In This Review

The Scramble for Europe: Young Africa on Its Way to the Old Continent
The Scramble for Europe: Young Africa on Its Way to the Old Continent
By Stephen Smith
200 pp, Polity, 2019

In this sometimes rambling but always interesting long essay, Smith directly tackles the issue of African immigration to Europe only in the last couple of chapters. The preceding sections focus on recent socioeconomic trends in Africa, with a particular emphasis on the continent’s demographics. Smith makes the familiar idea of an African “youth bulge” (in which high fertility results in a very young population) more compelling by documenting a new dividing line when it comes to inequality in the region: age. Today, in countries across the continent, a minority of older people is trying to retain its political and economic privileges at the expense of a younger cohort. Smith argues that inequality is one of the motivations for young Africans to undertake the very dangerous trip to Europe but suggests that a “sense of adventure” spurs their journeys, as well. Although he laments the region’s poverty, he views sharp increases in the number of African immigrants to Europe as inevitable, even if African economies continue their recent acceleration. Greater access to funds and closer links with Europe will strengthen both the ability and the desire of would-be immigrants to make the trip. The book ends on a sour note, arguing that this scramble for Europe will only sap Africa of the energy it needs to confront its own challenges and will increase unemployment and undermine welfare states in Europe.