Africa’s Never-ending Debt is cause for Concern

A new poll of young Arab nationals in North Africa and the Middle East revealed the kind of numbers that give people like Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron nightmares. 87% of the 18-24 years old surveyed expressed concerns about unemployment and a stunning 42% have considered leaving their country, according to the findings of the report conducted by the global public relations agency ASDA’A BCW.

When asked where they’d like to go, European countries were of course high on the list.

The sentiments of these young people are likely shared across Africa, where a similarly youthful population is facing a grim future due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent economic crisis.

It all comes down to jobs and the ability to earn a living. History has shown that if people can’t make enough money to feed themselves and their families in one place, they’ll pick up and go somewhere else.

When — because it’s no longer “if” — African economies begin to collapse under the combined weight of unsustainable debt burdens, surging public health costs, persistently low commodity prices, and devalued currencies that effectively push up the cost of borrowing beyond their reach, European and other international stakeholders will not be able to say they didn’t see this coming. And one way or another, they’re going to pay.

Dealing with the aftermath of failed economies and mass migration will be much more expensive than providing the modest financial relief that African leaders have been calling for the past six months.

The fact that the European, American, and Chinese governments, who have the resources to prevent this catastrophe are doing virtually nothing to stop it is remarkably short-sighted. Maybe they think it’s not their problem, or they’re just too consumed with their own political dramas to be able to focus on what’s happening in MENA and Africa?

Whatever it is, the young people polled in that survey should serve as a sobering reminder that if nothing is done, they’ll soon be knocking on Europe’s door.

Eric Olander is Managing Editor at The China Africa Project.

First appeared in The Africa Report.

Photo by Ehud Neuhaus on Unsplash.