Contradictory plans for Africa

Mark Herkenrath, Director Alliance Sud
Article as analysis
Migration prevention is becoming an ever more prominent feature of international cooperation. Lately, the funding of systems of repression has also become a part of it. The new Foreign Minister is well advised to raise questions about this trend.

The new Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis knows the topic of migration from personal experience; he is the first Secondo (second-generation migrant) in the Swiss Government, and represents a border canton. He will now have to grapple with the not very well thought-through parliamentary mandate requiring international cooperation to be strategically linked with migration policy.

In Germany as well as other European countries, development cooperation is increasingly being converted into migration control policy. With its “Marshall Plan with Africa", Germany hopes to give a massive developmental boost to the African continent. So far so good. What is interesting is that the plan was originally called “Marshall Plan for Africa” and had been drawn up without the involvement of African governments and parliaments. Numerous measures – such as assisting smallholder families, good governance programmes or striving for better laws on environmental and social matters — have long been part of the development cooperation repertoire, including that of Switzerland. In parallel, however, Germany wishes to step up private investment flows to Africa.

Ultimately, investment is also promoted through free-trade agreements, which for some time now have been negotiated with African countries under the title ”European partnership agreements”. What is new is that African countries are to be temporarily allowed to use protective tariffs to shield their domestic markets from overwhelming global competition. To some extent, the “Marshall Plan with Africa” also counteracts the causes of flight that are “made in Europe”, such as unfair trading relations and unequal investment opportunities. It also makes sense that in the future, German development aid will go preferentially to countries that voluntarily strengthen the rule of law and fight corruption.

The only thing is that when it is about directly preventing migration, the lofty approaches immediately lose their meaning. Under the “Khartoum Process”, Germany and the EU are tying their cooperation to the willingness of African governments to introduce tougher border controls. This means cosying up to highly authoritarian governments and supporting them, for example, in building police training centres. In effect, they are buttressing the repressive apparatus of the very dictatorships that people are fleeing.

It is all the more alarming that Switzerland is now a fully-fledged member of the Khartoum Process. Switzerland pays into the European Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (ETF) which, in the name of a pan-European migration policy, is supporting the security forces and border control authorities that report to the secret services in countries like Sudan and Eritrea. So is this the look, in practical terms, of the linking of international cooperation with migration policy interests called for by Parliament? Let us hope that Federal Councillor Cassis will recognize the incoherence of such an Africa policy.