The Coming African Tide

African Immigration

When immigration issues are discussed in this country, it is usually in regards to Mexico & Central America (or, more recently, the Middle East). But, writing in the National Review, Sami J. Karam discusses an upcoming population explosion in another region – the African continent – and its potential immigration repercussions.

Today sub-Saharan Africa has a billion people. In 2050, it will have 2.1 billion. Of more vivid concern is the fact that the working-age population, aged 15 to 64, will grow by 800 million people, from 500 million to 1.3 billion. This 800 million increase is roughly equal to five times the current size of the U.S. labor force.

Bear in mind that those numbers are assuming that current fertility rates decline over the next 35 years. If they stay the same, the numbers will be even higher, with an increase of 1.1 billion instead of 800 million.

So in the next few decades, there will likely be somewhere between 800 million and 1 billion more working-age Africans, and a push-pull effect that encourages emigration from there:

Africa is a wealthy continent, but its wealth is highly concentrated in the hands of a few and is often domiciled outside of Africa, in offshore financial centers and in real estate and other assets all over the developed world. For decades, this configuration has worked wonders for Africa’s rulers and their entourages.

If the above numbers are correct, that configuration is not sustainable in the long run. Not only will there be many more Africans in the future than in the past, but the advances in global connectivity through the Internet and mobile phones mean that these future Africans will be much more aware of the prevailing living standards in the rich world. Even now, each has in the palm of his hand a direct visual connection to Europe, the United States, and other prosperous places. They have seen what a rich society looks like and they want their own place within it.

I’m sure you can do the math on the impact this will have on immigration from African countries to the U.S., Canada and Europe.

If you think this is some kind of anti-African immigration diatribe, it’s not. I’m actually very much in favor of it – Africans are among our very best and brightest immigrants. Africans tend to blossom here – they work hard, do well in school, have an incredible entrepreneurial spirit, and usually find some version of the American Dream within their lifetimes. And in my mind, their success here disproves the liberal talking point that our society stacks the deck against blacks. If a black person who just got off the boat from Kenya can make it here, then a black person from Chicago can, too.

But I am well aware that immigration is not an effective way to solve the poverty issue, as this brilliant presentation by author Roy Beck proves:

I am also well aware that there is a limit on how many immigrants the U.S. economy and infrastructure can handle before it becomes overwhelmed. As much as I would love to bring every hardworking person who wants a better life here, that’s just not feasible.

So what should our response be? Well, as Karam discusses elsewhere in the article, there are plenty of things we should be doing to improve conditions on the ground in Africa (fight corruption and cronyism, encourage a more democratic governance, invest in infrastructure, etc. – go read the whole thing). It’s time for the First World to take some serious steps toward working with these countries to become less dependent on foreign aid and more able to grow their own economies.

And this is something we will need to factor in to any future discussions about immigration policy, border security, etc. Countries like Germany, Sweden and the UK overlooked the dangers of massive immigration from the Third World, and now their people are paying the price. We should make sure not to make the same mistake, particularly now that Africa is becoming more Muslim at a frightening pace.

We ignore this issue at our peril.

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