Lopes urges Africa to address migration at AU Summit

Addis Ababa, 29 January 2016 (ECA) – Giving a historical background of human migration trends, Mr. Carlos Lopes, the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, in his remarks to the 34th Session of the NEPAD Heads of State and Government Orientation Committee, concluded saying finding the right policies and processes to transform migration into a win-win situation is the challenge ahead.

“Let us see migration in the larger context of mobility and let’s contextualize this human phenomena so we can construct the solutions for the future,” Mr. Lopes urged leaders at the African Union Executive Council and Head of States Summit currently taking place in Addis Ababa.

Africa has the world’s youngest population. “Between now and 2050 Africa will double its population. Even if it grows economically as fast, or faster than it is doing right now, Africa is likely to generate a much bigger flow of young Africans looking for opportunities in an ageing Europe,” posited Mr. Lopes. Current migration patterns tend to conjure up images of Africans and Asians crossing the Mediterranean Sea, seeking a future in secure Europe. However this image is not the entire story, Mr. Lopes pointed out.

“African countries receive a lot more migrants than the continent exports abroad. In fact the bulk of Africans looking for opportunities outside their countries go to another African country. Less than 2 million seek a destination abroad every year, which is a tiny number in relation to migrant stocks, particularly in Europe.”

Since migration is an inevitable part of the human experience, it is therefore crucial for Africa to address it with effective policies. Those who see their neighbour with means and hope they do not have, venture out.  “Migration has the potential of bringing significant contribution to the economic growth and human development in Africa if it is tackled in a holistic manner and mainstreamed appropriately in development planning and strategies,” maintained Mr. Lopes.

“Let us not forget Africans need visas to travel to 55% of other African countries. Free movement on the continent would entail the implementation of continent-wide visa free regimes including issuance of visas at ports of entry for Africans.”

Migration can play a role in boosting economic growth. However, African leaders need to tackle it comprehensively if it is to work for the continent, declared Mr. Lopes. He asserted “there is a need for coherence and coordination of policies and actions on migration and development in Africa” because “free movement of people and labour mobility are recognised as important enablers for the regional integration and economic development of the continent.”

Africa’s youthfulness will keep growing when the rest of the world will be ageing. “There is a vital role of migration in regional integration, and of cooperation, policy dialogue and partnership with all stakeholders – countries of destination and development partners; private sector, including diaspora entrepreneurs and investors; civil society, including migrants and Diasporas – in making migration work for development transformation and regional integration,” concluded Mr. Lopes.

Issued by:

Communications Section
Economic Commission for Africa
PO Box 3001
Addis Ababa
Tel: +251 11 551 5826
E-mail: ecainfo@uneca.org