Building a Collective Voice and Proposals on Migration from Sub-Saharan Africa

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Background

Rationale for the Conference

This initiative on migration is in line with the common desire of the African Governance Institute (IAG), the African Union (AU) and the Coalition for Dialogue on Africa (CoDA) to promote reflection and dialogue on critical issues to support leaders and decision makers in the pursuit of the structural transformation of Africa.

Towards that end, there are plans to organize a high-level conference on migration which is a real phenomenon in Africa (A). Since it deeply touches on issues of development and governance in Africa (B), migration is indeed a key theme for multi-stakeholder policy dialogue (C).

Migration

A Real Phenomenon in Africa

While capital flows and trade hasten humankind into a frenzied globalization process, the natural human mobility trend is going through an historical and dramatic moment. With the rapid development of modes of transport, the media and of communication information technology, the instant and permanent interconnection between human societies determines and guides migration dynamics which are paradoxically becoming increasingly restricted and risky.

Though the selective channels of regular migration are becoming more complicated  each day for the 250 million migrants worldwide, these channels appear to be closed for a significant number of Africans – and especially young people – who brave insecurity and uncertainty as they journey to a European continent which is becoming increasingly protective every day.

Over the past years, the African and international public was shocked by the tragic death of thousands of young Africans who had embarked on perilous adventure, and who finally met death in the Mediterranean Sea, taking along their dreams and aspirations.

In these unprecedented tragic events, sub-Saharan migration trends are predominantly singled out in the media. They are characterized primarily by political, police and diplomatic measures taken against them. The establishment of a European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union (Frontex), as well as the

cooperation initiatives with the countries of departure, like Senegal, Cape Verde, Mauritania, clearly indicate a desire on the part of Europe to contain what some have described as a real “African invasion.”

Yet, the reality of Sub-Saharan migration trends is doubly paradoxical. On the one hand, the strong desire shown by European countries to mobilise substantial political, administrative and police resources for combating and discouraging sub-Saharan migration trends appears inconsistent with a phenomenon which turns out to be marginal. On the other hand, the scanty information and low level of reflection on internal African migration trends, just like the timid initiatives by African states, contrast with the scale of the phenomenon and the discourse on development, Pan-Africanism and African integration.

 

Firstly, sub-Saharan migration to Europe is not only marginal, it is also perfectly legal, even if 100,000 sub-Saharan migrants – without visas – attempt to cross over to the old continent each year risking their lives in the process. In 2004, the number of officially registered African migrants in countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) accounted for only 13% of immigrants, including 3.8 million North Africans and only 3.4 million sub-Saharan Africans. Certainly the sub-Saharan migration trends have been growing since the 80s in a country like France, yet, they represent less than 10% of flows.

In fact, Africa is the main destination for African migrants, ahead of Europe. Intra-African migration concerns the entire continent, and mostly the West African and Southern Africa regions, whose countries receive the largest number of migrants. Most of the movement occurs within regions. Therefore, out of 100 West African immigrants, 70% remain in Africa, with 61 of them staying within West Africa – in countries of the sub-region, while 8 go to the Central African region and 1 to North Africa. Therefore, only 30% reside out of Africa, with 15 in Europe, 6 in North America and 9 in various other countries.

Similarly, migration in Southern Africa has been primarily directed towards South Africa since the 90s. There have been a growing number of migrants, initially from neighbouring countries, Mozambique and Angola, as well as from the rest of Africa.

Migration within States is also a major phenomenon in Africa. Over the past 45 years, rural exodus has grown rapidly in West Africa, with 80 million people migrating from the countryside to the city. The urban population thus rose from 10 to 128 million. If current trends continue, nearly 60% of the African population should be living in the city by 2025.

Actually, these African migration trends – domestic or international – pose real difficulties, especially in terms of administrative facilities, opportunities for economic and social integration, access to public services as well as security and respect for human rights for migrants. In a world context marked by global threats such as terrorism or climate change, human mobility also refers to the challenges of recasting not only identities but also departure and host societies and territories. They further raise the issue of the added value of migration on African key challenges in terms of transfer of technology and knowledge, capacity building and the arrival on the continent of large numbers of immigrants for the “future world” etc.

So far, migration has hardly made any substantial impact on the strategies and collective progress capacity of the African continent and the world at large, although human mobility is really a potential source of enrichment of societies and States. Migration thus results in and reveals great challenges of governance and development.

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Governance & Development of Africa at the Core of Migration

Migration is a strategic topic for the analysis and projection of public governance and modernity in Africa. The study of the phenomenon of migration sheds light on and leads to better understanding in time and space of the correlations and influences between many development and governance issues in Africa.

Indeed, a comprehensive and systemic approach to migration trends shows how worldwide decisions and practices – on commodity prices or development patterns fostering climate change for example – lead to harmful effects on local areas. It also shows how in turn local adaptation and survival strategies transmit poverty to cities and cause international migration. Only such an approach can reveal how migration results from failed public policies and ineffective methods of regulation at national, continental and international levels.

First, migration is caused and guided by a combination of factors – but of varying importance, especially of economic, social, cultural, political, security or environmental nature. Therefore, generating knowledge and acting on human mobility requires a cross-cutting analysis of these different sectors in the departure and host areas.

Next, migration reflects both a perception and a relationship between a former place of living and/or a new one. It therefore necessitates reflection on territories and interrelationships – horizontal or vertical – between them. In this sense, they call for reflection on key issues, including the territorial approach to development, regional planning, regional integration, decentralization, cross-border cooperation, territorial governance or even the place of Africa and its territories in international and global spheres.

Finally, migration in Africa sets in motion a multitude of actors that interactformally or not, directly or indirectlyon different scales. It thus defines relationships as well as perceptions and positions between States, community and international organizations, and between human societies from local to global. Migration therefore fundamentally questions the meaning and future of the world, and basically the future of Africa. In this sense, it stands as a theme bringing into play problems, scales and actors and requiring careful reflection and appropriate proposals for change.

Theme

A Key Theme of Multi-Stakeholder Policy Dialogue

In view of the global economic and demographic context, territorial disparities and social inequalities, as well as unbalanced ownership of resources of all kinds, human mobility trends will intensify and become more complex over time and space. Therefore, and considering the issues and challenges they entail, migration is a core issue – current and future – for the world.

Migration dynamics fundamentally question the development and governance of Africa in relation to itself, to Europe and the rest of the world. It currently constitutes a basic theme for research and policy dialogue on critical issues facing Africa. By linking the problems of development and governance, levels and human societies, migration also brings together a host of diverse interdependent stakeholders whose vision, aspirations and plans can be based on misunderstandings, which can potentially bring them into conflict.

This explains why migration, given its current effects and its development in the future, is above all else a theme that calls for multi-stakeholder dialogue involving migrants, policymakers, families, communities, states, integration and international organizations, the private sector, civil society, the diaspora etc.

This is the reason why the AGI, the AU and the CoDA have agreed to encourage and support pro-active reflection on migration by all categories of stakeholders from the various regions of the continent, the diaspora and partners, thereby providing them the opportunity to contribute to the political dialogue for socio-economic structural transformation in Africa.