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Migration and Development Nexus – Integrating Migration into National Development Processes

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Publish date: 
13/09/2012

The relationship between Migration and Development is no longer a subject of disagreement amongst development practitioners. In countries where the impact of migration on development, and vice versa, is significant, it should be factored into development planning. This requires that policy makers consider migration at each phase of development planning, from situation analysis to evaluation and monitoring. The volume of remittances is a commonly used example to illustrate the impact of migration. Research shows that for migrants and their families, migration often yields substantive benefits in terms of poverty alleviation and human development; In their 2009 report on remittances in Africa, IFAD[1] indicated that the 30 million African diaspora living outside their countries of origin jointly contribute about US $ 40 billion in remittances to their families and communities. For the African region, remittances far exceed official development assistance (ODA), and for many countries they exceed foreign direct investment as well.

Both negative and positive interactions between migration and development take place. In order to better harness the benefits of migration, African states must develop a proactive approach and not a reactive one, and define strategies and policies that allow for the capturing of development opportunities offered by migration and all its connected aspects. There are current efforts being made by some African countries to integrate migration into their national development planning processes. For instance, Senegal and Benin have migration references in their Poverty Reduction Strategy documents, particularly with regard to harnessing the resources and potential of its diaspora, including involving expatriates in development actions. Some countries, like Zimbabwe and Kenya, have established migration and development and labour migration units in their respective administrations. Multilateral and bilateral partnerships between countries, sometimes with the support of international organisations, are being (or have been) developed across Africa. In many African countries, initiatives engaging a broad range of stakeholders are being implemented. These include the setting-up of thematic groups on migration to support governmental and institutional partners in the development of comprehensive migration management strategies (Morocco); enhancing capacities on labour migration governance (Algeria, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Senegal, and Tunisia);  strengthening national and regional strategies for extending social security coverage to African migrant workers and their families (Senegal, Mali, Mauritania, Ghana, Ethiopia, South Africa, Uganda, Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Mauritius); engaging diaspora professionals in health sector (Somalia); ensuring language education for repatriated children (Burundi); prospecting the acquisition and recognition of skills before migrants’ departure (Cape Verde); facilitating voluntary short-term expertise from highly qualified expatriates in the sectors of agriculture, engineering, economics, environmental protection, education, and health services, among others (Rwanda); transfering migrants skills in aquaculture and fishery (Egypt); strengthening institutional capacities by mobilizing the diaspora and mitigating the effects of brain drain in the three coun­tries of the Great Lakes region (Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo), and; issuing diaspora bonds to bridge financing gaps (Ethiopia, Rwanda). At the regional level, African countries and the relevant regional economic communities (RECs) are also engaged in endorsing international instruments and initiatives, particularly in combating human trafficking and promoting decent work, two domains that contribute to human development.

At the global level, since the first UN high-level dialogue in 2006, the Global Migration Group (GMG) and the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) have contributed to a policy dialogue that views migration as a development factor.

Notwithstanding all efforts made, much remains to do in order to capture the beneficial effects of migration on development in Africa. Understanding the migration and development nexus requires more complete data collection and analysis in order to develop the appropriate and coherent responses at all stages of the policy making processes. Migration policies have linkages with all aspects of development particularly with regard to the economy; the financial sector; the institutions and public services; the human rights; the social and cultural sector; the demography; the labour markets; the recognition of qualifications; the forced displacement of people; gender issues; the productivity of migrants at work; the migrant’s contribution to his/her country of origin and host societies; the cohesion and integration of migrants in societies; etc. These crossing points involve all sectors in an interlinked manner, and also concern all sides of the migration process and deal with intra-country and inter-country movement of people. For instance, if we consider only the economic side, there are a several factors that influence why people migrate, such as relative deprivation, poverty, loss of livelihoods, pursuing economic/business opportunities, seeking better earnings, etc. Both sending and receiving countries have the possibility to benefit economically from migration. It can for instance be argued that labour markets will naturally adjust to a situation of equilibrium but they may, in reality, be hindered to do so by immigration regulations. A loss of labour and skills through considerable emigration to another labour market can, however, lead to a drop in output and further affect the GDP of the sending country. On the positive side, money remitted by migrants can contribute, amongst others, to an increase of foreign exchange earnings of a country, a reduction of credit constraints that hinder private investments and entrepreneurial opportunities and, through this, an indirect effect on the supply side of la­bour markets. Remittances also stimulate local consumption and help improve human capital by financing education, health, as well as access to clean wa­ter/electricity/housing. Via decentralized cooperation and international networks of skilled professionals, some migrants also support public infrastructures and productive activities in their countries of origin.

Integrating migration into national and local development strategies requires an evidence-based and inter-ministerial approach to harness the potential of migration. Benefiting from opportunities offered by migration or mitigating its negative effects needs appropriate policies that build on knowledge and an evaluation of the inherent advantages and risks of a country’s migration-development nexus.

In developing such policies, the following things are needed for policymakers’ inter­ventions: an outline of the nature of the migration inside and from their country; an analysis of the context in which migration is taking place; an identification of ways to harness migration’s beneficial effects; a strategy to mitigate its negative conse­quences; a suitable system of data and indicators on migration; a coordinated and synergised framework of migration mainstreaming efforts; an elaboration of sound migration and development policies; an integration of the different levels of development planning (local, national and regional); and an identification of migration linkages with policy development, implementation and assessment strategies.

African countries should not miss the starting point and most important stage of harnessing the benefits of integrating migration to development processes through national development plans. Integrating migration into national development planning can only add value to existing national migration policies. However, this should not be solely about short-term planning but also about long-term visioning. This is a serious, timely and policy relevant issue for challenges facing the continent today.

[1] For more detail see the report ‘Sending Money Home to Africa. Remittance markets, enabling environment and prospects’ (2009), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD): p.2.