Working Paper 119 - Migration Patterns, Trends and Policy Issues in Africa
Description Migration has played a distinctive role in shaping the economic, cultural and political face of Africa and continues to do so. It is estimated today that the number of people with African descent that live outside of the continent is close to 140 million, most in the Western Hemisphere. The bulk of these immigrants lost their ties altogether with the country of origin. Migrants that left their country in recent decades are able to keep in close contact with their relatives and maintain economic, social and political relationship with the country of origin mainly due to the rapid pace of globalization and continuously improving, cheaper communication possibilities a fact that also contributed to the debate on the role of migration for development. This study highlights the role of harnessing ‘migrant potentials’ and transforming them into development prospects aiding in the fight against poverty and human suffering. This paper documents the pattern, trend and determinants of migration in Africa using rich cross-country migration matrix data and household surveys from Burkina Faso, Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal. Even though, official data on migration in Africa significantly understates the actual movement of people due to inaccurate, infrequent and inconsistent recording by officials, there has been periodic instability in the movement of people. Over the past three decades, migration rates in sub-Saharan Africa have fluctuated widely with episodes of large net migration observed during civil conflict. Even though Africa has, on average, one of the lowest rates of emigration, there are large cross country variations. Yet, there are some countries with emigration rate that far exceeds the global average. For example, Cape Verde, Equatorial Guinea, Seychelles, Sao Tome and Principe, Lesotho and Mali have rates of migration exceeding 10%. A common feature of these countries is that they are relatively small in comparison to the average African country in terms of population size and resource abundance, and tend to have higher rate of international mobility given narrow or limited livelihood opportunities and dependency on a specific commodity for trade. Intra-continental movement of people accounts for at least half of global migration. The rest tends to be transcontinental, except for emigrants from Latin America where the majority move to North America. The intra-Africa emigration rate is about 52% and marginally lower than Europe (59%) and Asia (54.7%). However, the rate for sub-Saharan Africa (65%) is significantly higher and represents the largest intra-continental or south-south movement of people in the world. Out of the 29 million stocks of emigrants from Africa in 2010, about 23% were from North Africa and the rest originated from Sub Saharan Africa. More than 90% of the emigrants from North Africa generally head to countries outside of Africa. Generally, the intra-African migration is driven by the complexities of the history of state formation where colonial borders overlooked often linguistic and ethnic commonalities, as well as waves of internal and cross-border conflicts. Whereas, the long term factors that may influence the pattern of emigration from Africa to OECD countries tend to be related to demographic and labor market pressures. Recent projections show that the evolution of the labor force across the globe raises serious developmental concerns. In 2050, nearly all major industrialized nations are expected to experience a substantial deficit in their labor force, particularly in the most productive age bracket, while currently poor regions such as Sub Saharan Africa and South Asia are expected to witness a huge surplus particularly among the young. The surge in labor surplus in Sub Saharan Africa is of particular concern as it would imply the doubling of its current labor force and at a global level will be twice that of South Asia and India. The potential problem that may arise from these global imbalances in the labor market is significant to warrant dialogue and discussion early on to devise optimal policy coordination between labor surplus and deficit regions. Upon close scrutiny, micro data reveals that the motives for migration are often economic opportunity and the attempt by households to diversify away from living in risky environments. Thus, the characteristics of households that have at least one international migrant member tend to be closely associated with the size of the household, network externalities, education of the head of the household. Evidence for Ghana, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Nigeria shows that the probabilities of having a migrant in the household are highly correlated with characteristics such as the size if the household, level of living standards. Preliminary findings suggest that the labor market effect of migration. Migrants, generally, change occupations and find jobs that require some degree of skills. Addressing global imbalance in the labor market requires serious attention and policy coordination in a number of areas. Despite domestic efforts to reform labor markets, and improve labor productivity, Europe, North America and to a certain extent China may have to rely on immigration to meet growing shortfall in labor force. However, the degree to which available labor force is compatible with the needs of the labor market becomes central. Projected demand indicate that middle level skills tend to be in great demand and acquiring compatible skills remains a challenge to most emigrants from African countries.