John Simpson is the BBC’s World Affairs Editor. If ever a self-made man revered his maker, it’s John Simpson.
He’s finally got himself a viral post. 2.4 million people viewed his post disparaging the events earlier this week in Dublin. But, true to form it wasn’t the distressing scene of children being stabbed but the reaction of the local riff-raff that got his goat.
You might think Simpson, being the BBC’s World Affairs Editor, would be pretty well clued up on what drives emigration from Africa. Is it war and global warming or something altogether more mundane?
Migrating from Africa or anywhere else is an expensive business. Generally, it’s not the poor that emigrate but the middle and professional classes. For every migrant crossing the channel in a small boat, 40 other migrants arrive by plane.
A fascinating study of the hopes, dreams and concerns of young Africans has been produced by the Ichikowitz Family Foundation, a market research company based in South Africa. Its African Youth Survey 2022 provides one of the few comprehensive analyses of the key drivers of African migration. The study involved 4,500 face to face interviews with 18-24 years olds across 15 African countries.
The study found that 69% of young Africans wanted to migrate within the next five years with most wanting the move to be permanent. Since 2020 there has been an 11 percentage point drop in ‘Afro-optimism’, which the authors identify as one of the key drivers in the wish to emigrate.
The study identifies the main reasons for them wishing to emigrate as:
- Economic reasons 44%
- Education opportunities 41%
- Want to experience something new and different 25%
- Corruption in my country 18%
- Political reasons 12%
- Security reasons 9%
- Reuniting with family members living abroad 9%
- Lack of personal freedoms in my country 9%
- Religious reasons 7%
It may come as a surprise to John Simpson but neither climate change nor war got a look in (though “security reasons” might include conflict fears). Neither did discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The latest data on this I could find related to a U.K. Government study that showed 6% of asylum claims were based on discrimination in the claimants home country.
A further finding of the African Youth Survey was that young Africans see the consequence of infectious diseases being the biggest change in the last five years that has affected both their personal circumstances and that of their nation. Indeed, such was the severity of this, that what in 2019 had been quite an optimistic outlook had reversed and was now far more pessimistic.
The study found that the decline in Afro-optimism can likely be attributed to the global Covid response. Nearly half (45%) of African youth say that deaths from infectious diseases such as COVID-19, Ebola, tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/AIDS is the event that has had the largest impact on the continent in the past five years, an increase of 19% since the 2020 African Youth Survey. The researchers comment that this deterioration is likely caused by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The question is, where did the youth of Africa get the idea that Covid posed a threat to them? The data show that deaths from Covid in Africa, cumulatively since 2020 at 181 per million were 15 times lower than the rate of 2,799 per million across Europe.
This miniscule death rate came about despite the vaccination rate across Africa being about one third of the rate in Europe.
However, we only have to look at where these young Africans get their news to begin to understand why they were misled into believing that they faced an existential threat from Covid. Apparently, 69% of them believe that the BBC is a very, or somewhat trustworthy source of information. We’re back with John Simpson and his ilk and misleading information.
Exactly who benefits from migration is hard to determine. Some economists argue that we need more migrants and that they drive up GDP, though the recent sluggish growth during years of record migration make that hard to credit. Whether there are any winners is debatable. However, there’s definitely a loser, and that’s the country from which they migrate.
Covid in Africa was effectively a confected panic, confected by the BBC and other international broadcasters and by global institutions such as the WHO. It looks very much like it has led directly to yet another unforeseen consequence, that of the young, middle-class, well educated, motivated Africans wishing to leave their home countries in ever greater numbers.
John Simpson does a huge disservice to Africa by portraying it as a continent of war and apocalyptic climate change. I’d encourage you to read the study for yourselves; the views of the young people don’t reflect Simpson’s characterisation at all. Rather they come across as entrepreneurial with so much get up and go that increasingly they’ve got up and gone.