From: AIDOGHIE PAULINUS, Abuja
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, has said the only way to put an end to the increasing numbers of youths seeking greener pastures in Europe through the Mediterranean Sea was for Africans to move up in the value chain.
Onyeama stated this, in Abuja, when he received, in audience, a trade delegation from Mali which was at the ministry to seek the support of the Federal Government towards the promotion of locally-made products.
The trade delegation was in Nigeria to visit the Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing Company Limited (Innoson Motors) for the purchase of 400 IVM vehicles to Mali.
The visit to Nnewi, Anambra State, was facilitated by the Olusegun Awololowo-led Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC).
Onyeama noted that the continent was witnessing a number of negative things such as youths embarking on hazardous journeys across the Sahara, seeking to get to Europe.
Onyeama said: “We are seeing a number of negative things in Africa. We see our youths, African youths, embarking on hazardous journeys across the Sahara, seeking to get to Europe, a large number of them finding their death in the Mediterranean Sea, finding their death in the Sahara desert.
“This is a big shame for Africa. These are our young children that we are losing. Why? Because of lack of employment, lack of opportunities on our continent.
“Africa produces so much, but very often, we only deal in raw materials. We are not adding value to what we produce and we are not getting engaged in the higher end of productivity, greater technological impute.
“We produce cocoa for example, but the real money is made by those who don’t produce cocoa, who produce chocolate, who produce brands and are able to make billions of dollars from what we produce.
“The countries that make money from tea are not tea producers. The United Kingdom, for instance, does not produce tea. But it makes more money from tea than the countries that produce tea; the same with coffee and other raw materials.
“And this is the lot of Africa. We have to move up the value chain if we are to stop our children from embarking on hazardous trips across the Sahara, trying to get entry into Europe, being exploited in Europe,” Onyeama bemoaned.
Onyeama said he found it so paradoxical, so ironic that 200 years after the abolition of slavery, when others were coming to Africa and forcibly taking our young people away, against their will to go and work for them, that now, our young people voluntarily and are even dying to go and make themselves slaves in those same countries.
Onyeama told the delegation that what they were achieving on the soil of Africa, could really be the beginning of a real revolution on the continent of Africa.
Speaking earlier, Onyeama said the visit was historic in many ways and was really founded on a number of issues.
According to Onyeama, “the first one is that at the end of this year, the heads of state of African countries, decided in January, as part of the Vision 2063 for Africa, that we should have a continental free trade area in Africa.
“This is very revolutionary and it is part of a process of greater African integration and greater trade promotion, intra-African trade promotion.
“Only about 10 percent of trade relations by African countries are carried out amongst African countries within the continent. So, almost 90 percent of our trade relations are with countries outside the continent. And you can imagine the very negative impact this has on growth on our continent, job promotion on our continent, and wealth creation on our continent,” Onyeama stated.
Onyeama further said Africans have a long way, stating that the desideratum of Africans, our ideal, is to have greater trade amongst us in Africa.
He added: “Hence the continental free trade area is a move in that direction and it showed the growing political will of African leaders. We have realised that we really can be the masters of our own destiny,” Onyeama stated.
In his remark, the leader of the delegation and Deputy Mayor of Bamako, Harimakan Keita, who spoke through an interpreter, said they accompanied Taxi Plus VIP Company to Nigeria to visit Innoson Motors.
Keita said: “I can assure you that what we have seen there gives us a lot of hope. We saw for the first time, an African company that constructed buses from the beginning up to the end. That convinced us that Africa shouldn’t be behind other countries.”