Tonight, I'm going to hold a conference about immigration.
In 2016, the immigration of a area of 1.2 billion people dethroned the Syrian, Afghan and Iraqi arrivals in Europe.
But what is this region? Is it Palestine ? No. Is it Pakistan? No.
We focused so much on the Middle East that we did not really see Africa coming... In 2016, however, with low noise, the immigration of this continent of 1.2 billion inhabitants dethroned the Syrian, Afghan and Iraqi arrivals in Europe. According to a communication from Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, on 6 January, 93% of those who landed in Italy last year came from this continent.
The year that has just ended could therefore be a transition, a transition from one exile to another. With its one million refugees in Europe, in addition to the millions already massed in Turkey, Lebanon or Jordan, 2015 had been a "Syrian year", a "year of asylum", and minds remained on this vision , which masked other movements that were taking shape.
Overall, orders of magnitude fell. By 2016, flows have decreased by two thirds (364,000 arrivals on the Old Continent) and have changed in nature. Crossings of the central Mediterranean sea (181 000) increased by one fifth, taking precedence over the Aegean sea (175 000), divided by four. The agreement between the EU and Turkey, signed in March 2016, that Ankara is committed to controlling emigration to Europe, is the first explanation for the decline in Syrian arrivals in Europe. The EU welcomes the effectiveness of this agreement and the reduction of drownings, but many voices denounce the blocking of 54,000 Syrians in camps in Greece and the inhumanity of the situation.
It is therefore in Italy that the African migratory pressure is observed. It passes through Libya, an anarchic country where migrants are victims of trafficking and the worst exactions.
Of the top 10 nationalities of migrants arriving in Italy between January and November, nine are from the African continent, as recorded by the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Only Bangladesh, in 9th position with 4.4% of arrivals, breaks this unit. The main community, Nigerians, constituted 21% of the entrants, followed by Eritreans (11.7%), Guineans (7.2%) and Ivorians (6.7%). According to Frontex, nationals of these countries are ten times more likely to have traveled in 2016 than in 2010. The agency responsible for the external borders of Europe even estimates that "this evolution reflects the growing migratory pressure of the African continent , And particularly West Africa, responsible for most of the growth of arrivals by this road in 2016".
A big problem: The Sahel, “a demographic bomb”
Unlike the rest of Africa, the Sahel, as well as some Central African countries, continues to see its population increase massively. Niger even holds the world record of fertility. In the medium term, there is no indication of a reversal of the trend. This poor region, destabilized by the rise of jihadist movements, is going to become one of the main contributors of global population growth by the end of the 21st century, according to projections by the United Nations Population Division.
Michel Garenne, a Demographer attached to the Foundation for the Study and Research on International Development, analyzed in detail the situation of the six French speaking countries - Senegal, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Chad - which share this area of more than 5 million square kilometers. He highlights the failure of the population policies carried out so far and warns against an "unsustainable situation", one of the consequences could be the migration of tens of millions of people. At a time when the European Union intends to respond to the migratory problem by more development, the researcher urges that the demographic issue should not be left aside.
Demographic growth is slowing down everywhere in Africa except in the Sahel and some Central African countries. Why ?
For Michel Garenne, the leaders of these countries have never considered that controlling the growth of the population was really important. Development was bound to solve all problems. This speech, it is true, was in vogue in many countries of the South in the 1970s. Algeria, on behalf of the non-aligned countries, declared at the World Population Conference in Bucharest in 1974 that "the best pill, It is development ". Ten years later, the Algerians backed down and adopted a major family planning program. Not the countries of the Sahel, where everything that has been undertaken has had little impact. Especially in rural areas, where the population explosion is currently concentrated, with an average of 6 to 8 children per woman.
The Americans, as they had done twenty years earlier successfully in Latin America and Asia, tried in the 1980s to promote birth control policies. But the economic crisis and structural adjustment plans have led to abandon these efforts.
Do the UN projections, which expect a six-fold increase in the population of the Sahel by 2100, seem solid?
None of these countries has a civil registry. All data come from censuses and field surveys. The United Nations itself recognizes the weakness of these sources, particularly for migration. The six Sahelian countries are on a trajectory that will see their population increase from 89 million in 2015 to 240 million in 2050 and then to 540 million in 2100. By that time, Niger alone would house more than 200 million people. Can we imagine that the Sahel is going to account for a third of the world's population growth? The Sahel is a demographic bomb.
Does the fact that the Sahel is often perceived as an underpopulated area play a role in this inertia?
Certainly. But what was true fifty years ago is not true today. The constraints of the environment are severe because the climate is arid or semi-arid, soils are not very fertile. Many terroirs have already reached saturation. The rivalry between farmers has intensified, conflicts multiply, notably in Burkina Faso and Mauritania. The arrival of important investors who buy large areas exacerbates these tensions.
In 1975, South Africa had calculated that over 80 million people would face severe water resource problems. That is why it adopted its family planning program. But the situation of the Sahel is not comparable to that of South Africa ...
The dispersal of the population over vast territories makes things more difficult. But we know how to do it: the most effective and proven technique anywhere in the world is to give women access to contraception by visiting them in their village or by convincing them to go to the nearest health center. In Africa, Kenya, Ghana, Zimbabwe and Madagascar, to name but a few, have succeeded in doing so.
The low level of education does not help but it is not an insurmountable factor. Bangladesh has succeeded in bringing down its fertility rate of uneducated women, dominated by their husbands in very hard and very Islamized patriarchal structures. Islam [all countries in the region are predominantly Muslim, with the exception of Burkina Faso] is not a handicap. Thus, in Iran, the ayatollahs' regime did better than the shah and led to a very rapid demographic transition.
If we do not act, what will happen?
Just look at what's already happening: people leave. In history, overpopulation has always been resolved in the same way: departures, wars, famines, epidemics. We must remember the strong food crisis in Ireland with what has been called "potato famine". But the situation was different: The European people could emigrate easily because the United States needed manpower for their development and thus promoted labor migration, not to mention the fact that the populations of departure and arrival were of the same European culture and of the same Christian religion. Today, borders are closing everywhere. In South Africa, the richest country on the continent, anti-immigrant movements already exist. Where will these people go?
Between 3 and 5 million people have left the Sahel since independence. They will probably be around 40 million by the end of the century. This poses problems on another scale that will have to be managed. However, the Western countries and Europe in particular, which is likely to accommodate a large number of them, pretend that the subject does not exist. Putting in place family planning policies should be one of the priorities. Talking about sustainable development and putting aside the demographic issue is just insane.