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Africa’s Debts: One way or another someone’s going to have to pay

Eric Olander
By Eric Olander

Managing Editor, The China Africa Project

Posted on Wednesday, 7 October 2020 22:58, updated on Thursday, 8 October 2020 18:59

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, front center, hosts the UK Africa Investment Summit in London, Monday Jan. 20, 2020. (Ben Stansall/Pool via AP)

A new poll of young Arab nationals in North Africa and the Middle East revealed the kind of numbers that give people like Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron nightmares.

87% of the 18-24 years old surveyed expressed concerns about unemployment and a stunning 42% have considered leaving their country, according to the findings of the report conducted by the global public relations agency ASDA’A BCW.

When asked where they’d like to go, European countries were of course high on the list.

The sentiments of these young people are likely shared across Africa, where a similarly youthful population is facing a grim future due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent economic crisis.

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It all comes down to jobs and the ability to earn a living. History has shown that if people can’t make enough money to feed themselves and their families in one place, they’ll pick up and go somewhere else.

One would think that after what European countries, especially Germany and Sweden, went through with the last mass migration from the Middle East brought on by the Syrian war, that they’d be sufficiently motivated to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Well, that doesn’t appear to be the case.

When — because it’s no longer “if” — African economies begin to collapse under the combined weight of unsustainable debt burdens, surging public health costs, persistently low commodity prices, and devalued currencies that effectively push up the cost of borrowing beyond their reach, European and other international stakeholders will not be able to say they didn’t see this coming. And one way or another, they’re going to pay.

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Dealing with the aftermath of failed economies and mass migration will be much more expensive than providing the modest financial relief that African leaders have been calling for the past six months.

The fact that the European, American, and Chinese governments, who have the resources to prevent this catastrophe are doing virtually nothing to stop it is remarkably short sighted. Maybe they think it’s not their problem or they’re just too consumed with their own political dramas to be able to focus on what’s happening in MENA and Africa?

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Whatever it is, the young people polled in that survey should serve as a sobering reminder that if nothing is done, they’ll soon be knocking on Europe’s door.

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