Women of Substance






The Africa Center for Information and Development (ACID) organized an international conference on migration funded by The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) on the 28th July 2015 at P hotels Oslo. The theme of the conference was “Deadly Migration by African Youth through the Mediterranean Sea: What are the challenges for Africa and Europe?” The conference lasted for 6hours and attracted participants who are mainly African residents in Europe. The Speakers comprised of a cocktail of people from different backgrounds and experiences.  The conference took the form of presentations, plenary discussions and mingling between participants.    The conference kick started with the welcoming remarks of ACID Co-founder Mr. Omar Drammeh.  After welcoming participants Mr. Drammeh gave a synopsis of the work ACID is doing as an organization in Norway. He said ACID is concerned about issues affecting Africans both in the Diaspora and in Africa.  ACID always tries to bring up such issues to be discussed at seminars and conferences like this one so as to create awareness and push forward for possible solutions to these issues the ACID Co-founder buttressed. He said what is happening in the Mediterranean Sea and in the arid desert of North Africa where African migrant lives are perishing at an alarming rate has been a concern to ACID; this is why they deemed it pertinent to organize such an international conference.  

Opening remarks were given by Her Excellency, Ambassador of Morocco to Norway: Ms. Saadia Al Elaoui. She gave an overview of the refugee and migrant situation in Morocco and areas of cooperation between Europe and Africa and dealing with issues of migration. She said Morocco has witnessed a surge in the number of refugees coming to the country and this has resulted to handle and process asylum cases and that in fact her country has started granting asylum to refugees since 2013.  Ms. Saadia said some African countries receive far more migrants or refugees than Europe citing South Africa that receives more migrants than even Germany the largest host of refugees in Europe.   This shows that the movement of  refugees takes place within Africa than between Africa and Europe and therefore a new cooperation between Europe and Africa is needed not only on the impact of migration but also on the pattern of migration.  She mentioned that research has shown that Europe needs migrants in order to maintain its working population.  According to a report published by the Dominique Institute for Economic Development Europe will need around 32 million migrants to maintain a balance between its working and non working population Ms. Saadia added.  She lamented on the Rabat process where EU and Africa cooperation in tackling migration issues.

The first speaker after the welcoming and opening remarks was a representative from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Ms. Homma Hassan who is a British Citizen of Pakistani descent and works at the IOM office in Oslo. She started her speech by making it clear that in fact it is not illegal to leave your country. People are free to move around the world and they do it for various reasons and we have to look at migration issues at an orderly and humane way she added.  In a speech she called Attract –Repel she highlighted on the role of the Diaspora as a magnetic field determining direction and magnitude of migration flow.  Ms. Homma elaborated on the 1979 protocol for freedom of movement and rights to residence recommendations which calls for Immigration provisions that would observe human rights and labor laws. It also calls for Emigration to be less regulated and enact policies to limit brain drain by looking at issues of dual nationality, protection of Diaspora assistance and harmonizing migration and development issues.  She also buttressed on the role of Diaspora in addressing migration issues which includes information dissemination, identifying regular and safe routes, conflict resolution, establishing support networks and managing expectations.  “We have to look at ways of transforming remittance into investments in host countries” She further highlighted.  She ended her speech by mentioning some of strides IOM is taking in Norway in which she said they embarking on a program called Migration for Development in Africa where they facilitate temporary return of qualified nationals who can contribute to the development of their various countries of origin. She also made mention of International Recruitment Integrity System.

