The Africa Migration Report, recently published by IOM and the African Union Commission highlights that aside from volatile and insecure conditions, poverty, food, and environmental crises, the potential for economic growth, employment opportunities, and better standards of living has become by far the most motivating factor for the large number of people moving across Africa.
Despite the usual narratives that paint an image of African migrants crossing oceans, over 80% of migrants in Africa actually cross land borders throughout Africa.
The African continent has experienced the sharpest increase in international migrants with the number growing from 15.1 million to 26.6 million between 2000 and 2019, representing an increase of 76%.
Despite the growing number of migrants recorded over the past decade, Africa’s share of the world’s international migrants is a mere 10% compared to Asia which hosts 31%, Europe with 30% and Northern America with 22%. The Africa Migration Report indicates those countries on the continent which host the most migrants.
The data reveals that the entire African continent recorded a total of 7.3 million refugees and asylum seekers, representing 25% of the global population of refugee and asylum seekers.
In the same vein, while migration trends between 2000 and 2019 reveal that movement in Eastern, Middle, Northern and Southern Africa more than doubled, these figures also take into account migration that occurred within the continent.
The majority of African migrants move within the continent, with only a modest number relocating to other continents.
Data points to the fact that incidents linked to irregular border crossings increased in 2020 with 50% of Africans living in the OECD countries coming from North Africa and more than 16,000 people from West Africa reaching the Canary Islands irregularly by boat since January 2020.
However, recent reports also show that 94% of Africans migrating outside the continent use safe, legal and regular pathways for migration.
Moreover, policy dialogues in Africa have been overly focused not only on how forced and irregular migration on the continent is governed but also depicted.
There is a realization that reporting on irregular migration in Africa is often sensationalized which creates an inaccurate perception that Africans are more likely to migrate outside the continent than within.
The Africa Migration Report calls for a reconsideration as to how migration is viewed, where migration through regular pathways is often given little emphasis.
It calls on attention to be paid to the strides being taken by African member states in recent years to facilitate safe, orderly and regular migration.
For example, frameworks such as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement and the Free Movement Protocol (FMP) are making it possible for countries on the continent to position themselves to reap the benefits of migration by creating an environment where the free movement of goods, services and people is possible.
There is an increasing understanding that sound migration policies have the potential to boost trade, ensure labor mobility, allow skills and knowledge transfer and to enhance regional integration and development within the continent.
Furthermore, the report sheds light on the growing labor migration on the continent and the critical role this plays in Africa’s development as underlined in the African Union’s development blueprint – Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want.
Labor migrants are now able to move more freely within the continent’s Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and will increasingly account for the continent’s growing diaspora population.
The report also reveals the potential that intelligence and knowledge distribution across the continent will play as, for example, seen in skilled professionals who are moving to work in the academic and health sectors in countries with resurgent economies such as Botswana.
The misrepresentation of the migration landscape on the continent is also likely to be caused by limited data and evidence. Improved production of migration data is, therefore, seen as integral to providing a clear-cut picture and in devising policies and frameworks.
Increasing the availability of better-quality data has begun to help governments to choose appropriate migration policies and pathways to promote at national level.
The collection of high-quality migration data and statistics remains a key component of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) and the African Union’s Migration Policy Framework for Africa (AU MPFA).
The report, therefore, underscores the importance of developing an African migration data capacity building program to help address the paucity of actionable information. Such knowledge will also shed more light on the phenomenon of irregular migration and the effective responses countries can take.
The new narrative on migration in Africa presented by the report is a call to action to challenge and debunk commonly held perceptions and myths about African migration and African migrants.
Current frameworks are transforming African migration narratives by stimulating more regulated pathways for migration and enhancing the existing movement flows for continental development and socioeconomic growth.