22 November 2018
A controversial proposal by a German minister that foreign powers acquire land in Africa to curb migration has been rejected by the African Union, writes the BBC’s Dickens Olewe.
The European Union, or a body like the World Bank, should build and run cities in Africa in order to boost job creation and development on the continent, Germany’s Minister for Africa, Gunter Nooke, told the BBC in an interview in which he outlined his thinking on how to stem migration to Europe.
This will mean African countries leasing their land to a foreign body to “allow free development for 50 years”, Mr Nooke said.
It is a controversial idea, rejected by critics as reeking of colonialism. But others – like Carol Musyoka, an academic at Strathmore Business School, one of Kenya’s top universities – are open to the concept.
In a BBC interview, Ms Musyoka described the proposal as “fascinating”, and said she would support it if it was a genuine attempt to ensure that Africans – not foreign powers – benefited.
American Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Romer developed the idea a decade ago.
In 2009, he said developing countries should consider surrendering part of their territory to foreign states which would then build what he called “charter cities” from the ground up.
The cities, he added, would operate under a set of laws separate from the host country.
‘Hong Kong of Central America’
In 2008, Madagascar’s then-President Marc Ravalomanana expressed interest in implementing the plan in the Indian Ocean island following a meeting with Mr Romer.
He said two such cities would be built where locals and migrants from neighbouring states could live.
The opposition accused Mr Ravalomanana of treason, and organised protests which killed the idea and helped trigger his downfall in 2009.
Honduras’ then-President Porfirio Lobo Sosa also expressed support for the idea, saying in 2011 that “charter cities” would improve the lives of Hondurans by offering competitive jobs, better health and education, and a “top class” legal and security system.
The independent Honduran La Prensa newspaper said at the time that the plan would make the country “the Hong Kong of Central America”.
Mr Sosa failed to implement it, following a backlash from critics opposed to Honduras losing control over its territory.