Dr. Juris Peter Obutte who is a Senior Lecturer at University of Ibadan was designated to talk about the Mediterranean Crisis: Issues and Legal Options using Nigeria as a case study.  As someone who studied law he approaches the migration issue from a legal perspective. He said that laws enacted are not serving the very purpose they are intended for. No matter how good a law is but if those who are supposed to enforce that law are ill equipped it would have very little impact on society. He lamented on his personal experience at Frankfurt Airport on his way to the International conference in Oslo where he was held for more than 8hrs on no grounds whatsoever.  It was a very traumatizing experience for him and it really scared him and disappointing that in developed Europe someone can be treated in such a way. He asked himself; why should such a thing happen? It only shows that someone entrusted with a job didn’t do it properly or is negligent and as such he contended that it is not enough to have a good mind but whether you are able to use it wisely.   He said he is not someone who believes in giving labels to people or nations but when confronted with issues he always speaks his mind. He lamented that Nigeria has been given a number of Labels, from Africa’s second largest economy, developing country to a country in transition  but such labels have very little meaning, what matters is what people in the society or country are experiencing.  He said that law is a reflection of society which has more to do with social engineering. According to him as comedians are taken more seriously than officials of government so has the law failed? To paraphrase Dr.Peter went on to say that it is not possible to stop deadly migration  through the Mediterranean  sea by enacting laws or coming up with stringent measures but by addressing the root causes of it, addressing issues that forces people to risk their lives. The lack of governance, corruption and other issues need to be addressed. He said addressing such issues cannot be single handedly done by Africans alone. He cited an exchange he had with a European fellow who told him how corrupt Nigerians are but his response to him was but where do this corrupt Nigerians keep their stolen money, is not in Europe? So addressing the issue of corruption in Nigeria will be futile if it does not have any collaboration with Europe where a good junk of stolen money is kept he further buttressed.  One of the solutions to the migration crisis we are facing he would suggest is repatriation of funds stolen from Africa and kept in the west.

The next speaker to be given the floor was Mr. Nana-Explo Kofi: Coordinator, Kilombo Ghana.  He also hammered on the need to address the root causes of migration. Being a pan- africanist and activist with leftist orientation his speech highlighted on the center-periphery and dependency narrative.  He emphasized that we have to examine the past in order for us to have a grip of our present situation. There are some historical episodes that have resulted to today’s desperate situation of Africa and in order to correct that we need to develop an educational system that would address issues affecting our African societies Mr. Kofi elaborated.  Our African educational system should be influenced by what happened to us in the past he buttressed. In Ghana the Kilombo organization is working hard to create awareness at the local level on issues affecting Africans.  On addressing the migration crises he argued that the west should take responsibility because it is their interventions in the past that has greatly resulted to this crisis. He cited Libya under Ghadafi was stable and a lot of migrants found Libya to be a safe haven but when the Libyan uprising began the west intervene with air strikes that resulted to the fall of Ghadafi and eventually a power vacuum in Libya. The lack of governance in Libya has created an exodus of migrants who might have opted to stay and earn a living in Libya but they instead have to leave for Europe all because of an earlier intervention of the west he further lamented. He said it the U.S invasion of Iraq that has amplified sectarian violence which partly resulted to the formation of ISIS. It is therefore important to note that things happening at present do not occur in isolation but have precursors in the past and as such we can’t address issues of the present without talking about the past he added.

Mr.Kofi gave the baton to Ms.Sabine Kokee of YepAfrica, the Netherlands who spoke about the activities of their organization in engaging Gambian youth to combat illegal migration.  YepAfrica is a registered youth initiative in the Gambia and they’ve signed a memorandum of understanding with the Gambian government that they would create 1500 jobs for Gambian youth. According to Ms. Kokee combating illegal migration was not on the agenda at the inception but it came up when Yep members visited Europe. They were able to make the connection about the situation in Europe and Gambia and this led to the inclusion of the issue of combating illegal migration on YepAfrica’s agenda.  Yep stands for Youth Empowerment for Positive change and their effort in combating illegal migration is by empowering youths and equipping them with entrepreneurial skills to start their own business. She said Yepafrica activities are centered on the following; youth empowerment, youth initiative, train the trainer, empowerment and learning centers and sharing knowledge. According to her YepAfrica has transformed the lives of some Gambian youth. She showed videos and photos of Gambian youth who benefited or are benefiting on Yep initiatives.

