from hand to mouth, leave alone thinking about tomorrow. Nevertheless, the educated class, the elite if you wish, has become more confident about their future prospects, also in view of the seemingly decline of the Western world and an upcoming Eastern dominance in world matters. Despite of a few dictators still clinging on to power, a middle-class has been formed that demands more from their government than clientilism and systems of patronage.
Some of these traditional migration routes are now blocked as wars are ravaging in countries like Yemen. It caused many to return home and others to choose other destinations. Now that Europe has become one of those destinations, the welfare state has clearly been unable to absorb these influxes of labour. A well regulated labour market also minimizes chances of employment for these groups, certainly as Brittain is closing its borders. However, the young generation does not seem to have the patience to wait for this middle-class to fix things. Desillusioned about their chances in the near future in their own country and enlightened about chances elsewhere they try their luck abroad. For years already labour migration has been common place in Africa, primarily to countries in the Middle-East.
Current investment policies still ignore to a large extend the enormous potential of welcoming people, training them for jobs where there is currently shortage of (like health workers and technicians). Rather than investing in Africa for the sake of Europe, Europe could try investing in Africans for the sake of Europe ánd Africa. Welcoming people now and offering save passage and proper employment schemes, while agreeing with African governments on return migration after say 5 years of service would do good to both Europe and Africa. Not only in terms of increased welfare but also in terms of people getting to know each other within the safe conditions of a temporary situation. After return many will take those friendships along with them, establishing strong connectors between geographically, economically and culturally distant societies. On the medium to longer term this will be extremely beneficial to European-African relations.
What I like about the German Marshall Plan is that it embraces the reality of a rich Africa that has resources on offer. And what I also like is its inclination towards proper diplomatic relationships between Europe and Africa that embody mutual respect while upholding standards of good governance both in Europe and Africa. Germans, like no other people group in Europe, know what can go wrong when nationalism takes over and populism creates a dictator. It may be best positioned to support some of the African governments in dealing with autarchies and lack of countervailing power within their societies. It would be good if the Dutch would help further EU-Africa relationships and share their experience with farmer cooperatives, water boards, etc. Terms of trade could include circulation of human capital building an EU-African knowledge economy that would focus on developing strong local markets while paying due attention to labour conditions and impact on the environment. This would have a great potential towards inclusive global development. It would indeed need to exclude countries not living up to these standards, like the United States today. China and Europe have shown this week that agreeing to work together on the implementation of the Paris climate agreement will have the best chance to produce solid results that last. If good EU-Africa relations are added to the equation, Triangular cooperation takes shape and Project South-East may become more than just a thought experiment. The current flaw in Europe's domestic policies inspired by fear for the unknown and fuelled by extremism both at home and abroad, should be countered by a daring foreign policy that is willing to invest in the human dimension and balances African, Asian and European interests and aspirations towards a sustainable future.
At a personal level I am excited that I may be part of a whole different connectedness around the globe, encouraging churches globally to take up their role in transforming communities at the local level. While contemplating global relationships, we are constantly reminded that at a very local level people already have difficulties living at peace with one another and seeking the common good. It is nice to see how faith communities, rather than caring about personal salvation, seek the well-being of the communities they are part of through church and community transformation.
This Sunday churches world-wide recall the day of Pentecost, the day that transformed fearful followers of Christ into men and women fearlessly professing their faith. Last week 26 people did the same in Egypt and they were shot dead by terrorists. Contemplating the level of violence originating from the Middle-East with so many people on the move, I just hope it will find itself embraced in the midst of a triangle of improved relations between Asia, Africa and Europe that will feel a joint responsibility to pray for peace for the most contested area of the world and warmheartedly welcome those fleeing from violence or persecution.
My name is Reinier van Hoffen.
Click here for a summary.
Also find the text of a lecture Dr. Achterhuis held at the 2012 Bilderberg conference.