RELIEF: Conflicts and poverty in Africa continue and this leads to more people looking to Europe as a safe haven, the writer says. Picture: AP
The migrant flow from Africa into Europe has been a significant problem for a long time, and the never-ending wars and poverty in parts of Africa only exacerbate the situation.

These people, who have as much right to live dignified and high-quality lives as Europeans, risk dangerous journeys towards an unknown future, with the hope finding a better life. However, conflicts continue and as poverty spreads, the problem will likely grow and more downtrodden and impoverished people will look to Europe in the hope of finding a safe haven and a dignified life.

Yet it is clear that the entire population of Africa or the Middle East cannot be accommodated in Europe. Therefore, after providing temporary relief for urgent cases and especially for vulnerable people, the solution should focus on improving the living conditions of the lands in question.

Today we know that apart from the millions who wish to take refuge in other countries owing to an imminent threat to their lives and dignity, there is also a significant group of people that want to do the same to achieve higher living standards. And they surely deserve to live high-quality lives just like everyone else. Every person is born equal and a person’s birthplace should not decide if they will be respected, valued and live a humane life. However, since it is impossible to fit the entire population of the world in certain areas only, we should work to achieve the desired living standards everywhere.

In other words, the solution to the refugee and immigrant problem should focus on two main points:

- Providing immediate shelter and relief to people that urgently need protection and help.

- Improving sub-par living conditions in problematic regions so that people do not feel the urge to leave their countries and seek a better life elsewhere.

It should not be forgotten that the European colonial powers played an important role in the current impoverished and strife-ridden state of Africa. While Europe developed, prospered and built a civilisation of rich culture, art and science, certain European leaders of the time, in pursuit of their colonial dreams, breached every human right and moral value and terribly exploited Africa. So much so that between 1881 and 1914, in now what is called the "scramble for Africa", 90% of the continent came under European control. Over time, despite its natural resources, beauties, culture and art, the continent became impossibly impoverished. Today, despite its rich natural resources, 75% of the world’s poorest countries are to be found in Africa. In 2010, 414 million people were living on $1.25 or less a day in sub-Saharan Africa and almost one in three people in sub-Saharan Africa are undernourished and 589 million people in the same area live without electricity. And traces of those days still linger in certain areas. For instance, France still receives a so-called colonial tax from its former African colonies, which amounts to around $500 billion (R6.5 trillion) a year. Many sources in Africa are still under the control of certain European countries. Furthermore, never-ending clashes, civil wars and conflicts continue to destroy the continent and force millions to look for shelter and help.

However, it is possible to make Africa a new centre of culture and civilisation. It is possible to make Lagos another Paris, Dar es Salaam another Rome or Addis Ababa another London. The continent has more than enough potential and culture to make this happen. For instance, according to the UN Economic Commission for Africa: "Africa accounts for three-quarters of the world’s platinum supply, and half of its diamonds and chromium. It has up to one-fifth of the world’s gold and uranium supplies and it is increasingly home to oil and gas production, with over thirty countries now in this category."

Also, these wonderful lands were home to impressive civilisations in the past. For example, while Europe was struggling in the darkness of the Middle Ages, Timbuktu was home to world’s first university. In the 12th century, in a city of 100 000 people, this school had 25 000 students who came from all around Africa to excel in knowledge and a variety of talents. Today, it is perfectly possible to make it again a centre of education and culture, a hub of art and music, a safe haven that promises a good, dignified life to both its residents and visitors.

We have seen this transformation many times in the past. For example, until the 1960s and 1970s, the UK, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Spain and Portugal were primary sources of emigration and millions of people migrated to countries like the US and Australia. However, as living standards rose in these countries, the trend reversed and the sources of emigration turned into magnets of immigration.

There is no reason why Africa cannot achieve this, given its potential, its natural resources, its cultural background and diversity, coupled with the willingness of the world to help. But first, the modern colonisation should stop immediately.

After that, under the auspices of the UN, each country, proportional to their GDP, can contribute to a fund reserved for the development and improvement of living standards in Africa. When this happens, not only the inhabitants of this beautiful continent, but Europeans will benefit as well. They will finally be relieved of the social and economic challenges brought about by mass immigration and will have a new destination, almost a new version of Europe, where they can enjoy a good life amid a different and exciting culture. Until this is done, the immigration influx will clearly continue.

So let’s take concrete steps to solve the root causes of the problem and make every place of human settlement in the world a desirable location, where people live quality lives befitting their human dignity.

* Harun Yahya is a Muslim intellectual, and the author of 300 books on science and faith topics.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

The Cape Argus