Libya slave auctions a wake-up call for Africa

Protesters, some from Sub-Sahara, shout slogans during a demo against slavery outside the Libyan embassy in the Moroccan capital Rabat last month. PHOTO | AFP
Protesters, some from Sub-Sahara, shout slogans during a demo against slavery outside the Libyan embassy in the Moroccan capital Rabat last month. PHOTO | AFP 

Migrant slave auctions are going on in Libya. CNN recently showed despicable scenes reminiscent of the triangular slave trade that operated across the Atlantic Ocean from the late 16th to early 19th centuries.

What is shocking are not just the auctions, but also the indifference of sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) countries to the gruesome acts on humanity being committed by an African state.

What is happening in Libya is perhaps the beginning of worse things to come if SSA countries fail to deal with their population explosion.

A United Nations report, World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision, says, “The current world population of 7.6 billion is expected to reach 8.6 billion in 2030, 9.8 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100.”

This amounts to about “83 million people being added to the world’s population every year, the upward trend in population size is expected to continue, even assuming that fertility levels will continue to decline.”

This is largely due to improved healthcare and increasing life expectancy across the world.

The report adds: “Of the additional 2.4 billion people projected to be added to the global population between 2015 and 2050, 1.3 billion will be added in Africa.”

Nine countries, most of them from SSA, are expected to contribute about 50 per cent of the world’s population growth.

In Kenya, politicians encourage their tribes to increase their population as a strategy to get numbers for political leadership.

It is not a surprise therefore that in about 30 years, the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs mid 2015 results projected that the Kenyan population will almost double by 2050.

When we launched the Vision 2030 development blueprint in 2007, we had envisaged that the economy would grow at two digits every year to mitigate the rising poverty.

Due to political squabbling, that level of growth has never been attained and the situation could even get worse in future political contests if we don’t address genuine grievances and change our negative political culture.

World Data Lab (WDL) estimates that in order for Kenya to completely rid herself of poverty (those earning below $1.90 a day), the country must enable at least 96 people to move out of poverty every hour. The current GDP growth rate of five per cent translates to only 29 people exiting poverty at every hour.

Therefore, more people will continue to slide into poverty until the country gets its acts in order. Unlike in the past when data was scarce, today we have a deluge of data to help us predict the future.

Unfortunately, politicians have no culture of data driven decision-making and that is the tragedy in Africa.

As a result, poverty in many of the SSA countries will continue to worsen. The WDL data shows that poverty in absolute numbers in Nigeria will continue to get worse from 82 million people today to more than 101 million by 2030 unless drastic policy decisions are taken.

Nigeria therefore will not be on track to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

In SSA, only Ethiopia, Ivory Coast and Mauritania may meet their SDGs targets.

Frustration from poverty and unemployment will force many of these people to try to migrate, mostly to Europe.

Even without the rise of nationalism in Europe, Europeans will run out of patience.

This suggests that the prospect of mass migration to areas with population deficit is not there. Europe will simply shut her doors to Africa.

Already, the current crisis precipitated by Britain’s exit from the European Union is causing many countries to re-think their engagement with Africa.

Africa must not wait for the outcomes of what is going on in Europe.

The continent has abundant opportunity especially with intra-Africa trade that is still embarrassingly low as we import finished goods made out of African raw materials.
Africa must plan for her future as a continent to avoid what is clearly a catastrophe in the making.

The burden of population explosion presents a considerable challenge in achieving the 2030 SDGs.

Africa must think. African Union’s Vision 2063 is indefensible if by 2050 we shall have 1.3 billion more people in the continent.