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The African Youths Migration Syndrome

As young people are set to represent an important share of the continent’s population  report warns against the risks that can arise if the young population is not given the opportunities needed to improve their lives.

The risks of insecurity, instability, and mass migration; however, it praises young people as the innovators, leaders, and workers of the future, stressing the importance of investing into young people’s health and education in order to unlock productivity and innovation, thus reducing poverty. One of the most striking aspects about international migrants in Africa is that most move within the region. Contrary to much media coverage, the majority of Africans do not leave the continent. They largely move to neighbouring countries.

Between 2015 and 2017, for example, the number of African international migrants living within the region jumped from 16 million to around 19 million [Chart above]. Within the same period, there was only a moderate increase in the number of Africans moving outside the continent, from around 16 million to 17 million [Chart below].

Sometimes, for months on end, young African men and women risk everything, including their lives, to take on the perilous trip across dozens of borders and the treacherous waves of the Mediterranean Sea in search of a better life in the North. Some die along the way, some are turned back and some who finish the journey realize that life may not be easier across the frontier. But with few jobs and dim prospects at home, millions of youths and young adults in Africa still choose to migrate, often clandestinely. Such movements of people pose difficult questions for many governments and for the international community.

Figure 1. Africa is the only region in the world where the youth population is increasing

One of the most pressing concerns of governments and citizens in industrialized countries is irregular migration: illegal entry, bogus marriages, overstaying temporary admissions, abuse of asylum systems and the difficulty of removing unsuccessful applicants.
Migration is currently at the centre of disagreements between the mainly poor sending countries and the richer receiving nations.

Today the world is more connected than ever. Information, commodities and money flow rapidly across national boundaries, a phenomenon often referred to as globalization . But while industrial countries are promoting easier flows of capital, goods and services (which they mainly supply), they are at the same time restricting the movement of labour, which comes mainly from developing countries.

Figure 2. Sub-Saharan Africa’s economic growth in the coming decades depends on human capital investment

Developing countries view this as a double standard, especially since labour is an important factor in the production of goods and services.

Between 1960 and 2000, the share of merchandise exports and trade in services has roughly doubled, owing to new global trade policies negotiated at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

African countries need to focus resources toward its young populations in order to avoid seeing them fall in a poverty trap, which could in turn breed insecurity and poverty.

Most people who seek to migrate are pushed by circumstances in their home countries. War, poverty and persecution prompt people to become refugees, asylum seekers and labour migrants.

According to the 2019 Ibrahim Forum Report, migration of Africans in 2017 represented only 14% of the global migrant population; much less than the share from Asia (41%) and Europe (24%) [Chart above]. The report further states three important facts:

1. more than 70% of the sub-Saharan African migrants move within Africa
2. the current African migrants are mostly young and educated, and
3. the main driver for migration among 80% of the migrants is the hope for better economic or social prospects.

This information presents to the continent the entry points for addressing the challenge of youth migration. One thing is certain: energy is critical in stimulating economic growth. With energy, decent livelihoods will be created for the youth in Africa who constitute more than a third of the continent’s population.

Africa’s young population, i.e., those aged between 0 and 24 years old, will increase by nearly 50 percent. In 2050, the continent will have the largest number of young people, making up nearly twice the young population of South Asia and Southeast Asia, East Asia, and Oceania.

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