By Mokun Njouny Nelson
South Korean Government officials had to issue a quick statement recently refuting allegations it had agreed to accept 100.000 unemployed Malawian youths to work mainly as labourers in its fast expanding factories. South Korea is experiencing a sharp decline in its’ birth rate and urgently needs foreigners to work to keep its well oiled machinery in business. Moon Sung Hwan, director at the Africa Unit of the South Korean foreign Ministry said “ our government has not received any official request from Malawi that they want to send their workers to our country”. Mr Hwan issued the statement following criticism the Malawian youths will be little more than slave labourers in South Korean factories. The Asian country already imports labourers from 15 countries.
Malawian authorities insist they had an agreement to send the youths to South Korea. President Joyce Banda reportedly signed the agreement with South Korean officials when she went visiting in February this year.
In what it is now reporting as “Malawi exports blues,” Malawi online news service Nyassa Times, reports that Kuwait has placed new demands on some other Malawian youths they wanted for their labour market too. Malawi Labour Minister Eunice Makangala said the new conditions were difficult to fulfill adding that “this is what happens when you are a beggar”; a less than flattering thing for a minister to be admitting.
According to World bank statistics, Malawi is a low income country and most of it’s fifteen million people survive from subsistence agriculture. Though there is annual economic growth of 4.3 percent, its GDP is only US$ 5.600 Billion (compared to US$ 2773 Trillion for France)
Will exporting Labour resolve Unemployment problem?
Facing a huge unemployment problem especially among its youthful population, the Malawian government is anxious to “export” the problem abroad. Malawi opposition MPs have criticized the export oriented employment Initiative that president Banda is supporting with vigour. The Initiative is aimed at allowing Malawian youths between 19-25 to travel abroad mostly to South Korea to learn agricultural skills in South Korean farms. Prof Chijere Chirwa, renowned Malawian historian criticized the policy saying it was a short term fix to a long term problem. Exporting an unskilled labour force abroad will never resolve the long term economic problems of Malawi she said. She added that the terms on which the youths will be working on cannot protect their basic rights or interests.
Malawi might be struggling to export unskilled workers abroad but there is a more serious problem facing the continent, bright talents leaving to work abroad.
According to the African Renaissance Ambassador (http://www.aracorporation.org/files/factsandfigures.pdf) (ARA) a Pan African movement fighting against poverty and disease across Africa, brain drain is the biggest issue affecting the development of Africa today. The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa recognizes this problem when it stated ““The emigration of African professionals to the West is one of the greatest obstacles to Africa’s development.”
Ara was created by Africans living abroad and its main office is in the US- a contradiction in terms.
We asked some Nigerians if they thought travelling abroad was the best way of resolving the problem of unemployment across Africa. Their answers are intriguing.