The Impact of Migration on Areas of Limited Statehood in Sub-Sahara Africa

Seminar Paper, 2008
25 Pages, Grade: 1,3



List of Abbreviations

1. Introduction

2. Characteristics of Migration in and from Sub-Saharan Africa

3. Areas of Limited Statehood and Migration
3.1 Theoretical Approaches Towards Limited Statehood
3.2 Migration Theory and Reasons for Migration

4. Areas of Limited Statehood as Sending Communities
4.1 Brain Drain - The Problem of the Knowledge Exodus
4.2 Remittances as a Primary Revenue Source
4.3 Involuntary Migration and Human Trafficking
4.4 Changes in the Social Structure and the Problem of Return Migration

5 Areas of Limited Statehood as Receiving Communities
5.1 Migration to or Within Areas of Limited Statehood
5.2 The Problem of Refugees

6. Conclusion: The Need for a New Policy Approach


List of Abbreviations

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1. Introduction

The migration from Africa to the OECD countries has been a hot topic over the last years. The condemnation of human trafficking and the pity for desperate boat people trying to cross the ocean in nothing but nutshells is pared with rising fear in industrialized countries of unstoppable inflows from the South which endanger the social peace. Xenophobia against the newly arriving increases although the arguments that migration leads to economic disadvantages for receiving countries have been frequently disproved by famous economists. Europe’s renowned economic weekly, the globalization enthusiastic Economist, sees the solution to global social injustice and ageing societies in the Western world in a complete liberalization of labour markets and the free passage of people between borders.1 While Western economists and politicians discuss whether more or less migration benefits their countries, the other side of the medal, namely the impact of massive labour outflows on sending communities, is seldom devoted much attention.

Catherine Cross and Elizabeth Omoluabi bring it to the point when they write that there is “probably no other social or demographic process [that] has as much potential to disrupt and destabilize [Africa].”2 Every migrant that leaves an African country for another or for a destination off the continent takes valuable labour and economic potential away from the sending community. This questions in how far vulnerable states will invest in education and youth employment when they see the return on their investments wander to new shores. Moreover, traditional ways of life are questioned when a great part of the young population departs and leaves the less mobile to care for themselves. Failing and failed states are today to a great extent kept alive by remittances from migrants abroad. On the one hand, this might be the only way that people who stayed can survive in a war-torn economy but on the other hand it might also ease the population’s deception with dictatorships and incapable political leaders and therefore impede necessary social uproar. It has to be considered that fragile states cannot offer adequate studying, training or working facilities and will after all profit from foreign educated citizens that decide to return and invest their potentials in the development of their home countries.

Many of these specifics impacts of the African migration flows on the sending communities will be illuminated in the following to portrait the dangers as well as potential benefits of massive in- and out-migration for areas of limited statehood. Various theoretical approaches will be compared to outline the inherently different approximations towards migration by neoclassical economics compared with the critical dependency theory to find feasible policy recommendations. It has to be added that although considerable literature exists on the phenomenon, reliable data on migration is absent and most of the scientific works ask for more data collection and analysis. As far as the lack of extensive data sets allows for, this paper follows the assumption that migration has overall positive effects and benefits for developed countries as well as some developing economies. The crucial point is nonetheless the fact that these benefits are not equally allocated. Positive effects on areas of limited statehood have to be questioned to a great extent as functioning institutions are lacking which inhibit diaspora investments in national development.

This paper agrees with the conclusions of Rosenzweig who points out that money flows, be it remittances from migrants or development aid from industrialized economies, will have only minor effects without working institutions that hamper corruption and fraud and that encourage return migration of those educated abroad. Policy recommendations should not be focused on impeding migrants to work or educate themselves abroad but should concentrate on easing the return of citizens to support the development of the sending communities for example through easer passage within African regions. Moreover, foreign aid has to be channelled in a way that it benefits institution building , creates investment opportunities, promotes return migration and generates employment possibilities to lower migration push factors.

2. Characteristics of Migration in and from Sub-Saharan Africa

71 million Africans live in OECD countries today. Most of them come from the northern part of the continent and are in particular heading for France. Migrants from Sub- Sahara Africa (SSA)3 are predominately drawn to remote Anglophone destinations such as the USA, Australia, Great Britain and Ireland. The largest African community abroad is made up of South Africans, while ten other countries count on diasporas numbering more than 100,000 people.4 Nevertheless, international migration leaving the African continent makes up only a small part of the overall migration flows from countries in SSA while the major part takes place on the continent itself. Hence, it has to be differentiated between internal migration within national borders and international migration to other African countries and to more remote areas off the continent. Besides these geo-administrative levels of migration, Han Van Dijk distinguish five other criteria on which types of migration may vary: destination, duration, choice, legality and migrant characteristics.5

