When I decided to return to Ghana after two years of pursuing postgraduate study in the UK, I knew the decision would not go down well with many of my friends who had earlier encouraged me to stay in the UK. But little did I know how strong such oppositions were. Why did you come back? Nothing is happening here! You should have stayed there! When are you going back? These were the comments I received from some friends and family upon my return. Sometimes I question myself if I had made the right decision. But beyond the apprehension of many of my friends and family members is the genuine fear over the lack of sustainable economic opportunities, and the growing belief that the grass is always greener outside the shores of Africa.
Ahead of the 2019 Ibrahim Governance Weekend in Abidjan, perhaps it is time to revisit the issue of migration. This is because at the heart of any transformation is an effective and efficient human resource. Considering that many of Africa’s youth are leaving or have considered leaving the continent, solving the migration ‘crisis’ is key to the continent’s transformation.
There is no denying the fact that Africa is currently faced with a youth bulge, with about 60% of the continent’s population below the age of 25. It is projected that by 2100, Africa’s youth population could be twice the total population of Europe. This demographic bulge has put a strain on African economies to provide infrastructure, jobs, education, health and other public services. Currently, about 16 million young Africans face unemployment, with 40% of them reporting their current living situation to be very bad or fairly bad. The 2018 IIAG observed that while the continent’s GDP has increased by about 40% over the last decade, virtually no progress has been made in creating sustainable economic opportunities for Africans. Trapped in these uncertainties, exacerbated by a widening gap between education and what skills employers demand, some young Africans have taken the decision to relocate to Europe in search of better opportunities, even if that comes at the peril of their lives.
However, while recent media reports depicted Africa as a continent entangled with mass exodus of its citizens, the reality is that Africans tend to migrate more within than outside the continent. Currently, Africans constitute less than 15% of the total global migrant population. Excluding North Africa, 70% of African migrants stay within the continent, and around 80% of all African migrations are socially or economically driven. But migration could have both a positive and negative impact. Recent statistics shows that remittances to Africa stemming from migration is on the increase. According to the World Bank, remittances to sub-Sahara Africa reached $38 billion in 2017 and it is projected to increase in 2019. In Liberia, The Gambia, and Comoros, remittances form over 20% of GDP. However, the cost of travelling outside the continent, especially for many young Africans is dangerous and often involves using illegal routes. On the other hand, considering that many African economies are not robust, intra-African migration often puts a strain on resources on host countries within the continent.
Given that migration is mostly driven by social and economic factors, the solution could lie in efficiently developing Africa’s untapped potentials. One such potential is agriculture. Currently, 60% of the world’s uncultivated arable lands are in Africa. Developing this sector will create employment for young Africans, reduce the cost of food imports on the continent, reduce malnutrition, and significantly reduce attempts by young people to seek better opportunities elsewhere.
Secondly, developed countries and multinational organisations must partner with African countries to build resilient economies that provide economics opportunities for young Africans. As President Obama remarked in his 2018 visit to South Africa:
Ahead of the main Ibrahim Forum discussion, young people from across the continent representing the public sector, civil society, NGOs and the private sector will gather to discuss and make a rallying call for young people to contribute in driving the development of Africa forward. Forums such as this are uniquely important not just in offering young Africans a platform for their voices to be heard, but to also come out with solutions to solve these problems. As a young person and key participant in the Now Generation Forum, I shall be making a rallying call on African leaders to commit more resources in creating sustainable economic opportunities for young Africans. If these avenues are created, and young people can have an opportunity to make a decent living on the continent, then they will have no reason to leave. However, as young person, I am also mindful of the fact that the state cannot solve all challenges, which is why we must be innovative in creating solutions to Africa’s problems.
Written by Richard Kweitsu
This article was originally published on the Mo Ibrahim Foundation website. Find the link here