- Burkina Faso
- Cape Verde
- Central African Republic
- D.R. Congo
- Equatorial Guinea
- Guinea Bissau
- Ivory Coast
- São Tomé and Príncipe
- Sierra Leone
- South Africa
- South Sudan
Monday, March 31, 2014
They’re leaving home
Every year, millions of Africans pack their belongings and leave behind families and friends. A hostile environment—war, persecution, insecurity—pushes some to seek refuge. Others leave searching for a job, better education or adventure.Wherever the “push-pull” balance lies, migrations help and harm societies.
Receiving countries may be saddled with having to care for legions of destitute and desperate refugees. But they also benefit from immigrants’ skills and labour. Similarly, the countries being left behind may lose productive workers, but they also profit from the remittances sent home by successful emigrants—and from the return of citizens equipped with more money and know-how.
Estimates of the diaspora’s size range from 30m to 168m, according to theWorld Bank. Their economic impact is considerable: 30m migrants sent $60 billion to 120m recipients in 2012. This amount is understated because not all transfers are tracked. Still, it outstrips official development assistance and aid, $51 billion in 2011, the latest year available.
Large numbers of refugees are hiding or stuck in camps, a result of conflict and poor government performance. In 2012 the UN High Commissioner for Refugees counted 10.5m refugees worldwide. Of these, 2.7m or 25% were in sub-Saharan Africa.
African governments are confronted with trying to extract the maximum economic benefits from migration, while reducing the factors that force people from their homes. Steps can be taken to achieve both goals.
Successful diaspora communities, such as Somalis in the United States, represent a potent economic opportunity. Ethiopia has shown how establishing networks with expatriate communities and fostering regular dialogue is crucial to tapping capital, skills and experience. Bringing down the cost of sending remittances, which at an average of over 12% is currently the highest in the world, could also increase the benefits.
Finally, even long-time emigrants can be induced to return by improving education, protecting civil and property rights, and promoting economic growth at home.
Urgent action is needed for exiles hiding or trapped in refugee camps. The world’s two most populated camps are in Kenya. Despite the efforts of international organisations and host countries, these refugees live under catastrophic conditions.
Making their countries of origin more peaceful and prosperous would go a long way to creating conditions that would encourage their return.
Government performance underlies most migration stories. Improving it promotes voluntary, desirable migration: it matches skills and capital with opportunities in other places. And it also reduces forced migration, allowing people to remain with their families and friends rather than fleeing from war or persecution.
CEO of Good Governance Africa- Introduction to the April edition here