Publication [ID: 28]

Rural Africa in Motion

In 2015, UNDESA estimated that 33 millions of Africans are living outside their country of nationality. The number represents almost 15% of international migrants worldwide. However, contrary to the common perception, most of these migrants stay within the continent or even region. The migration flows within continent have been stable over the last 20 years, reaching about 16 million people in 2015. Although it should be mentioned, that these numbers do not include illegal migration or rural-urban migration flows. Despite the importance of these migration flows for both rural and urban areas and the estimation that they are six times greater than international migration, accurate data is still missing.

Migration is part of the transformation process in Africa

Migration is a natural process that intensifies when structural transformation takes place. The development in the Sub Saharan region and the shift towards industrialization strengthens the rural-urban migration. In some cases, migration is forced due to poverty, food insecurity or due to environmental or political conditions. More often, migration is a choice for rural livelihoods to try to adapt to new conditions and reach new opportunities. Migration can be temporary, circular or permanent. Even if perceived as challenges, migration can offer benefits for both countries of origin and destination countries. At destination, migrants can provide skills missing in the labour force and in the country of origin; they reduce pressure on natural resources and through remittances contribute to diversification of income sources, thus providing security and minimising risks.

Migration in the context of Sub Saharan Africa

The population in the region is expected to grow to 1.4 billion people by 2050, with majority of people still living in rural areas. The demographic push puts pressure on the economic development and on the process economy diversification in rural areas. The industrialisation process is slower than needed to absorb the pressure on the labour market. Nevertheless, cities will continue to grow without the expected rise in incomes. This structural change is unique to the region with specific spatial and territorial dynamics that affect livelihoods in different ways than in regions.
Rural-urban migration is part of the process of industrialisation, but given the slow pace of development, limited opportunities in cities and the fact that agriculture will remain a driving economic sector; migration out of towns should be seen as a factor as well. Additionally rural-rural migration and circular/seasonal migration also will contribute to re-shaping livelihoods and redistribute population. These processes will strengthen the regional integration and will blur the line between rural and urban areas, thus making peri-urban areas and small towns more relevant to rural development and to the agricultural sector.

Patterns, dynamics and drivers

The traditional push-pull model of migration does not capture the complexity of migration in contemporary Africa. This model does not account for non-economic factors that often define the nature of migration. The atlas uses a more comprehensive approach with primary focus on intra-African migration, both within and between countries. It provides a picture of migration dynamics, patterns and diversity in the region. In the second part, the authors look into the local conditions. Migration drivers are place-based and the implications specifically for rural livelihoods are diverse and unique. In the third part, the atlas analyses the relation between migration drivers and migration patterns. Overall, the aim of the atlas is to inform strategies to harness migration into desirable process of rural transformation and regional development.


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