Fostering the development impact of South – South Migration in West Africa through enhanced knowledge and cooperation
On 10 and 11 July the ECOWAS Commission gathered 55 senior experts in Dakar, Senegal, to discuss Fostering the development impact of South – South Migration in West Africa through enhanced knowledge and cooperation. Participants included the ECOWAS Commission’s Free Movement Department, West African countries, the Swiss Development Agency, International Organisations and Civil Society Organisations. The workshop was funded by the Government of Switzerland and built on discussions launched during their Global Forum for Migration and Development (GFMD) Presidency, for which a meeting on Facilitating South – South Labor Migration for Development was convened in Abuja, Nigeria, in October 2011. The deliberations in Dakar focused on the multifarious contributions that the diaspora and migration can make to development, the obstacles which hamper their contribution and best practices which have been developed across the region to spur migration and development.
Mr. Markus Reisle, Deputy Head of the Global Program Migration and Development at the Swiss Development Agency, emphasised in his opening speech that while the media and politicians focus on South North migration, most migration takes place in the South. West Africa is known to be one of the sub-regions in Africa with among the highest rates of intra-regional mobility. Intra-regional mobility contributes to development, inter alia through remittances, the transfer of knowledge and skills development. However South – South migration has received relatively little attention in migration and development dialogue fora. Accurate data, relevant evidence and concrete experiences of implemented policies are therefore lacking; and should be cultivated and used to inform policies which aid the development gains of South-South migration.
This year is the first time that an African country is chairing the GFMD, namely Mauritius, and they have identified South-South migration as a pinnacle topic of their Presidency. Recommendations produced at the workshop will be submitted for discussion at the Round Table Session 2.2 at this year’s GFMD Summit, which takes place in Mauritius in November.
The Dakar workshop primarily focused on intra-regional migration within the ECOWAS region, which is governed by the ECOWAS Free Movement Protocols. Inter-regional human mobility from ECOWAS Member States to neighbouring countries, as well as to the rest of the world, was also touched upon. The gathering acknowledged that efforts should be made to identify and know the diaspora within the region, as well as the diaspora outside the region. Their interests, activities and skills should be mapped and supported, which in turn will help to develop policies and initiatives which succor their development contribution in their countries and region of origin.
Four thematic areas were tackled: Facilitating the sustainable development impact of the diaspora in the region; The flow of Remittances within West Africa – volume, impact and impediments; A gender sensitive analysis of the socio-economic impact of South – South Migration; and How effective Migration Management can enhance the development impact of South – South Mobility. Participants shared experiences and best practices from their countries during these discussion sessions, and developed recommendations which should be anchored in new policies, action-oriented partnerships and innovative projects on the ground.
Recommendations in the area of diaspora and remittances included:
- Develop a clear diaspora engagement policy in each country and establish a central agency to deal with diaspora affairs, which falls under a line ministry and is backed by legislation.
- Create financial instruments that support diapora investment, such as bonds, treasury bills, and mortgages.
- Allow for dual citizenship to engender investment or alternatively provide the diaspora with the right of abode in order for them to operate economically as citizens.
- Increase the provision of identity documents – they are generally necessary to transfer remittances.
- Reduce remittances costs - establish flexible easy mechanisms, such as mobile money.
- Understand and capture non monetary remittances in development policies and initiatives.
Recommendations for a gender sensitive approach to migration included:
- Study the implications of female migration for gender roles and the effects that it has on both women and men.
- Support female migration – their contribution to their home countries is different from that of men. Women tend to earn less but send more money home to their communities and more systematically.
- Economically empower women so that they do not need to migrate as a survival strategy. Provide women with financial education, access to credit, and income generating opportunities.
- Address in social policies the issues of families that are left behind and transnational families.
Recommendations for enhancing migration management and free movement included:
- Produce hard evidence to understand the challenges to free movement, as well as its potential development gains, to boost the implementation of the ECOWAS Free Movement Protocols.
- Alternative mechanisms such as bilateral agreements that can complement the Free Movement Protocols, deepen integration and accelerate its implementation should be considered.
- Harmonise migration related national laws.
- Promote the recognition of qualifications to enhance mobility.