After the YepAfrica Gambian case presentation the baton was handed over to an artist from neighboring country to Gambia, Senegal Mr. Mor Faye. Mr. Faye is the chairman of PACA- SENEGAL (Panafrican Circle of Artists) and his speech was on revisting EU projects to curb youth migration from Senegal.  He said that EU and Senegalese government’s efforts to curb migration centered on implementing agricultural development projects that they believe would attract youth to go back to the land to earn a decent living. Such projects are implemented with the perception that it would prevent youth from venturing into the high seas. According to Mr. Mor faye such projects didn’t prevent majority of youth from migrating because awareness was lacking on what is obtained in Europe and what the youth could do with their lives in Senegal.  Being cognizant of this fact is what has led to his organization to lead a campaign of creating awareness amongst youth through art.  The message is transmitted through different ways either through artistic work or through Music. He made mention of PACA- SENEGAL organizing musical concerts where the message is passed on. People who have experience the perilous journey through the Mediterranean serve as living witnesses and their narrations in programs organized by his organization have some impact on youth in Senegal.   

After the country case studies the deliberations shifted to personal stories of coming to Europe and a member of  an online radio discussion forum called ‘Wuralamang Katcha, Bantaba’ was given the  floor to narrate his story  of coming to Europe. The online radio discussion forum is aired on Kibaaro radio (www.kibaaro.com) every evening in which social issues are discussed including the deadly migration through the Mediterranean Sea. Mr. Karamo Jammeh who is currently residing in Uppsala, Sweden said he left the Gambia for Europe in 1979 and passed through numerous countries in African before landing in Sweden in 1986.  He said when he left the Gambia in 1979 he was not desperate because he was young and had job that could satisfy most of his needs.  The seven years long journey according to Mr. Jammeh was filled with wonderful experience as well as challenging experience.  He made mentioned of undesirable behavior by border security officials in some African countries that demand bribery and refusal to pay resulted to harassments but in the end he was able to secured a decent Job in Nigeria  where he saved enough money to later travel to Egypt . In Egypt too he secured a decent job with a decent salary and was able to pay for his airfares to Sweden in 1986. In Sweden he has been working as a bread baker. Towards the end of his presentation he reiterated that it is not only in Europe that one can make something out of one’s life but that is also possible even in Africa. He made mentioned of the fact that some of his childhood friends who didn’t migrate, stayed back home and studied are able to have decent jobs to support themselves and their various families. Apart from Mr. karamo taking part in the online radio discussion forum he also participate in the teaching of the NKO language , an African language commonly referred to ask Mandinka in Gambia and Jula in Ivory coast and Malinke or Bambara in Mali. He is so passionate about giving instruction on this language. He gives lectures online together with a professor at Harvard University.

The expert verdict came after the personal story of Mr.Karamo Jammeh. Mr Gibril Faal who is an expert on migration and Development hammered on Migration as an enabler of inclusive social development. Mr. Faal is theInterim Director of Africa-Europe Development Platform (AEDP)/Director of GK Partners in the UK. He has made a lot of work on International Development and was awarded an OBE by the Queen of England for his strides in International Development.  On his deliberation Mr. Faal talked about the nexus between Migration and Development. He looked at migration in a very positive way citing the fact that migrants have contributed a lot in lifting themselves and their families back home out of poverty and have contributed immensely to the social development of their host countries.  He said that people migrate for three main reasons; to earn, to learn and to yearn and that he sympathize economic migrants too. What is more noble than migrating to better one’s life Mr. Faal asked?  He said the rules or laws governing migration may not be favorable to us but we have two options either to get in and play with the rules or sit outside and criticize the rules. “I like to do both” he buttressed.  He ended his speech by his famous quote that as migrants we should be merchants of solutions rather than peddlers of problems.

Mr. Francis Stevens George of Innovation Africa gave the closing remarks by giving a synopsis of the deliberation of previous speakers. Vote of thanks was given by Mr. Baba Abraham Kankani of ACID and Saikouba Samateh of ACID chaired the conference.

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Written By Landing Nyassi, Oslo

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