news analysis advocacy
AfricaFocus Bookshop
New Gift CDs
China & Africa
tips on searching

Search AfricaFocus and 8 Partner Sites



Visit the AfricaFocus
Country Pages

Burkina Faso
Cape Verde
Central Afr. Rep.
Congo (Brazzaville)
Congo (Kinshasa)
Côte d'Ivoire
Equatorial Guinea
São Tomé
Sierra Leone
South Africa
South Sudan
Western Sahara

Get AfricaFocus Bulletin by e-mail!         More on politics & human rights | economy & development | peace & security | health

Print this page

Africa: Migration and Development

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Sep 16, 2006 (060916)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

"[The] potential benefits [from international migration] are larger than the potential gains from freer international trade, particularly for developing countries," notes an extensive recent United Nations report on migration. But while the liberalization of the flow of goods and capital continues to increase, restrictions on the movement of people are leading to thousands of deaths in border areas such as the U.S. southwest desert and the sea routes between Africa and Europe.

The Report of the Secretary-General and extensive additional documentation, too long to conveniently excerpt here, is available at the website of the High Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains the executive summary from another report presented at the summit by the Economic Commission for Africa (, on the implications for Africa of international migration and development, and a UN fact sheet on Sub-Saharan Africa prepared to the Dialogue..

Another AfricaFocus Bulletin sent out today contains recent reports on treatment of African immigrants in Spain and in Libya.

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++

International Migration and Development: Implications for Africa

United Nations Economic Commission for Africa

Executive Summary

[For full text of report, visit]

Migration of people across national borders and continents is crucial for peace, stability and development at the national, sub-regional and regional levels. The potential for migrants to help transform their native countries has captured the imagination of national and local authorities; international institutions and the private sector. There is an emerging consensus that countries can cooperate to create triple wins -- for migrants, for their countries of origin and for the societies that receive them.

On 14 and 15 September 2006, high-level representatives of all member States of the United Nations will gather in the General Assembly to explore the relationship between migration and development. For Africa, this meeting and the process leading up to and following it is important as international migration plays an important part in the continent's struggle to develop and improve welfare, peace and stability for its growing population.

This report, International Migration and Development: Implications for Africa, aims to contribute to the ongoing discussions on migration by providing background data and analysis from an African perspective. Drawing on the ongoing debate about migration and development, the report argues that maximization of the benefits requires better management of international migration, and sound political and economic governance in the context of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD). The report expounds this argument in six analytical chapters covering the dimensions, and economic and social implications, impacts on the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), harnessing remittances for development, and security aspects of migration. The report's final chapter charts a way forward, providing suggestions for better management of international migration in Africa.

Migration streams are larger within Africa

Migration flows within and out of Africa display a wide range of patterns, modulated by strategies to cope with factors such as economic and ecological problems, intra-regional disparities in economic well- being, political instability, and restrictive migration policies. African international migration involves a wide range of voluntary and forced cross-border movements within the continent, as well as regular and irregular migration to destinations outside the continent. Migration streams within Africa are much larger than those out of Africa, and forced migration plays a significant part. African nations, already struggling to provide for their own populations, were harbouring about one-third (three million) of the world's refugees at the end of 2005. The first three chapters of the full report expand on African migratory patterns and their social and economic implications, particularly for attainment of the MDGs.

Depletion of Africa's human resource pool

International migration impacts development in Africa in a wide range of ways such as loss of human capital, but also remittances and the acquisition of skills. A key challenge for African States who already face serious human resource shortages is skills migration or 'brain drain'. The African human resource pool is continuously depleted as the educated choose to emigrate and apply their skills abroad. In the case of the health sector, where African countries are facing increasing demand as a result of HIV/AIDS and other diseases, several countries experience a net depletion of their health work force. For example, 926 Ghanaian doctors practice in the OECD alone, representing a much-needed 29 percent of the doctors still practicing in Ghana. In Chapter 4, we examine these trends, and suggest mitigation strategies such as setting up mechanisms for compensation for lost skills.

African migrants contribute to African development through a number of channels. Diaspora remittances and the income multipliers they create are becoming critical resources for the sustenance strategies of receiving households as well as agents of local and national development. In 2004, remittances to Africa amounted to $14 billion, with Egypt, Morocco and Nigeria being the largest recipients. Based on existing research, Chapter 5 describes how households that receive these migradollars tend to use the proceeds primarily for current consumption (food, clothing) as well as investments in MDG-related areas such as children's education, healthcare and improvement in household food security through investments in agricultural technology.

