The Rush to Europe
F. Roger Devlin, American Renaissance, March 23, 2018
Stephen Smith, La Ruée vers l’Europe : La jeune Afrique en route pour le Vieux Continent, Bernard Grasset, 2018, 274 pp., $16.99 Kindle.
Stephen Smith, age 61, is an American anthropologist trained at the University of Paris and a longtime resident of France. Formerly a journalist for Libération and Le Monde, he has written or co-written a dozen French-language books about Africa, none of which has appeared in English. His latest is an effort to understand the consequences of the current explosion of youth and vitality in Africa for an aging and weakened Europe.
Africa: yesterday, today, and tomorrow
For many centuries, the demographic profiles of Europe and Africa were the reverse of what they are today. Between the beginnings of European contact around the year 1500 and the end of the 19th century, the population of sub-Saharan Africa is thought to have risen from perhaps 80 to 95 million. Demographic growth was kept low by the primitive state of African agriculture, poor hygiene, the slave trade (both European and Arab), indigenous tropical diseases, and new diseases unwittingly introduced by Europeans. During these four centuries, the population of Europe quintupled.
At the height of European colonialism, around 1930, the total population of the African continent (including North Africa) was 150 million, or 8 percent of the world’s total. By 1960, the “year of Africa,” when 17 African nations gained independence, it had doubled, and it doubled again to 600 million by the time the Berlin Wall fell.
In the 1990s, the countries of North Africa shifted to lower fertility, and since then, population growth has been concentrated south of the Sahara. The total continental population passed the one billion mark in 2010, and stands today at just over 1.2 billion.
This demographic explosion, unprecedented in history, has been accompanied by rapid urbanization. Africa has gone from a land of open spaces where human labor was valuable to a collection of teeming slums and shantytowns where space is at a premium and labor cheap. An even more important consequence has been the “youth bulge:” Eighty percent of sub-Saharan Africans today are under age 30, and over 40 percent are under age 15. This concentration of youth greatly increases the danger of civil conflict.
Traditional African culture stressed deference to the wisdom of elders, a view well expressed by the Malian writer and ethnologist Amadou Hampâté Bâ: “When an old man dies, it is like a library burning.” But today, only five percent of the African population is over 60, and the proportion is even lower in the big cities to which the youth are powerfully drawn.
Lagos, Nigeria, is a useful microcosm for these processes. While the total population of Nigeria has increased by a factor of 4.5 since independence in 1960, the population of Lagos has exploded by a factor of sixty. Young people from all over the region head for this city where no one is waiting to hire them. They survive hand-to-mouth in any way they can. Of its population of now over 20 million — the largest on the African continent — nearly 95 percent are under age 30, and close to 60 percent are under age 15. For comparison, just 14 percent of Parisians are under age 15.
These young Africans are raised by their peers. They have a code of conduct that Prof. Smith describes as “not necessarily the law of the jungle, but hardly an introduction to public spiritedness either.” So-called 419 fraud, in which young Nigerians attempt to persuade gullible first-worlders via email to reveal their bank account information (see here), is a good example of how they get by. Others hire their services out to the powerful to intimidate or even kill political opponents.
The infrastructure of the city does not begin to suffice for its immense population. As of 2006, less than half a percent of the toilets in Lagos were connected to the main sewer system. The Lagos Lagoon has become an open sewer, but people continue to bath in, cook with, and drink its water because there is no alternative.
Despite intense urbanization, much of Africa continues to subsist on farming, with 96 percent of holdings not larger than five hectares (12 acres). Legal title is often vague and disputed, and only five percent of arable land is irrigated. The average hectare in Africa produces less than one ton of cereals, as compared to nine in France; the average cow gives less than a half-liter of milk each day, as compared to 25 liters in France; one African farmer in 500 owns a tractor, as compared to nine in ten in France.
Because of its dependence on an undeveloped agricultural system, Africa is more at the mercy of nature and ecological stresses than is the developed world. A case in point is the Sahel, the semi-arid transition zone between the Sahara and the more humid lands to the south. Its population is exploding even faster than the rest of Africa, but rainfall is irregular and unpredictable. UN agencies estimate that 80 percent of the region’s soil is “degraded,” and one-third of the population already suffers from malnutrition.
In the middle of the Sahel lies Lake Chad, on which some 30 million Africans are dependent. In 1960, it covered 25,000 square kilometers; today, it is around one tenth that size, and continues to shrink. Conflicts are breaking out between pastoralists and farmers for access to its dwindlng resources. The few schools in the region are mostly madrasas, which act as feeders for Boko Haram.
