As efforts by the African Union (AU) towards the introduction of an African passport gather momentum, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) has urged all countries in the continent to embrace regional integration and border management in order to facilitate migration and visa-free travel for Africans in Africa.
UNECA, one of the UN’s five regional commissions said the need for the introduction of a visa-free travel regime has become imperative in the region.
Mrs. Takyiwaa Manuh, director of UNECA’s Social Development Policy division, gave the charge while presenting highlights of the commission’s latest report, entitled “Challenges of International Migration in Africa” at the African Development Week in Addis Ababa.
Contrary to the belief that almost every African migrates beyond the continent, the UNECA report has revealed that more Africans migrate from one African country to another. Manuh added that media coverage and research on irregular migration and high death toll amongst those crossing the Mediterranean have falsely reinforced the belief that African migration is essentially directed towards Europe, whereas Africans make up less than 12 percent of Europe’s total migrant stock.
Migration streams within Africa are much larger than those out of Africa. About 31 million of the continent’s population has migrated internationally. This is little more than 3 percent of the continent’s population. More than half of those migrating internationally do so within Africa, with only about 28 percent of migrants from Africa going to Europe. ~Takyiwaa Manuh
It may be recalled that during his official visit to Cape Town in 2014, Nigeria’s immediate past President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was shocked to learn that more than 250,000 Nigerians were then living in South Africa. Likewise, millions of immigrants from neighbouring countries like Benin, Togo, Ghana, Niger, Chad and Cameroon reportedly see Nigeria as the “Venice” of Africa where they can earn a living.
“As a regional economic power, Nigeria…attract[s] an estimated three million labour workers from neighbouring countries”, says Mr. Michel Arrion, head of the European Union (EU) delegation to Nigeria and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). He added that such immigrants are already scouring through Nigeria’s big cities such as Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt for menial jobs and small-scale trading.
Meanwhile, the UNECA research also shows that remittance inflows to Africa quadrupled between 1990 and 2010. By 2010 they reached nearly $49 billion, which is equivalent to 2.6 percent of Africa’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). “The proportion of remittances invested in food, health and education ranged from 30 percent in Kenya and 37 percent in Nigeria to 47 percent in Burkina Faso and 67 percent in Senegal,” Manuh disclosed.
With so much opportunity for intra-African migration to “improve development and welfare in origin countries,” Manuh suggested a collaborative approach to designing immigration policies that involves countries of both destination and origin, to secure the benefits of migration at global and regional levels.