23 October 2011

IV. Tales of Labor Demands & Trade/Investment Interests

“If we are still together to work, it means that on our side we know what we gain from this kind of partnership and I am sure that on their side they know very much what they are gaining from us” (ECOWAS, Department of External Relations staff, Abuja).
Up to here, the findings were rather disillusioning. Nevertheless, it was at this point, where the advantages of the qualitative research came into play. Interviews with organizational staff highlighted a number of key stakes and interests, which fundamentally changed the setting.

·   West African voices reinforced that, unlike prevailing scenarios of crisis and conflict in European minds might suggest, the mobility of West Africans was mostly income oriented. African migrants locate their principle centre of life in their countries of origin, but saw themselves compelled to use citizenship as a tool to secure access to labor markets and therewith income. In this respect, a mechanism that would grant consecutive legal access to the needy sections of European labor market and incorporate adequate transfer mechanisms for welfare contributions would forestall questions of citizenship and membership to welfare communities.

·   Following the contributions of the ECOWAS staff, the central interest of inter-regional cooperation pertained to a strengthening of economic relations. They called for technology transfer, investment into processing and production industries and eventually trade in processed goods. These were considered a direct means to the end of socio-economic prosperity of the region. As the staff highlighted, this would indirectly increase regional employment opportunities and decrease the incentives of illegally migration to Europe. Also, it would indirectly increase the incentives for West African governments to implement the Free Movement Protocols.

·   The contributions of European voices highlighted that beyond the lip service of European governments paid vis-√†-vis their electorate, they fostered interests in a targeted labor migration system in order to sustain the European economic equilibrium. This should, beside others, address the young and increasingly educated West African population. Such a system would respond to sectors that were under strain due to a mere lack or a mismatch of labor forces. It would thereby forestall a competition with national/regional labor forces. Also, it could circumvent issues of brain drain by factoring in West African labor needs. Eventually, this would increase the labor opportunities to legal migrants and thereby decrease incentives for informal European labor markets, economies and illegal migration. Eventually, it would reduce the incentives of migrants to use asylum systems as a means to access European formal and informal labor markets and relieve asylum systems to protect the rights of those in need.

·   The political and economic reforms, which numerous West African governments underwent in the past decades, aiming at making trade and investment in and with the region more attractive, are still widely unknown. Nevertheless, European voices highlighted that the region is considered to be of increasing relevance to Europe in regard of investment and trade relations. This would potentially boost West African economies and employment opportunities. >>> read Part V. of I./II./III./IV./V./VI. <<<