The Scramble for Europe: Young Africa on Its Way to the Old Continent

by Stephen Smith

Cambridge, Eng.: Polity, 2019. 197 pp. $69.95 ($22.95 paper, $18 ebook)

Reviewed by Daniel Pipes
Middle East Quarterly
Spring 2022

„Smith, professor of African Studies at Duke University, looks at demographics to reach deep conclusions about the future of Europe and Africa. Consider some raw facts: when Europe’s „scramble for Africa“ took place about 1885, Europe (excluding Russia and what is now Turkish Thrace) had an estimated population of 240 million people and Africa 100 million. Today, those numbers are 600 million and 1.25 billion. In 2050, predictions peg them at 600 million and 2.5 billion. Over the 165-year period, then, Africa will have grown ten times faster than Europe.

Noting these numbers and the desperation of many young Africans to reach Europe, Smith holds that „neither Europe nor Africa has yet taken the full measure of the challenge that lies ahead. The two continents are still unprepared for a migratory encounter of unprecedented magnitude.“ He proceeds to explore this challenge in his absorbing book, what he wryly calls the „scramble for Europe.“

It will not parallel the nineteenth-century version’s competition by elite Europeans for commodities, markets, and „a place in the sun,“ but it will concern ordinary Africans, primarily young males with disposable income (to pay for their travels) and „infinite aspiration,“ seeking their fortune. Looking at historic precedents, primarily the U.S.-Mexico border, Smith predicts that „more than 100 million Africans are likely to cross the Mediterranean Sea“ over the next two generations and that one-quarter of Europe’s population will become what he calls Afro-European.

A former journalist at major left-wing French publications (Le Monde, Libération), the author does not trouble himself with the legal status of migrants, much less does he „lie awake at night trembling at the prospect of an ‚Africanization‘ of Europe.“ To the contrary, Africans who find jobs „provide European economies with the brains or brawn in demand, and ageing societies with … youth and diversity.“ He disdainfully dismisses „the European fantasy of Muslim conquest.“ „Fortress Europe“ he calls „notorious in the eyes of many for being a losing battle fought for a shameful cause.“ Any attempt to stem African migration through security measures alone is „destined to fail.“

His worries lie very much elsewhere, in Africa turning into „an abandoned hulk“ as its most dynamic elements „decide to leave for Europe [and] give up on their homeland.“ He understands the motives of the individual Africans but believes „they are wrong – headed in the wrong direction … for the destiny of their continent.“ Indeed, they are selfishly looking on only for themselves and „are running away“ from Africa’s future. Overall, Africa has much to lose from this population transfer.

Well, that is one conclusion from the crucial facts that Smith has eloquently pointed out.“

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