The destination criterion distinguishes between internal and external migration and between rural-rural migration, thus movements between two rural areas, rural-urban movements, urban-rural migration, as well as migration between urban regions. A strong wave of rural-urban movements hit Africa in the 1970s and 1980s. Other than similar developments in today’s industrialized economies at an earlier point in time, these migration waves were not followed by industrialization which let urban jobs dry out over the years. This, combined with poor urban planning in most developing countries south of the Sahara, triggered an economic crisis for many urban dwellers who massively depended on wage earnings for food purchases. Consequently, their financial support for rural areas declined, dragging the countryside into the crisis with them. As a result, migration patterns changed in the last two centuries from one-way migration to circular, short-term migration or step- migration leaving villages for the next urban area, than moving on to regional centres and possibly to international destinations.6 Especially in SSA, rural-to-rural migration is a common form of temporal, seasonal migration in comparison to the rather permanent urban or international migration. Moreover, the migration from landlocked, inner-African rural areas to the coast has been substantial. While in the 1970s, 50% of the overall population lived in coastal area, this number had increased to 67% by 1990.7

De Bruijn also distinguish between voluntary and involuntary migration, thus between migration out of economic interests, for education or for family reasons and people being relocated through wars, ecologic disasters or massive abuses of human rights. Closely connected to this is the problem of legal and illegal migration, involving human trafficking and forcing people to work as servants, farm workers or prostitutes in other localities. Moreover, the changing patterns of who migrates have to be taken into account, thus differentiating between types of migrants and their specific motivations by age, gender and education.8

Different sub-regions in SSA are characterized by specific forms of international migration. From Western and Central Africa labour migration to developed countries in Europe and the Gulf states is typical. In 1990, the World Bank estimated that 21 million of the 35 million West Africans live abroad.9 East African and growingly West African countries are characterised by refugee flows and clandestine migration, including human trafficking. Africans from the East, the West and many Southern states migrate to South Africa or Botswana for employment. South Africa alone takes in 8% of international African migration only outnumbered by labour-short but resource rich Ivory Coast with 14%.10 Besides these countries, Nigeria, Gabon, Kenya and Tanzania are African migration hubs.11

Moreover, some current developments in migration patterns in SSA need special regard such as the diversification of migration destinations and migration to non-traditional countries like Germany and Australia where strong information networks do not yet exist. Another new development is connected to lacking wage employment which leads to the substitution of traditional labour flows within and between countries with commercial migration of self-employed entrepreneurs such as street vendors. Furthermore, many women now decide to migrate challenging the assumption that typical migrants are young males and questioning traditional gender roles. Especially problematic in the migration development has been that more professionals, predominately out of the health sector, decide to migrate leading to a severe shortage of qualified health personnel in the midst of a massive HIV/AIDS epidemic.12

3. Areas of Limited Statehood and Migration

3.1 Theoretical Approaches Towards Limited Statehood

This paper is only able to give a brief introduction into the topic of limited statehood and will not reflect the extensive scientific discussion on the phenomenon.13 Nevertheless, a concise definition of the key terms is necessary as this work argues that areas of limited statehood are in particular negatively hit by migration because they cannot rely on well functioning state institutions.

Max Weber has defined a state by the possession of the monopoly on the legitimate use of force within its territory. Modern definitions add the provision of basic social services and the rule of law as central functions of the state. Hence, “fragile statehood can be defined in terms of state structures and institutions which have severe deficits in performing key tasks and functions vis-à-vis their citizens.”14 Thus, areas of limited statehood might be restricted in their ability to provide the public good security, they might have problems offering basic social services such as education and health care and might not be fully legitimate because of deficient political institutions and the fact that certain groups are excluded from political participation. Not all countries with fragile statehood are limited or inefficient in all three sectors. Ulrich Schneckener, an important German scholar on this topic, categorises countries concerning their ability to provide security, welfare and legitimacy. He separates between weak, failing and failed states. Weak states such as Zambia15 can in general provide for security but have limited abilities in one of the other two sectors. Governance is carried out by the government but it is provided insufficiently. Failing states cannot guarantee for the security of their citizens but can perform state tasks in at least one of the other two areas. Some governmental institutions are working but it can in general be spoken of governance beyond government. In failed states none of the tasks are carried out by the state and they are often overtaken by external actors such as NGOs or local big men. Governance takes place without the government, a phenomenon that can be observed in wart-torn countries such as Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Sierra Leone and Liberia.16 Following the failed states index 2007, a study issued by the US magazine Foreign Policy and the US- based think-tank Fund for Peace, eight of the ten countries with most constrained statehood are in Africa.17

Various scholars however criticize Schneckeners typology as simplistic. Christoph Zürcher for example points out that many states which are categorized as failed or failing states keep informal organizational capabilities. Social services are to some extent available in those areas although they are not provided by the state but by other informal networks or NGOs.18

It will be argued in this paper that the disappointment of citizens with the performance of the state to deliver its tasks triggers migration. Moreover, the involuntariness or inability of the home-state to reform its institutions and to improve the provision of vital services often impedes return migration of highly valuable, foreign educated citizens who might bring the expertise and the motivation to turn a corrupt government or an inefficient civil service around.19 Nevertheless, it cannot be uphold that the more constrained the statehood in a country is, the more people from this area will migrate. Migration is connected to the possession of resources which people are often not able to earn in failed states. Moreover, bad or missing governance often limits the free choices of citizens and makes their decisions to emigrate dangerous, often forcing them to depend on illegal mechanisms and human trafficking.

