Currently, 244 million migrants are living abroad worldwide, which is 3.3% of the world’s population. Of these, 150 million people are migrant workers. This is according to Jason Theede, Senior Labour Mobility and Human Development Specialist, Southern Africa at the International Organisation on Migration (IOM), who opened the presentation to the Committee on Trade, Customs and Immigration Matters; and the Committee on Transport, Industry, Communication, Energy, Science and Technology. Theede went on to highlight to the Committees that in 2015, 72% of all international migrants were aged between 20 and 64. And in Africa, the majority of international migrants moved within their region – 80% of migrations were between countries with a common border. Migration is motivated by many factors. Key drivers for migration include demographic pressures, such as ageing and increasing deficits in labour forces; joblessness and fewer job opportunities; growing inequality between and within countries; the breakdown of effective governance; the effects of climate change; globalised access to information; and the global skills shortage.
Fostering labour mobility within and from Africa
The challenge of migration affects many parts of the continent, but it also offers opportunities. Proper governance on this issue will help boost intra-African trade, commerce and tourism. It will also facilitate labour mobility, knowledge and skills sharing, promote pan-African identity and social integration.
In 2015, the AU’s Joint Labour Migration Programme was adopted. It promotes free movement of workers as a means of advancing regional integration and development, plus skills sharing. Most sub-Saharan African countries face labour and skills shortages in specific sectors, while also battling unemployment issues. Regional skills pooling enabled through mobility can help address this challenge and allocate labour where it is most needed. To support Africa’s growing population of youth and to help them become the catalyst for the continent’s structural transformation, they have to be given opportunities plus the skills to work in key economic sectors. The programme marked the first time that three major international entities most concerned with migration – the International Labour Organisation, the IOM and the UN Regional Economic Communities – were working together. Their aim: a comprehensive, operational and practical programme that will address the issues and opportunities of migration and mobility. The programme is also supported by the EU and the Swedish International Development Co-operation Agency.
Labour migration governance
The overall objective of the labour migration governance for development and integration is to strengthen the effective governance and regulation of labour migration and mobility in Africa, under the rule of law and with the involvement of key stakeholders, such as the relevant governmental ministries, private employers, workers’ organisations and migrants. Africa’s regional economic communities have taken varying levels of action, notably some of the most progressive work being done in ECOWAS, and the policy framework from SADC. However, ECCAS has made little progress in terms of migration policy and strategy to date. North Africa, as a group of countries, has not made significant strides in these spheres. But some action has been taken by individual Member States. The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration is handling various intergovernmental negotiations between Member States regarding all aspects of migration, including humanitarian and developmental aspects. Working under the auspices of the UN, its aim is to create a framework for global governance; one that covers all dimensions of international migration.
The IOM’s vision on migration is to promote a world in which migrants move by choice, not desperate necessity; to ensure that the rights of migrants are protected throughout; and that migration is well-governed to be a positive force for all.
The Committee Member made these recommendations:
- There is a need to dispel the myth that prosperity can only be found in Europe
- Information should be provided to potential immigrants to inform their decision-making
- The IOM should conduct further research to ascertain the age range for African immigrants
- The PAP should learn from Brexit in the EU as Africa considers the agenda of regional and continental integration
- More information and interventions on irregular or illegal migration is needed
- There is a need for Africa to invest in labour market competitiveness to compete in the international labour market.