HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsMigration: A fiend to African development, a friend to African dictators

Migration: A fiend to African development, a friend to African dictators


Africa is one of the most affected continents by migration in the recent past.

Every year tens of thousands from one African country to another cross the oceans for better living conditions. And this has stalled the development of the continent and propped up African dictators.

Migration flows within and out of Africa are caused by a wide range of factors such as economic and ecological problems, intra-regional disparities in economic well- being, political instability, and sometimes restrictive migration policies.

Migration is not a new phenomenon as historically African tribes were known to be nomadic in search of new habitats and opportunities to escape from disasters such as droughts, floods, environmental degradation, among others or flee from wars, civil strife, and general hostilities.

Conclusively migration has always been part of a survival strategy where human life was under threat.

With the establishment of borders, immigration laws have made population movement restrictive. In many cases it benefits those who emigrate, while it is loss of human capital at family and at national level.

In the pre-colonial period, migration was a collective family and community venture which helped to retain and maintain the family unit and social cohesion.

Contrary to the pre-colonial epoch, today’s migration has resulted in family disintegration, break down of marriages and subsequent negligence of those left behind which somewhat perpetuates poverty as family and national labour is depleted.

In an environment where governments are not creating enough opportunities, 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 and Aids and other diseases, several countries experience a net depletion of their health work force.

Studies suggest that there are more Nigerian doctors in the US than in Nigeria, while in Ghana over 1 000 Ghanaian doctors practice in Europe alone, representing a much-needed 30% of the doctors still practicing in Ghana.

While this is a fiend to the development of Africa, for most African politicians migration gives them relief as it reduces pressure on their governments to deliver on promises.

Recent revolutionary struggles in Africa were spearheaded by young and educated people who pressured their governments to deliver on job promises.

Therefore the migration of young people is not a concern to underperforming governments who wish to stay in power longer than necessary.

This is shown by their very limited, fragmentary and reluctance to address the root causes of migration. Very few African countries have migration policies that encourage citizens to either stay in the country or attract those in the Diaspora to play a part in national development.

The current debate on dual citizenship typifies the dislike many governments have of Diaspora population as they are invariably viewed as a threat to their long stay in power.

One writer once argued that if all Zimbabweans in the Diaspora were to come back and join forces with those back home to demand better living conditions, the situation might have been different in Zimbabwe today.

Migration costs Africa dearly not only in terms of loss of human capital, but it keeps African countries perpetually and heavily indebted.

Most countries are in huge debt after borrowing billions of dollars to invest in educating their people.

A major part of this investment is lost to the same developed countries to which African countries are indebted as African skilled labour look for greener pastures.

Instead of developing Africa, African labour contributes to the economic development of the developed countries, thanks to a power hungry African leader.

A country develops when its people are allowed to utilise their skills and available resources to create more opportunities.

Sadly, the contribution of African migrants to African development has been reduced to remittances — meagre cash sent to supplement the income of those left back home.

Comparatively, a civil engineer for instance contributes more to the development of his or her country when based in that country than whatever amount sent home every month.

Therefore, the celebration of remittances and the income multipliers is just a mockery of the African development debate.

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