Wednesday 22 August 2007

$6Billion to keep youth in Africa with boring and farming

Lost in the waters of migration

I am not sure if I should see this as a welcome development but it is a start.

The images of migrants and asylum seekers hanging on for dear life as they cross the desert and set sail in boats that are basically watery graves, that come into their own when the occupants are far from help are distressing enough.

Then those who seem to come within sight of help from fishermen trawlers who try to balance out the economic need for more fishing than the compassionate need to save desperate life, usually plumb for the former and they are left to be overcome by the seas and lost.

Money to keep them at home

The fact that the West African Economic Monetary Union (UEMOA) has noticed the problem and decided on a development initiative to help migrants seek opportunities at home is heartening.

$6 billion has been earmarked to this effort, $5bn of which was pledged by foreign donors and the African Development Bank since last November.

I am however not sure that where this money gets directed to would be the panacea to the youth of Africa risking their lives for the uncertain but compelling opportunities in the West.

Boring and farming opportunities

This is supposed to help halt the emigration of young people from the West African region with the exciting job prospects of drilling 3,000 boreholes which should benefit the arid Sahel region, hence allowing people to earn more for their crops giving them less reason to leave their rural existence to the cities where their disappointments might encourage emigration.

I am not aware of many of a youthful age who work on farms or want to eek out an existence on farmer where elements of genuine fair trade do not exist, or enough is known as to how to manage their produce for markets beyond the local ones.

The longer term incentive

It would have been a different thing if these youth were given decent educational opportunities and national governance dealt with issues of nepotism, corruption and abuse of authority such that these youth can meritoriously gain a foothold in the economies of their countries and career prospects that would occupy them with developing their scopes of influence.

The only real development here is the recognition of the emigration of the youth, beyond that, this would probably be another white elephant, with this kind of money about, one would have expected a better inspired goal for giving the youth hope in their futures at home.

There is no doubt that this money would help rural areas, but to stem the flow of the youth from West Africa to the West, somebody should go back to the drawing board and come up with something that would work.

What the youth want

What the youth need is relevant education, untrammelled opportunity, inspired mentoring, the ability to use the skills they have acquired and access to finance for the entrepreneurially minded to become independent and productive members of their societies – if they become the engineers and project managers of the borehole projects with the requisite skills to run projects to their beneficial conclusions, we might have something going, if it is to sweat out digging and toiling like slave hands ordered around by overpaid under-qualified foreign “experts”, this would be a non-starter.

Let us see how this evolves.

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