African leaders reject EU ‘charity’ over ‘investment’
Macky Sall, the Senegalese president, tells journalists on the sidelines of the Malta migrants summit that Africa would have no need of handouts if wealthy governments stopped multinationals avoiding legitimate taxation in their countries
African leaders have rejected a European Union bid to curb migration with aid payments as “not enough” and said they should work instead to address historic imbalances in trade and taxation.
The European Union asked member countries to match a €1.8 billion allocated from central EU coffers for an “African trust fund” to be spent on education, jobs and services across the continent, but by the end of the summit, just €78 million had been raised.
African leaders, for decades dependent on handouts from the West because of natural disasters, conflict and uneven development, shunned the offer of charity, calling instead for “investment”.
Speaking after the summit, Macky Sall, the Senegalese president nominated to speak on behalf of the continent, said European leaders were not looking at the bigger picture.
He accused the European governments of pandering to “popular opinion” and claimed African governments would have no need for handouts if they were able to collect €60 billion lost through tax avoidance by multinational companies and other “fraudulent” activities.
Mr Sall also questioned Europe’s “discriminatory” approach of welcoming Syrians fleeing conflict but turning away Africans, who experts say represent a longer-term issue as climate change and a growing, young population combine to send more people north in search of opportunities.
“There is a fundamental, philosophical question: you cannot insist on Africans being readmitted to their countries of origin when you are welcoming Syrians and others,” he said. The numbers of Africans migrating towards Europe are not as great as people say.”
Mahamadou Issoufou, president of Niger, agreed the trust fund would be “far from enough” and said fairer world trade and investment would be preferable. Omar Abdirashidali Sharmatke, the prime minister of Somalia, which is already the recipient of millions of dollars of international aid, echoed the rejection of “charity”.
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the chair of the African Union Commission, said Africa had migrants from India and China and no one seeking a better life should be penalised.
“There is no part of the world that can be a fortress. We should be open to legal migration,” she said.
The comments came just weeks after a summit in Addis Ababa following up on the Millennium Development goals, at which a bloc representing the world’s wealthiest countries rejected an attempt by Saharan African nations to level the tax playing field with new measures to clamp down on tax havens and shell companies that allow multinationals to hide their profits.
John Christensen, of the UK-based Tax Justice Network, said Mr Sall was “absolutely right” to highlight the loss of a “very significant” source of income.
“For decades we have encouraged these huge ouflows of capital from Africa, much of which is illicit, and this has led to a long-term underdevelopment of African countries,” he said.
“Not surprisingly African workers now want to follow the capital and that’s where the hypocrisy comes in – we are saying we will allow your capital to flow northwards but not your people. We are not prepared to address the flaws in globalisation.”
Around 125,000 migrants of sub-Saharan African nationality entered Europe in the past 18 months, according to figures from Frontex, the EU border office. They include 52,000 Eritreans, 16,000 Nigerians, 6,500 Sudanese, 14,000 Somalians and 35,000 who could not be identified.