European Union and African leaders discuss migrant crisis
Leaders of the European Union and more than 30 African countries met in Malta on Wednesday for a two-day summit to agree upon a joint strategy to “address the current challenges but also the opportunities of migration.”
At the summit, the EU agreed to increase aid to African countries in return for their help in stemming the unprecedented flow of migrants and refugees. From January to October 2015, 540,000 migrants have sought refuge in Europe—more than three times the number of migrants who entered the region in 2014. As stated by EU Council President Donald Tusk, the number of people moving across borders “has never been so big.”
The summit’s participants devised a plan that involves increasing the number of visas for students and legitimate visitors; providing more social protection for migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers in Europe (and in their countries of origin); augmenting efforts to crack down on human traffickers; and enhancing cooperation between governments to return failed asylum seekers to their homelands. They also discussed reducing the cost of sending remittances between the two regions to less than 3 percent of the total amount sent by 2030, according to the Financial Times. A Migrant Trust Fund of 1.8 billion euros ($1.9 billion) was approved to promote economic opportunities, security, and development in the regions that comprise Africa’s major migration routes to Europe, including the Sahel, Lake Chad, the Horn of Africa, and North Africa. German Chancellor Angela Merkel commented that the EU’s relationship with Africa includes “clear demands and expectations”—namely that African countries would accept migrants deported from the EU—and also declared that the future of Africa-EU migration lies in “legal exchanges and not in smuggling.”
African leaders, however, seemed unconvinced that the financial assistance and increased security measures would suffice to cut migration. Others, including Cote d’Ivoire’s President Alassane Ouattara dismissed the migration issue as not an “African problem,” citing that only 22,000 African migrants reached Europe this year, compared to the 800,000 migrants from other regions of the world.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari swears in members of cabinet
This week, six months after Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office, he finalized the appointment of his cabinet, and 36 ministers were sworn in. The ministers’ lengthy selection process (which rattled investors and local businesses concerned by the lack of direction over the country’s economy) was due in large part to the careful screening conducted by the Nigerian Senate in order to ensure that the cabinet reflects President Buhari’s key message of change and integrity, according to the administration. As indicated by the constitution, Nigeria’s 36 ministers are selected from the country’s 36 states. Still, in order to “reduce inefficiency,” President Buhari eliminated eight ministries, and—as announced last month—appointed himself minister of petroleum.
Notably, the Nigerian Finance Ministry will now be headed by former investment banker Kemi Adeosun, who will succeed former World Bank Managing Director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. Kemi Adeosun is also the former finance commissioner for Ogun state, where she improved the state’s financial position by reviving declining revenue levels. Nevertheless, her position on monetary and fiscal policies needed to turn the Nigerian economy around may be worrisome for investors, who consider currency restrictions to stifle economic activity: Last month, Kemi Adeosun stated that currency devaluation would not be a solution to Nigeria’s economic woes, and she reiterated her support for foreign exchange restrictions.
Post-crisis violence in Burundi worsens as the United Nations calls for peacekeepers
The surge in violence following Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza’s disputed re-election in July has intensified over the past week as the administration has been increasing its threatening rhetoric against opposition members, and its security forces have been carrying out operations to seize illegal weapons in the capital of Bujumbura—resulting in deadly skirmishes. President Paul Kagame of Rwanda recently accused the Burundian government of carrying out “massacres” against its people, stoking international concerns that the country may be on a path to genocide. On Thursday, the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution requesting that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon present a framework within 15 days to send U.N. peacekeepers to Burundi and allow peace talks between the government and opposition to resume. The violence has already killed an estimated 240 people and led to the displacement of over 200,000.
In response to the Burundian government’s “continuing crackdown on opposition members,” U.S. President Barack Obama notified Congress on October 31 that he has revoked the country’s beneficiary status under the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA)—a measure that will come into effect in January 2016—through which Burundi exports several million dollars of goods to the U.S. According to The East African, the EU, the U.S., Belgium, and the Netherlands have withheld more than $190 million in aid since the beginning of the crisis in order to compel President Nkurunziza to engage in talks with the opposition.