Should we change the narrative on African migration?

August 4, 2022 520 views 0 comment 3 minutes reading time
Should we change the narrative on African migration?

Despite narratives that paint an image of African migration across the Mediterranean, most migrants in Africa move within the continent. The Africa Migration Report published by the UN Migration Agency (IOM) and the African Union Commission (AUC) challenged sensationalised depictions of forced and irregular migration, which “reinforced the perception that African migration is a south-to-north movement.” The foreword by Antonio Vitorino Moussa, Director General of IOM, and Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the AUC states:

“While these certainly have a place in the narrative, the larger frame of the story is as complex and diverse as the people of the continent itself. It is a story that includes subregional, regional and cross-regional aspirations for enhanced integration, and with it, the recognition that migration in Africa today has the potential to drive continental development and transformation.”

Intra-African migration is on the rise, according to The Africa Center for Strategic Studies. In fact, the number of documented migrants within and from the African region nearly doubled since 2010. Though some may react to this news with trepidation, development agencies argue that migration is a mechanism for economic growth and transformation. If properly managed, intra-African migration could raise Africa’s per capita GDP by 61 per cent by 2030, according to a UNCTAD report.

Citing the report’s findings, Dr. Ibrahim Mayaki, CEO of the African Union Development Agency (AUDA- NEPAD) wrote that intra-continental migration presents a windfall for Africa:

“Countering the argument that immigration leads to competition for jobs, the study highlights the fact that some migrants are answering the call of the leading economic sectors of certain countries where the labour force is drying up. This is the case for education and engineering (Rwanda), financial services (South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda), telecommunications (South Africa, Rwanda), construction (South Africa, Ivory Coast) and mining (South Africa, Gabon), as well as for agriculture (South Africa again, Ivory Coast).”

Speaking at at the Africa-Europe Foundation‘s high-level Talking Africa-Europe special held virtually on 27 January 2022, Rwandan President Paul Kagame said the migration debate needs to be modernised.

At the same event, Brussels Airlines CEO Bernard Gustin made a case for the economic benefits of investing in travel infrastructure to support migration and boost intra-African trade:

Of course, there are many layers to the conversation, including the role of borders Africa. In a previous debate on freedom of movement between African countries, immigration expert Loren Landau, of the Wits-Oxford Mobility Governance Lab made the link between colonialism and the impact of borders on Africans:

As intra-continental movements continue to rise, so will the African migration debate evolve. Should we be working to challenge existing narratives to highlight the developmental potential? Share your thoughts below: