Migration is an opportunity for Africa

Friday, April 8, 2016

Last week, in Addis-Ababa, I had the honour of participating in an event titled « Migration in Africa : issues, challenges and opportunities », organized by the Economic Commission for Africa in the margins of the Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development.

Migration is not a new phenomenon but a burning issue in Africa. Today, Africans are among the most mobile people on earth. Indeed, 31 million people from the continent have migrated to various parts of the world, including many African countries. There are various types of migrants: some people choose to migrate while others are forced to do so (war, political instability, poverty or persecution). Also, according to a joint study* by the OECD and the ADF, one Subsaharian Africa resident in three expresses his desire to migrate permanently to another country. For instance, more than half of Sierra Leone’s population aged 15 and more (52%), 47% of Liberia’s population and 46% of Democratic Republic of Congo want to move elsewhere. The figures are overwhelming!

But no matter the reason, what is certain is that migration is rarely considered as an opportunity. Besides, Africa suffers from a wrong perception whereby African migration is driven essentially by underdevelopment. And this explains why migration out of Africa is rarely seen as an asset for Africa’s growth.

However, this is a misconception which is obviously caused by the current European migration crisis which dominates media coverage. The migration debate is then pushed into a negative territory. This created the false impression that irregular migration from Africa to Europe is the only topic, when in reality intra-African migration dominates the flow of migrants (80% of Africans who migrate do so inside the continent, with only 15 to 20% taking the route to Europe). These intra-regional flows are not new: they were encouraged during the colonial period to meet workforce needs in the areas where employment was growing briskly, and then continued after independences.

Today, I encourage every Government to face its responsibility and to ensure proper management of migration so that it can contribute broadly to the continent’s development. This is a major concern. Indeed, migration has the potential to reduce unemployment by contributing to economic development through remittances and by importing skills, knowledge and technology to both the countries of origin and destination. This is the reason why the African governments need to design polices that secure the benefits of migration at global and regional levels with involvement of the countries of destination and the countries of origin. These policies could range from facilitating more orderly and safe migration and visa free travel in Africa, to promoting the integration of migrants into the host country. This is the only way to make migration in Africa a real opportunity.

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