Migration as key to boosting Africa’s economic growth, structural transformation
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) issues the Economic Development in Africa Report (EDAR) yearly. Published by the United Nations (UN), this year theme is, Migration for Structural Transformation.
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) was established in 1964 as a permanent intergovernmental body. Its responsibility is the handling of issues related to trade, investment and development across nations. Therefore, it is no surprise that the UNCTAD’s focus for 2018 is to establish the relevance of intra-Africa migration to development and structural transformation on the continent.
The Economic Development in Africa Report (EDAR) 2018: Migration for Structural Transformation sees intra-Africa migration as integral to structural transformation as well as to the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Africa.
In a series of well crafted chapters and sub-headings, and using info-graphs, the report discusses historical perspectives on migration and migration drivers/causes; migration patterns and corridors, which enhance intra-Africa trade as well as highlight illegal migration routes and dangers to illegal migrants.
It establishes a clear relationship between migration and structural transformation, expressing the need for Africa to embrace both services and manufacturing industry to absorb the growing working age population.
It suggests the revision of interregional and extra-continental migration and trade policy, to allow for structural development in Africa.
It also subtly suggests a shift from, or rather, reduction of extra-continental trade relations to intra/interregional trade relations in Africa.
The final chapter presents recommendations, which, if adopted, could help transform nations in African and the continent.
Migration policies/regulatory frameworks are needed to enhance free movement and better trade relations. Therefore, the EDAR 2018 report is specially meant for include, but not limited to, regional organisations such as, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and East African Community (EAC), continental organisations as the African Union (AU), trade and migration organisations in nations, national leaders and policy makers, institutions and individuals.
The report addresses the dangers of migration, especially on women and children. It identifies Libya as a corridor of illegal migration, which is “a movement that takes place outside the regulatory norms of origin, transit and destination countries.”
Using statistical analysis, it considers the gender component of migration, stating, “women’s migration is growing in importance in Africa” as they migrate “for work and education and to pursue other economic opportunities.”
Its scope is on Africa’s structural development, with a focus on utilising migration as a necessary tool for growth in the continent.
Comparing African nations, the report considers the relationship between migration and intra-Africa trade and food trade, stating that intra/interregional trade enhances the better functioning of commodity markets.
According to the report, “increasing imports from a regional market can contribute to overcoming periodic food shortages and thereby reduce food insecurity.”
It argues that migration can boost productivity growth in agriculture, construction, mining and services, because despite recent setbacks in oil-based economies, Africa is “still very open to trade, investments and enterprise development opportunities.”
However, this is arguably applicable to receiving nations. A Nigerian leaves his country to work in a gold mine in South Africa. This adds to South Africa’s labour force, boosting productivity in its mining industry. How does that benefit his home country? It argues this on remittal benefits, the migrant remitting money and goods to family members in the originating country, which eventually goes into the nation’s economy. But where there are no relations to remit funds to, remittal benefit of migration to sending countries becomes only a theory.
In search of a conceptual framework on migration and structural development, EDAR 2018 delineates several migration theories, with most, if not all, focused on migration patterns, direction of flows, origin countries and adaptation of immigration labour. None of the theories described seemed appropriate for the discourse. It, therefore, adopts a conceptual framework that considers “the capabilities and aspiration of migrants and, on a macro-level, the opportunities available, rather than simply income differentials”. It sees migration as the result of a complex interaction of choices people make.
The report builds on the positive impact of migration, as it addresses negative narratives associated with it such as, “brain drain” or loss of skilled labour.
The report establishes a causal-effect relationship, identifying climate change, population growth, political instability/conflict and economic opportunities as causes of migration, stating, “economic growth has significantly influenced migration flows within countries and to intra-African destinations.”
The effect of migration is economic benefit to both sending and receiving countries, “contributing to higher Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth in receiving countries and benefits in terms of remittances in sending countries.”
The potential contribution of migration to GDP per capita in Africa is expected to increase from $2,008 in 2016 to $3,249 in 2030.
The report uses both primary and secondary sources of data to support arguments. Sources are properly cited. Recent events are referenced, such as recession in two predominantly oil-producing African countries – Nigeria and Angola.
The report concludes that migration is primarily intra-continental with over half (53 per cent) of African migrants still in the African continent, with the exception of North African region. It projects working age population growth in Africa, which is a driver of migration and recommends migration policies that border on coherence in migration, trade, investment and technology as well as the implementation of these policies to create conditions for structural transformation.
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