Africa would have to quintuple its agricultural production by 2050 to feed itself. Nigeria has already spent 10 billion dollars to import food in 2015 — the equivalent of 20 percent of its oil revenue. The continent will not be able to count on Western aid to meet needs on this scale.
And no “demographic transition” appears in the offing for black Africa. According to the most careful projections, the continent’s total population is expected to double once more by 2050, when it will account for 25 percent of the world’s population. By 2100 it will have reached four billion, and Africans will constitute 40 percent of the world’s people. Between now and 2100, three quarters of the children born in the world are expected to be Africans.
Is there any good news from Africa? Yes: a modest middle class is now developing, with some 150 million enjoying an income of between $5 and $20 per day. This new class is important for the future of stable government: powerful enough to look beyond bare subsistence, but not powerful enough to hope for legal impunity or undermine meritocracy. Their migration to Europe would therefore be harmful for Africa.
Prof. Smith also notes that the notion of an ever-growing abyss between the haves and have-not nations is now outdated: The gap was greatest around 1980, but has now fallen back to levels not higher than in 1900 (economic disparities continue to grow within countries, however). By means of satellite television and portable phones, Africa is far better connected to the rest of the world now than it used to be. Half of its countries already enjoy fourth-generation broadband internet streaming.
Partly as a result, everybody seems to want to get somewhere else: villagers want to move to provincial centers; once there, they want to move to the capital. The next step is a regional metropolis in a nearby country, such as Lagos, Abidjan, Nairobi, or Johannesburg. Beyond Africa loom visions of wealthy Europe, where one can live “the life of the white man.” A Gallup poll conducted in 2016 found that 42 percent of Africans between the ages of 15 and 24 want to emigrate.
At present, 510 million people live within the EU (including the UK). The number is expected to sink to 450 million over the next thirty-five years. In several European countries, there are now more people over 60 than under 20, and the population is expected to keep aging. As Africa explodes, the total ratio of Africans to Europeans will grow by a factor of five within the next 35 years.
Of course, there are people who see these changes in narrowly economic terms. They see African immigration to Europe not as a threat, but as the natural solution to Europe’s aging and declining population. According to a UN study from 2000, Europe will have to import 50 million people by 2050 (one million per year) to stabilize its population. Aging would continue under this scenario, and the number of economically productive people available to support each non-productive person — children and elderly taken together — would decrease from 4.3 to 2.2. Stabilizing the working population would require 80 million new arrivals by 2050, or 1.6 million people every year. The economic mentality that promotes mass immigration on such grounds — and it is common among European elites — may prove as great a threat to Western Civilization as Africans themselves.
Europe is ill-prepared for the threat. Very little of its scholarly literature on Africa is about demography. As recently as March 2000, when European leaders met in Lisbon to decide upon their strategy for the coming decade, neither demography nor immigration were even on the agenda. The “refugee” crisis of 2015 finally exposed the weaknesses of Europe’s defenses: They consist of little more than a few fences, some patrol boats, and occasional chartered planes to return the unwanted. The EU has recently been reduced to paying Turkey to perform police services on its behalf. Prof. Smith calls this a “dyke stopped with wads of Euros.”
About nine million people of African origin live in Europe, of which perhaps five million are sub-Saharan blacks.
Total migration per capita in the world has not increased greatly since 1960, when three percent of the earth’s population was living outside its country of origin. As late as 2015, the figure was still only 3.3 percent. Of course, in absolute terms, migration has been increasing along with the world’s population.
But the real change in recent years has been the direction of flow. The UN distinguishes four flows: South to South, South to North, North to North, and North to South. These terms refer to the “socioeconomic” North and South, so that, e.g., New Zealand is counted as part of the global North, in spite of geography.
Until recently, by far the largest migratory flow occurred within the global South. The “wretched of the Earth” have been migrating to improve their economic prospects since long before they began arriving on our shores. But by 2010, South to North migration was accounting for 45 percent of the total, and migration within the global South has fallen to 35 percent (17 percent of migration occurs within the global North, and only three percent from North to South).
All this movement of people is commonly associated with “globalization,” but Prof. Smith distinguishes the wealthy globalists, who travel a lot but rarely settle in another country, from the globalized masses, who do little travelling but frequently resettle abroad to improve their economic prospects.
Between 2000 and 2015, an average of 4.1 million people per year established residence in the member nations of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, a reasonable proxy for the global north. The UN currently projects that 91 million more will come by 2050, even as the wealthy countries lose 20 million people to birth deficits. Eighty-two percent of the demographic growth will therefore come from immigration from poor countries.
