Spain’s ‘Focus Africa’ Initiative Is Mainly About Domestic Politics

Spain’s ‘Focus Africa’ Initiative Is Mainly About Domestic Politics
Senegalese President Macky Sall, left, and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez during a welcome ceremony at the presidential palace in Dakar, Senegal, April 9, 2021 (AP photo by Leo Correa).

MALAGA, Spain—In early April, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez traveled to Angola and Senegal, accompanied by representatives of 12 Spanish companies he hopes will do business there. The visit followed the launch in late March of his ambitious Focus Africa 2023 project, which aims to increase Spain’s commercial presence and investment throughout the continent, as well as to improve economic opportunities and infrastructure in several sub-Saharan nations.

Closer to home, in terms of Sanchez’s political agenda, the project seeks to address the root causes of migration, with the hope that, in time, these improved circumstances will reduce the levels of undocumented arrivals in Spain from Africa, while making Madrid a “key strategic partner on the continent.” Sanchez has said that he wants the 2020s to be “Spain’s decade in Africa.”

The Socialist leader launched his initiative against the backdrop of a dramatic increase in migrant arrivals to Spain’s Canary Islands, which has made the paradisiacal archipelago situated 60 miles off the Moroccan coast the focal point of Europe’s migration crisis. In January, the Spanish Interior Ministry revealed that just over 23,000 migrants had arrived in the Canary Islands by boat in 2020, an eightfold increase compared to 2019. So far this year, another 4,300 have landed there, more than double the amount during the same period in 2020.

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