New book on how colonisation drives today’s African migration to Europe

As I write this article, 44 migrants, mostly Africans, who were rescued in the Mediterranean by the humanitarian organisation Sea Eye off the Libyan coast on Monday, are desperately looking for where to be allowed to disembark in Europe.

The migrants’ dilemma follows the Sea-Watch 3 controversy in June, when the rescue boat forcibly docked in the Italian port of Lampedusa, leading to the arrest of its captain Carola Ranecke, after about two weeks at sea as no European country was ready to allow the migrants to disembark at its port. The drama goes on.

Last year, about 112,000 migrants found their way irregularly to Europe through the Mediterranean while at least 2,217 lost their lives in the process, according to the International Organisation for Migration. Many more are even believed by migration experts to have died in transit; travelling across the Sahara Desert, for example. About 700,000 migrants, mostly sub-Saharan Africans, are stranded in Libya not being able to continue their journey to Europe. There is a crisis.

In his book  Stolpersteine auf dem Weg zur FreiheitVon der Kolonisation Afrikas zur Migration (“Stumbling Blocks on the Road to Freedom – From the colonization of Africa to migration”), Joël Agnigbo methodologically shows how the vestiges of Africa’s colonial experience are in various ways responsible for today’s migration from the continent to Europe.

The author, a graduate of cultural and political history from the University of Siegen, Germany, who is originally from Togo, criticises the education system in Africa because it’s not attuned to the culture, reality and needs of the people. A system that gives the impression that all that is good has to be foreign. The lack of local relevance is the reason why most school leavers and graduates are not employable, Agnigbo opines.

Stolpersteine auf dem Weg zur Freiheit – Von der Kolonisation Afrikas zur Migration, 2018
ISBN 978-3-945177-64-8
€ 12,-


He therefore calls for a radical reform of the education system which the Europeans originally set up mainly for the purpose of training local helpers in the machinery of colonial administration.

Agnigbo also identifies the looting of African resources by Western companies in collusion with the continent’s ruling elite and the unfair trade relations between Africa and the rest of the world as contributory factors to migration.

Moreover, Agnigbo blames the negative image of Africa in the West and a romanticised view of the West in Africa as driving forces of migration as young folks in Africa sometimes do leave their homelands not because there is absolutely no opportunities but the idealised image of the outside world which makes them believe that they only need to travel out to achieve their dreams.

On his motivation to write the book, Agnigbo said: “I wanted to get to the bottom of relations between Africa and Europe myself. That’s why I studied cultural and political history. During my studies, I learned that cultures are the link between societies. Every society has a way of thinking, feeling and acting. That was a great realization for me. From this I concluded that the complete destabilization of African cultures by Europeans during colonization had enormous consequences.”

Stolpersteine auf dem Weg zur Freiheit is very original in its analysis and should be read not only for its explanations of the roots of the ongoing migration from Africa but also because of its relevance to understanding why the continent hasn’t been able to make as much progress as its peoples desire.

Femi Awoniyi

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