Greece and Italy have demanded the creation of an EU-wide “Marshall Plan for Africa” to tackle the underlying causes of the migrant crisis, evoking the US aid programme that rebuilt Western Europe after the Second World War.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said:
“the problem is not the flows [of migrants], it is not the people who are trying to find a new life in Europe, but the problem is why the people cannot live in their countries.”
This call will be welcomed by Angela Merkel’s government, which has also stressed the need for an African answer to the Marshall Plan.
“We need a paradigm shift,’ says German international development minister Gerd Muller. “We have to realise that Africa is not the continent of cheap commodities but that the people of Africa need infrastructure and a future.”
So what would a Marshall Plan for Africa look like? Like its European predecessor, infrastructure would likely be the focus. Power infrastructure is the number one priority for sub-Saharan Africa, where two thirds of the population lack electricity and businesses struggle with constant blackouts.
The US has also taken an interest in tackling the scourge of energy poverty, proposing a “Clean Coal Alliance” that would see the transfer of carbon capture technology to developing nations dependent on coal.
This matters because reliable power can be transformational. 1000MW of electricity – equivalent to a medium-sized power station – can sustain the equivalent of 800,000 jobs according to the UK government, creating much-needed opportunity in a region where young people are risking everything to get to Europe.
As African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina has said
“The future of Africa’s youth does not lie in migration to Europe; it should not be at the bottom of the Mediterranean; it lies in a prosperous Africa. We must create greater economic opportunities for our youth right at home in Africa.”
A prosperous Africa needs reliable, affordable power. Now Europe and the US have to get on and deliver.