Migration and security

Chapter 6 examines how migration is closely linked to security concerns, at the individual, national, and global levels. Conflicts and violence spur population movements, while migrants can experience threats to their individual security while in transit, as well as at their points of destination. Some countries are concerned that migrants may constitute a security threat. Importantly, unlike goods and services, the movement of people abroad involves a wide range of social issues, such as human rights, family unification and social integration, that would need to be efficiently and appropriately managed, to increase human security, ensure respect for people and human rights, and harness resources for development.

The response of African Governments to migration challenges has been very limited and fragmentary. Few countries have implemented international conventions and related policies on migration. International migration barely features in national development plans and strategies, and has not been adequately addressed in any of the regional development frameworks such as the NEPAD, MDGs, and PRSPs. However, international migration is increasingly gaining the attention of African leaders. In this regard the African Union (AU) has put in place a policy framework to stem the brain drain through the creation of employment opportunities, and to mobilize the African diaspora for the development of their countries.

In the concluding chapter of the report, we argue that the way forward should be based on sound management of international migration, which requires capacities for greater collaboration within and between countries and regions. However, in Africa, this is largely constrained by lack of data/information and knowledge on international migration and development. These are issues that would need to be addressed in order to understand the scale and dimensions of international migration and the labour market for development in Africa.

Based on available knowledge, the report proposes a range of actions and policies necessary for minimizing the harms and maximizing benefits and opportunities of international migration. Key among the recommendations is the promotion of all human rights, particularly the rights of the international migrants and their families, through ratification and implementation of the relevant international conventions, and through bi-lateral and multilateral agreements between sending and receiving countries.

Coercive policies work against peace and security

International migration involves diverse cultures. Therefore there is a need for action to bring about tolerance and coherence to nurture integration and support multiculturalism. Coercive policies in both sending and receiving countries work against peace and security at all levels, and against the maximization of the benefits of international migration. Therefore, governments will need to cooperate more to eliminate the coercive polices and to enhance the contribution of the migrants and their families to international development.

The contributions of international migration to development extend beyond economic gains to encompass cultural enrichment, social welfare, health and education, and political stability. Therefore, it is imperative that these neglected dimensions be harnessed for sustainable development. There is need for constructive engagement between countries to bring international migration more to the arena of international development cooperation.

Also, it is necessary for countries to harmonize their national policies and the roles of various ministries and agencies involved in international migration. Finally, human and institutional capacity building is important for maximizing the benefits of international migration.

Continuous investment in education and health will bring about long- term benefits that would need to be realized through the creation of employment opportunities and commensurate wages.

Way forward

In an increasingly globalized world, the way forward in managing migration for increased benefits of sending and receiving countries, and of migrants and their families may be found in:

  • Promoting the ratification of international conventions and protocols and aligning national policies to such international obligations;
  • Promoting advocacy and awareness creation, especially in the receiving countries and highlighting the positive contributions of migrants to sending and receiving countries;
  • Emphasizing that the contribution of international migration to development touches many dimensions of development including economic advancement, social welfare and cultural enrichment, health promotion, and political stability;
  • Supporting bi-lateral and multi-lateral agreements between sending and receiving countries as channels of enhancing the contribution of international migration to international development;
  • Promoting coherence among different national policies and increasing the capacity of all stakeholders to implement policies geared towards improvement of legal and statistical systems on international migration;
  • Building human and institutional capacity for maximizing the benefits of international migration and minimizing perceived disadvantages;
  • Promoting regularized consultative processes on international migration at global, regional and sub-regional levels;
  • Providing improved social and economic conditions in the sending countries to minimize factors that make people leave their countries in search of self-improvement;
  • Promoting international, regional and sub-regional partnerships, including those organized in the diaspora;
  • Focusing investment into areas which optimize the generation of jobs for available skills; and
  • Continuing the dialogue on global trade, with emphasis on complementing the notion of open markets with complete elimination of subsidies.

United Nations

International Migration and Development

Regional Fact Sheet

Sub-Saharan Africa

Produced by the UN Department of Public Information, in cooperation with the Population Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs

[This and other documentation available at]

In 2005, there were nearly 16 million international migrants living in sub-Saharan Africa countries, constituting 2.1 per cent of the total population, and a Diaspora of migrants from the region living overseas who have contributed to the sub-continent through remittance of earnings and economic interactions with their home countries.