3.2 Migration Theory and Reasons for Migration

In most migration theories, a link is conjured between migration and poverty. Catherine Cross and Elizabeth Omoluabi point out that “migration is both poverty-driven and poverty limited.”20 Missing resources are at first an obstacle to migration as travel expenses cannot be paid for. With rising income locals become aware of their opportunities to better their economic situation. Poverty becomes a driver of migration until local incomes reach a tolerable level. To this point migration will better the economic situation of those who migrate.21 While this is relatively little questioned, what is widely disputed is whether migration reduces poverty on the private level only, bettering solemnly the immediate living conditions of those who migrate or if the country as a whole is positively affected.

Neoclassical economics and the Harris-Todaro Model of Migration see a win-win situation for all parties in the free flow of labour. The central idea is that the person who decides to migrate makes a rational choice to increase his or her personal utility by moving to a country where the payback for work is higher. This removes abundant labour from one society and supplies another with the labour it lacks. The sending state benefits through sent- home money and through social stability which is provided as unsatisfied citizens are given the opportunity to leave the country preventing social unrest.22


1 “The Long Term,” The Economist, January 5, 2008, Special Report on Migration, 15-16.

2 Catherine Cross and Elizabeth Omoluabi, “Introduction: Why an African Migration Alliance?,” in Views on Migration in Sub-Saharan Africa: Proceedings on an African Migration Alliance Workshop, ed. Catherine Cross (Cape Town: HSRC Press, 2006), 1. In the following cited as Cross/Omoluabi (2006a).

3 SSA will be defined as all countries in Africa which are located partially or fully south of the Sahara desert.

4 Catherine Cross, “Synthesis and Conclusions: What are Africa’s Issues in Migration?,” in Cross (2006), 259. In the following cited as Cross (2006b).

5 Han Van Dijk,“Population Mobility in Africa: An Overview,” in Mobile Africa: Changing Patterns of Movement in Africa and Beyond, ed. Mirjam de Bruijn, (Leiden: Brill, 2001), 11.

6 Cecilia Tacoli, “Urbanisation and Migration in Sub-Sahara Africa: Changing Patterns and Trends,” in de Bruijn (2001), 144-147.

7 Van Dijk (2001), 12-17.

8 Ibid., 13.

9 Van Dijk (2001), 16.

10 Hania Zlotnik, “The Dimensions of Migration in Africa,” In Africa on the Move: African Migration and

Urbanisation in Comparative Perspective, ed. Marta Tienda, (Johannesburg, Wits University Press, 2006), 29.

11 Cross (2006b), 250-251.

12 Aderanti Adepoju, “Leading Issues in International Migration in Sub-Sahara Africa,” in Cross (2006), 25.

13 Thomas Risse and Ursula Lehmkuhl for example point out that many Western approaches towards areas of limited statehood are inherently biased by a Western definition of statehood which is a point that merits consideration. Compare: Thomas Risse and Ursula Lehmkuhl, Regieren ohne Staat? Governance in R ä umen begrenzter Staatlichkeit.

14 Ulrich Schneckener, International Statebuilding: Dilemmas, Strategies and Challenges for German Foreign Policy, SWP Research Paper (Berlin: SWP, 2007), 7.

15 Schneckener also names Kenya as an example of weak statehood but after the electoral fraud and the recent violence it should be questioned that state authorities can guarantee for security.

16 Schneckener (2007), 7-9.

17 It has to be considered that the cited study also includes criteria such as human flight and intervention by other states, factors not considered by Schneckener. Foreign Policy,” Failed States Index 2007,”

18 Christoph Zürcher, “When Governance Meets Troubled States,” in Staatszerfall und Governance, ed. Marianne Beisheim, Thomas Risse and Folke Schuppert, (Baden-Baden: Nomos, 2006), 11-12.

19 Also compare: Mark E. Rosenzweig, “Consequences of Migration for Developing Countries” (paper presented at the United Nations Expert Group Meeting on International Migration and Development, New York, USA, July 06 - 08, 2005), 14.

20 Cross/Omoluabi (2006a), 6.

21 Ibid., 6.

22 Jonathan Mafukidze, “A Discussion of Migration and Migration Patterns and Flows in Africa,” in Cross (2006), 104-107.

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The Impact of Migration on Areas of Limited Statehood in Sub-Sahara Africa
Hertie School of Governance  (Master of Public Policy)
Governance in Areas of Limited Statehood
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ISBN (Book)
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Migration, Subsahara-Afrika, Brain Drain, Fachkräfte, Räume begrenzter Staatlichkeit
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Janine Schildt (Author), 2008, The Impact of Migration on Areas of Limited Statehood in Sub-Sahara Africa, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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