International Conference on The Political Economy of Migration in Africa

Researchers, scholars, and experts have posited that migrants and migrant activities can boost social and economic activities of a community or country, provided such migrants engage in meaningfully productive activities that can prompt a rise in demand and supply and other commercial engagements within a given period of time.

This was the consensus submission of participants at the 2018 Annual Governance Conference organized by the African Heritage Institution (AfriHeritage), Enugu which held last week. In his keynote presentation at the Conference titled: “An Overview of Political Migration in Nigeria”, Professor Aja Akpuru-Aja, a former directing staff of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), now of the Department of Political Science and International Relations, Abia State University, Uturu, traced the origin of migration to the pre-colonial era.

He referred to the movement of the European colonialist to Africa as a form of migration. According to him, this important topic of migration has received very little academic attention especially in the universities in the form of academic subject/course of study over the years but commended AfriHeritage for bringing it up for scholarly research. According to him, a myriad of issues has propelled a rise in global migration, they include: climate change which has displaced many people thereby leading to forced migration; brain decay – those who obviously have capacity but have been disconnected by society, perhaps, due to nepotism, etc. increasing value of remittances; higher skill value of those in diaspora.

As a policy option, he posited that Africa should hold a regional conference on migration, he also said in order to discourage illegal migration which is presently on the rise, various factors that have induced illegal and desperate migration should be addressed. “Immigration has come to stay, we can only learn to manage it”, he said.

Earlier in his welcome remarks, the Executive Director of AfriHeritage, Professor Okeke-Uzodike decried a situation whereby migrants are being maligned by many governments and population groups in Africa, Europe, Asia, and the Americas. According to him, “to be a migrant in some countries appears to have become a virtual curse! “Yet, we are all either migrants or descendants of migrants – all of us! It is either that your forebears migrated from somewhere thousands of years ago, hundreds of years ago, or merely decades ago” “I wish to underscore that those persons who live or work in cities or countries that they are not native to are migrants. So, migration is not about moving outside your native country. If you live or work in Abuja, Enugu, or Lagos but you are actually native to some other place, you are a migrant”.

Professor Okeke-Uzodike also observed that there is overwhelming evidence that, “on balance, societies that accept or tolerate migrants are far more progressive and prosperous than those that shun or are hostile to migrants. This is because immigrants often bring needed skills or labour and boost local economic growth. In countries such as the United States, migrants are among the most important sources of economic and social dynamism and progress. For instance, America’s Silicon Valley is dominated today by the start-ups of migrants – Google, Yahoo, Amazon, etc” he says.

He further says that unfortunately, although migration boosts social and economic vibrancy and development, migrants are often used as political pawns by populist politicians who take advantage of the fact that their contributions to the wellbeing of their new communities are not readily visible. According to him, “various claims -- taking jobs or wives/ girlfriends from locals; burdening taxpayers; Migrancy Can Boost Social and Economic Development – Experts 3 Volume 13, No. 36 June 2018 threatening indigenous cultures; engagement in criminal acts – are used to engender racism/ethnicity, xenophobic hatred, and conflict against migrants”. He said papers from the conference will be collated and translated into policy briefs and recommendations for state action.

The conference was attended by scholars and from South Africa, Republic of Cameroon, Ghana, and Nigeria etc. Papers on different aspects of migration – security; returnee/ refugee management, welfare, and rehabilitation; immigration; etc. were presented at the conference.