Over half of African migrants remain on the continent, report reveals

Published Apr 24, 2024


Dispelling misconceptions surrounding African migration, a comprehensive report by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the African Union found that intra-continental migration significantly outweighs migration beyond Africa's borders.

Yvonne Ndege, regional spokesperson and head of communication for IOM in the east and Horn of Africa, highlighted the key revelations of the Africa Migration Report in an interview with RFI.

"We see a lot of media coverage on Africans trying to reach Europe in particular, but the findings of the Africa Migration Report seem to counter this belief," Ndege stated.

This second edition of the Africa Migration Report (AMRII) is a study focused on migration and human mobility in Africa, aiming to support the continent's integration agenda.

It builds on the findings of its first edition and provides research, data and analysis to inform development and integration policies outlined in the African Union Agenda 2063.

The report covers various topics, including migration's impact on health, climate-induced migration trends, labour mobility, and the role of technology in facilitating connectivity. It aims to offer insights into migration dynamics in Africa and their implications for regional development and integration.

According to the report's analysis of existing migration data, an estimated 20.8 million individuals had relocated from one African country to another by 2020, surpassing the 19.7 million people who had ventured beyond the continent's borders.

This intra-African migration constitutes 52% of all emigration from African nations, signalling a prevalent desire among migrants to remain in relative close proximity to their home countries.

"People want to remain close to home," remarked Ndege, further establishing Africa's status as a continent of origin, transit, and destination.

The report highlights that migration within Africa predominantly occurs between countries sharing land borders, with migrants often traversing short distances to neighbouring nations.

Moreover, the report sheds light on the significant presence of refugees and asylum seekers among Africa's migrant population. In 2020, refugees and asylum seekers accounted for 21% of all emigrants and 30% of all immigrants in African countries.

The majority of intra-African migration occurs between countries that share a land border, indicating a trend towards short-distance mobility. This suggests that migration within the continent is more local than global in nature.

Many migrants from West, Central, Southern, and East Africa tend to reside in neighbouring or nearby African countries.

Bidirectional movement is common in intra-African corridors, often driven by temporary or circular labour migration and refugee movements, exemplified by routes like Burkina Faso to Côte d’Ivoire and South Sudan to Sudan. Return migration also plays a significant role in African mobility patterns.

Regarding destinations of African migrants, data from mid 2020 indicated that North Africa, West Africa, and Southern Africa host substantial numbers of international migrants within the continent. African emigration to other continents is influenced by economic factors, historical ties, and cultural proximity.

Existing social connections such as shared language or political history, facilitate migration, as seen in corridors between Egypt and Saudi Arabia/United Arab Emirates, and Algeria/Morocco/Tunisia and France.

However, Africa receives relatively little immigration from other continents, with notable exceptions like migration from the Occupied Palestinian Territory to Libya.

Africa’s largest intra-migrant corridor is between Burkina Faso and Côte d'Ivoire which saw 1.3 million Burkinabé migrate to their Ivorian neighbour in 2020. South Africa is the preferred destination for southern African migrants, with 690, 243 arriving from Zimbabwe, 587,668 from Sudan and 350,463 from Mozambique.

According to a Statistics SA report released in March, most migrants entering South Africa originate from countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Region and migrate to South Africa in search of work.

France bears the lion's share of North African migrants, accepting a total of 3,141,701 from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.

Despite challenges posed by conflict, climate events, and socio-economic difficulties, the majority of refugees and asylum seekers remain within Africa's borders, with the continent hosting nearly a quarter of the world's total refugee population.

In a joint foreword, the African Union commissioner for health, humanitarian affairs and social development, Ms Minata Samate Cessouma and IOM director general, Ms Amy Pope stated: “the report reminds us not to underestimate what makes Africa resilient.

“Looking across local, national, and regional contexts, it reaffirms that Africa has one of the world’s most robust and human rights-centred migration policy landscapes.”