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close this bookSustaining the Future: Economic, Social, and Environmental Change in Sub-Saharan Africa (UNU, 1996, 365 pages)
close this folderPart 1: Economy and society: development issues
close this folderIntroduction to population, resources, and sustainable development in Sub-Saharan Africa
View the document(introductory text...)
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentInternal and international migration
View the documentNatural resources
View the documentHuman resources
View the documentPopulation, agricultural land, and food supply
View the documentPopulation, economy, and sustainable development
View the documentReferences

Internal and international migration

All types of internal migration (rural-rural, rural-urban, urbanurban, and urban-rural) and international migration (permanent, labour, refugee, and undocumented/illegal) are represented in SubSaharan Africa, but only the broad outline of population movement can be discussed here.

Internal migration

The two dominant forms of internal migration are: the less studied but more diverse rural-rural migration and the more studied and pervasive rural-urban. Rural-rural migration consists of:

1. nomadism, especially in the Sahel, the Horn of Africa, northern Kenya, northern Tanzania, north-eastern Uganda, Botswana, and Namibia (Oucho and Gould 1992);

2. spontaneous migration for purposes of land colonization by farmers (e.g. in Kenya, Zimbabwe, and revolutionary Ethiopia, and in Tanzania during "uiamaa");

3. resettlement of peasants from densely occupied areas to marginal lands, and migration from areas of traditional agriculture to areas of modern agriculture or to mining areas.

Approximately 29 per cent of Sub-Saharan Africa's population was estimated to be urban in 1992 (World Bank 1994: 223), but the definition of "urban" varies between countries. African cities generally lack strong economic bases, often attract rural-urban migration in the face of widespread unemployment (Todaro 1969, 1976), lack decent housing (Ohadike and Teklu 1990), and have overburdened educational and health facilities (Gould 1990; for discussion of rural-urban links see Oucho 1985, 1988, 1990). Attempts by many Sub-Saharan governments to limit or control rural-urban migration have mostly failed. The nature and magnitude of internal migration and the problems of spatial distribution of population are demonstrated by the fact that in 1987, out of 45 countries, 28 perceived both to be inappropriate and 26 adopted policies to decelerate the processes involved (UN Department of International Economic and Social Affairs 1988).

International migration

International migration in Sub-Saharan Africa has two dominant forms: labour migration and refugee movements. In western Africa, labour migration mostly has a north to south alignment, particularly to Cote d'Ivoire, and a south to north flow outside the continent to Europe (Adepoju 1991) and the Gulf states. In Sub-Saharan Africa, migration has involved flows mainly from weaker to stronger economies, such as, in western Africa, to Cote d'Ivoire (where by 1975 some 22 per cent of the population were foreign born), Nigeria, Liberia (21 per cent foreign born in 1974), Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon, and, in central and southern Africa, mainly to Zambia and South Africa (Bohning 1981; UN Economic Commission for Africa 1988). In western Africa, labour migration has sometimes precipitated sour relations between some countries, e.g. between Ghana and Nigeria (Afolayan 1988), ending in the repatriation of between 0.5 and 1 million Ghanaians in 1983. Many of these were from Nigerian towns and were forced back into rural areas in Ghana.

Apart from economic refugees, as in Ghana, most Sub-Saharan refugees have been and are still being forced to move by civil war or by drought. Many millions in the Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, Liberia, Mozambique, Angola, and Namibia are still displaced. However, the refugee flows also include movements back home, as in Uganda, where rehabilitation programmes have been undertaken, in recently independent Namibia, and in Mozambique and Angola.