Migration and rural transformation
The wave of mass migration of youngsters from Africa to Europe across the Mediterranean Sea is a major challenge confronting the continent at the moment. Thousands of able-bodied young men and women are deserting their homes in search of “greener pastures” and many have lost their lives on the tortuous journey.
What started as routine migration by scores of mainly economic migrants fleeing hardship in Africa has turned into a global nightmare and Africa is as confounded as the European Union is shocked.Over time, the number of countries whose citizens are fleeing conflicts and economic hardship has multiplied. They include Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia and Cote d’Ivoire.
The others are Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, Tunisia and Zimbabwe. The conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan have also helped to fuel the insidious migration.In all of these countries, the citizens are traumatized by harsh economic realities coupled with political upheavals that compel them to seek refuge elsewhere. Misery, dejection and gloom pervade the spheres in which many citizens found themselves.
But this ought not to be the case in Africa as Africans have no business being poor and miserable given the rich natural endowments of the continent. All that is needed to make a difference is good leadership. The continent, certainly, has lost direction, which has given rise to the pervading poverty that pushes people into migration.
Which is why the issue of rural transformation, hardly mentioned by African leaders is critical to saving the continent. Consequently, the rural communities, where the majority of the population dwells, are blighted and problem-prone, lacking social service amenities such as water, good roads, healthcare facilities, and so on. Such areas need to be transformed otherwise they will continue breed youth who are desperate to flee.
It is against that background that the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Akinwumi Adesina, recently called on countries in Africa to reconstruct the rural areas from zone of economic misery to that of prosperity.He said this would in turn expand economic opportunities for the African youth, leading to improvement in their lives, thereby stemming migration.
Akinwumi, who spoke in Abuja, on the occasion of the International Migrants’ Day, noted that greater economic opportunities would motivate the African youth to stay on the continent and live a meaningful life.He said agriculture is the key to rural transformation. More than ever before, according to him, Africa must modernise its agriculture and unlock its full potential.
The challenge of food insecurity is, therefore, critical to addressing the more complex issues of migration and displacement.Similarly, reducing inter-communal conflicts over scarce resources such as water and pasture for animals is also critical. There is need for new agricultural innovations besides transforming agriculture into a sector for creating wealth.
No doubt, lack of economic opportunities, conflicts and climate change are key sources of fragility that in turn result in forced migration of people desperately seeking alternatives.The resultant push reflects in rural-urban, intra-African or international migration that plague many African countries. Definitely, what is driving people away could be stemmed only with a committed leadership. The African land is blessed and the continent needs to make good use of its God-given resources.
As far as Nigeria is concerned, the country needs a kind of Marshall Plan to change the current apathy towards agriculture.Regrettably, Nigeria started on a sound footing rooted in agriculture but lost it. The North was famed for the groundnut pyramids. The East produced palm oil, the West produced cocoa and the Mid-West was noted for rubber.
Unfortunately, when money came by crude oil, agriculture was abandoned. The focus changed to the nation’s detriment. Governments at all levels advised to do something to revive agriculture and make it the bedrock of the nation’s wealth. There will be no industrialization, anyway, without agriculture.
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