The development potential of migration: the status quo, lessons from other regions, and implications for research

Type Working Paper
Title The development potential of migration: the status quo, lessons from other regions, and implications for research
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2013
Migration may be triggered by one or more factors including economic issues such as
relative economic stagnation or decline, environmental fluctuations that would include
climate change and negative changes in weather conditions, political volatility, and social
concerns for example, conflicts and other forms of social instability.
This issue of the Thematic Research Notes discusses the causes and impact of
migration among communities in Africa as well as predicted future migration trends.
Historically, economic and social factors, in particular, differences in GDP growth and
armed conflict, have had the greatest impact on migratory flows (Naudé). The role of
environmental factors, such as anomalies in temperature and rainfalls, and how they affect
the land and subsequent decisions to migrate from rural areas to urban centers and across
national borders, is examined by Maystadt.
Independent of its root causes, migration has strong implications for both
communities of origin and destination. Where it is a response to rural pressures, migration
can either alleviate or aggravate such stresses. The outcome depends on whether it
hinders access to labor and investment resources or plays a role of assurance among rural
areas of origin, together with related implications for technology adoption and changes in
rural wages (de Brauw; Gubert). Furthermore, there are indications that migration
destination (continental or international) affects certain economic activities and that there
is an ultimate impact on the rural economy (Wouterse). At the macroeconomic level, the
issue of brain drain vs. brain gain is often mentioned in discussions of the cost and benefits
of migration (Lucas).
The findings presented in this issue include some surprises: Net migration from
Africa, excluding North Africa, has been the lowest among all developing regions and has
not changed since 2005; economic improvement and increased political stability are likely
to further slowdown and perhaps even reverse migration, turning Africa into a net
destination; most future environment induced migration is likely to be intra-African
between coastal and inland countries, with flows in both direction, driven by regional
In sum, whether continental or intercontinental, driven by environmental,
economic, or social factors, migration is a long term phenomenon that needs to be better
understood and managed. This issue is a contribution to the debate that needs to take

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