Western sentimentalists cling to the notion that dire poverty “forces” people to migrate. In fact, the very poorest are least likely to make the trip; their mental horizon is usually limited to day-to-day struggles, and they could not afford to travel. Widespread civil war in Africa during the 1990s — worse than today — produced no rush to Europe.
Two conditions must be met, according to Prof. Smith, before Africans move to Europe. First, they have to be able to afford the trip (currently about 1,500-2,500 Euros, depending on the starting point). In this regard, the new African middle class which represents one of the few positive developments on the continent only adds to the danger facing Europe.
Second, receiving communities of coethnic “pioneers” must be established in the target country. Prof. Smith mentions, e.g., that Minneapolis-St. Paul has attracted 25,000 Somalis in part because a tiny number of Somali businessmen were already established there before the Somali civil war broke out. Analogous receiving communities for Africans now exist in most of the nations of Western Europe.
Once these two conditions are in place, a sudden event such as a natural disaster is likely to provide the trigger for mass migration. The drying up of the populous Sahel zone could be such a trigger.
Prof. Smith compares the situation in Africa to that of Mexico 50 years ago. Before 1970, most Mexicans were too poor even to think about crossing the Rio Grande. Between 1975 and 2010, increasing prosperity enabled some ten million of them to settle in the US legally or illegally. With their descendants born in the US, they now form a community of 30 million, nearly 10 percent of the population. If Africans follow the Mexicans’ example, we may expect between 150 and 200 million Africans in Europe by 2050. In a little over thirty years, in other words, between 20 and 25 percent of the European population may be of African origin.
The voyage to Europe
We do not have a clear picture of migration across the Sahara: Any journalists who tried to inform us would have to run many risks, including being taken hostage by jihadists. There are collection points in the Sahel where migrants are housed before making the trek. Migrants are then accompanied across the desert by “fixers” on mopeds whose job it is to bribe border guards. The International Organization for Migration estimates that between 1996 and 2013, 1,790 Africans died crossing the desert.
After the crossing, migrants unable to pay are taken to houses in North Africa where they are beaten and starved. Photos of them in a pitiful state are posted on Facebook to encourage relatives back home to pay their ransom. If no one pays, they are sold as slaves. The white “humanitarian” workers ferrying Africans across the Mediterranean seem oblivious to their responsibility in keeping this system going.
We are far better informed about how Africans get across the Mediterranean, of course. One method is to sneak into Spain’s African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. In 2003, the Spanish government constructed a seven-meter-high steel fence at a cost of over 30 million Euros. But beginning in 2006, hoards of Africans began occasional mass-assaults on the fences, and some got through. Others try to swim around the sea barriers. In February 2014, the Spanish Coast Guard fired rubber bullets at a group of swimmers; at least 15 died. But those who make it in can take a ferry to Europe like any Spaniard.
A greater number set off into the Mediterranean on ramshackle boats. In 2015, the fatality rate was 0.37 percent. Since then, it has been rising, reaching 1.92 percent between January and August of 2017. As Prof. Smith points out, this is still lower than many risks Africans commonly take as a normal part of living in Africa. For example, the rate of death in childbirth is higher than that in many parts of the continent.
“Humanitarian” vessels have been coming ever closer to the territorial waters of the North African nations to pick people up, and this has given Africans an incentive to set out in ever more unseaworthy boats. Recently, nine-meter-long Chinese-made inflatable rafts have become popular. Each is filled with 130 persons, often propelled by a single oar. It is important to remember that this is only the tip of a very large iceberg. The “rush to Europe” has barely begun.
Lack of realism
For all his knowledge of Africa, Stephen Smith is no race realist. At one point he writes: “If the arrival of foreigners were the Nemesis often described, how were countries such as America or Australia able to build their prosperity?” He also complains of Africa’s schools “whose level hardly prepares for international competition,” as if improving them could bring African achievement up to the level of the rest of the world.
Prof. Smith makes a number of shrewd criticisms of the sentimental impulse to “let ‘em all in,” but portrays the wish to stop African immigration altogether as an equally irresponsible and unrealistic form of “extremism.” He emphasizes the apparent unfairness to Africans of the vastly unequal distribution of the world’s wealth, but this looks at the matter from an exclusively individual point of view. Human beings don’t come into the world as individuals. We have what our ancestors left us, just as Africans have what their ancestors left them. It is true that ours were more successful in accumulating wealth. One of the reasons they accumulated wealth was to leave it to us — not to see it plundered by racial outsiders who have in many cases been encouraged to resent us.