The slow growth in migrant stock in the sub-continent (in 2004 2005, increasing by only 265,000) is in large part accounted for by the ongoing reduction in the number of refugees, which declined from 5.4 million in 1990 to 2.75 million in 2005. The drop-off reflects the return of refugees to their home countries, in the wake of successful resolution of conflicts during the 1990s.

The most significant receiver of migrants within the sub-continent is South Africa, which uses bilateral agreements to manage the temporary admission of migrant workers from neighbouring countries for employment in the mining sector. According to one study, poverty would increase by about 15 per cent in Lesotho if migrant workers in South African mines were to stop sending remittances home.

Outgoing migration from the region has attracted international attention recently because of desperate efforts by Western African migrants to enter Europe clandestinely via sea lanes, and resulting deaths, which have led to new efforts at regional cooperation (see below).

The diaspora of sub-Saharan Africans living overseas has returned a considerable amount of their earnings to families in home countries. See table 1.

Table 1: Ten top Sub-Saharan African countries according to remittances received in 2004
Source: Population Division, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs

Ranking   Country        Remittances         Percent of GDP
                         (millions USD)

1         Nigeria        $2,751               3.6

2         Sudan           1,403               7.0
3         South Africa      521               0.2

4         Senegal           511               6.7

5         Kenya             494               3.3

6         Lesotho           355              25.9

7         Uganda            291               3.7

8         Mauritius         215               3.4

9         Mali              154               3.1

10        Togo              149               7.2

In a report to a UN symposium (Turin, Italy, June 2006), the UN Economic Commission for Africa stated: "Although the debate on the impact of international migration on development in Africa has largely been shaped by the loss of skilled Africans to the developed world, growing evidence shows that international migration has positive effects on social and economic development in Africa."

Remittances from the wages of migrants abroad, and the income multipliers they create, are critical resources for the sustenance strategies of receiving households, according to the ECA. The extra resources at the disposal of these households in turn make them agents of local and national development. An increasing number of overseas migrants in conjunction with hometown associations, investment groups and religious groups are involved in transnational activities that help to integrate African countries with the global economy; hundreds of small and medium scale factories, commercial businesses and agricultural enterprises have been established by returnees, initiating knowledge spillovers from migrants, employment opportunities, profits and additions to the local and national tax base.

The ECA cites studies showing that Kenyan families receiving remittances amassed greater productive capital than families not receiving them; in Burkina Faso, the population living beneath the poverty line was reduced by 7.2 percent in rural households as a result of international remittances; Zimbabwe families that managed to diversify their household portfolios through migration tend to have higher levels of educational attainment as compared to households without migrants; and South African children living in household with a migrant worker and that received remittances were significantly less likely to drop out of primary or secondary school than those in a household without a migrant worker.

Nevertheless, not all outward migration produces a "brain gain". The UN Conference on Trade and Development estimates that each professional leaving Africa costs the region $184,000. The ECA notes that departures of health workers from Africa to richer countries have led to a significant deficit of essential skills in the health sector. In some countries, the proportion of doctors trained at home who have left for OECD countries is quite high. More than 12,000 doctors trained in South Africa now work in an OECD country, according to 2006 World Health Organisation statistics. In comparison, there are slightly less than 33,000 doctors working in the country. More than 900 physicians trained in Ghana are working in an OECD country, compared with 3,240 practising within Ghana, according to WHO figures.

Intensifying humanitarian crises caused by a growing stream of sub-Saharan migrants towards Europe led to the convening in July 2006 of an African Union-European Union conference in Rabat, Morocco. This first ministerial-level meeting between Europe and Africa to discuss migration, it approached the issue in the context of the promotion of development and by considering how migration can be a positive factor. Along with promoting assistance for the victims of trafficking victims and coordination on security measures to stem the flow of unauthorized migration across borders, measures were discussed to also stem the brain drain from Africa through partnerships between technical and scientific institutions and strengthened cooperation on professional training.

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

AfricaFocus Bulletin can be reached at Please write to this address to subscribe or unsubscribe to the bulletin, or to suggest material for inclusion. For more information about reposted material, please contact directly the original source mentioned. For a full archive and other resources, see

Read more on |Africa Politics & Human Rights||Africa Economy & Development|

URL for this file: