Destination: Africa

André Leliveld is a development economist. His main research focuses on the role of (frugal) innovations and technologies in economic transformation and development in African economies. He has written this blog as a member of the Collaborative Research Group Africa in the world - Rethinking Africa’s global connections.

Africa is the fastest growing destination for international migrants. Between 2000 and 2017 the number of international migrants in Africa grew by 3% per year, the highest growth figure globally. 85% of international migrants in Africa migrate within Africa. Still, a substantial number of migrants come from non-African destinations; Africa has been one of the fastest-growing destinations for people born in Europe (3.5% per year). And we all know about the influx of migrants in Africa from China, India and other Asian countries.

Prospects of a better life
What makes Africa so attractive to migrants? For many migrants within Africa neighbouring countries offer prospects of a better life. A well-known historical example is the mining industry in South Africa which still attracts tens of thousands of workers from surrounding countries. And intra-African investment by African multinationals in the supermarket, ICT, mining and construction sectors has recently brought many people on the move as well. Civil wars, political turmoil, droughts and other calamities explain the largest part of intra-Africa migration though. Being too poor to migrate elsewhere, staying within Africa is the default option.

Unsaturated markets
This stands in sharp contrast with the wave of ‘Afro-optimism’ that engulfs other parts of the world and stimulates many to come to Africa. Examples abound. Chinese workers who come with the infrastructural projects of Chinese companies. Western and Asian companies investing in Africa to conquer unsaturated markets in consumer goods and services. Others who come to acquire – some say ‘grab’ – fertile agricultural land. Islamic states such as Turkey and Malaysia heavily investing in the Islamic education sector. And last but not least, young professionals born and raised outside Africa but with parents or ancestors from Africa migrate to contribute to development in their ‘home’ countries.

How to perceive the newcomers
In short, for many Africa is the place to be and stay, be it by default or by choice. But how do the hosts perceive this, those who receive the international migrants? On 22 and 23 March 2018 the international conference ‘Destination Africa’ - organized by the newly established AEGIS collaborative research group ‘Africa in the World’ in collaboration with the African Studies Centre Leiden - will explore the idea of contemporary Africa as an emerging global meeting point. It will address the question of how people in Africa navigate, negotiate, engage and possibly struggle to strike a balance between their own interests and those of the ‘newcomers’. The conference will also shed light on the motivations and interests of those who see Africa as a destination. And it will put these questions in a historical perspective.

Destination: Leiden
Make Leiden your destination to discuss Destination Africa! Learn more about North Koreans in South Africa, Chinese media firms in the Nigerian video film industry, new actors in Africa’s education landscape, the international biometric industry in Ghana, foreign investments in farmland, and so on. Jamie Monson, Professor of African History in the Department of History and Director of African Studies at Michigan State University, will give the keynote speech: View from the Platform: Moving Global Goods on the TAZARA Railway. In her lecture, Professor Monson will take the experience of railway porters on the Tanzania-Zambia Railway as a starting point, which allows a ‘view from the platform’ of transformations in local and regional economies that are taking place as investment, settlement and markets shift. Find out all about the programme and register!

Useful links on ‘Destination Africa’:

Web dossier ASCL Library: Destination Africa

UN: International Migration Report 2017: Highlights

ASCL Thematic Map : Africa: International migration, emigration 2015

This post has been written for the ASCL Africanist Blog. Would you like to stay updated on new blog posts? Subscribe here!


infrastructural works
land grab
South Africa