The launch of African Voices from the Ground

21 February, 2019

The report employed empirical analysis using four countries as case studies– Ethiopia, Mali, Senegal, South Africa and migrants in the United Kingdom (UK).

On 14 February 2019, IPSS in collaboration with Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) hosted the launch of ‘African Voices from the Ground’, a comprehensive report on the causes of migration. The speakers included the author of the report, Dr. Amr Abdalla and Dr. Erfried Adam, the Director of FES and African Union (AU) Cooperation. The workshop was moderated by Dr. Yonas Adaye Adeto, Associate Academic Director at IPSS. The report employed empirical analysis using four countries as case studies– Ethiopia, Mali, Senegal, South Africa and migrants in the United Kingdom (UK).

Dr. Adeto highlighted that the report employed empirical analysis using four countries as case studies– Ethiopia, Mali, Senegal, South Africa and migrants in the United Kingdom (UK) — to best capture the origin, transit and destination of migrants and create a platform for the people from the ground to contribute to the discourse on migration, as they are often left out in the debate.

Dr. Adam mentioned that former Director of FES-AU Cooperation, Florian Koch and Dr. Abdalla began the project and reviewed it at a validation workshop in April 2018. He commended Prof. Abdalla for his efforts to finalize the project and hoped that the study would promote a conducive environment for dialogue and cooperation in the future.

Reference was made to the 32nd AU summit theme ‘Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons: Towards Durable Solutions to Forced Displacement in Africa’. Dr. Adam highlighted that;

  • 80% of flight and migration are within Africa – 20% to Europe and beyond;
  • The AU migration policy framework has a lot of similarities to the European integration, in particular, free movement of goods, capital and people. However, the challenges facing its implementation is contradictory and could be an indication of a lack of coherence with actors;
  • ‘African Voices from the Ground’ explores the sentiments that motivate people to move and the impact of such migration on countries of origin, transit and destination;
  • The increased number of migrants has influenced European political discourses and are mainly a concern for open democracy, particularly with the increased narratives prioritizing xenophobia,
    nationalism and ethnicity;
  • Since migration has become a dominant topic in bilateral communications, this study provides insights to root causes of migration and open avenues for constructive cooperation.

Dr. Abdalla mentioned that the report addresses a need to document the African voices of migrants in the overall discourses on migration and violent extremism. He added that the study deliberately did not use legal definitions of migration; Irregular, illegal, legal, refugees, asylum seekers in order to offer something meaningful to both European and African policies and to take a sociocultural point of view. How do African migrants calculate the risks and make sense of them, Is it worth it? And how are the Voices rationalizing it? Dr. Abdalla, while referring to the scope of the project, identified the project’s policy objectives of convening diverse groups from Europe and Africa to discuss the findings and recommendations. The project encompasses the socio-economic demographics, in particular about the people and the communities they migrate out of, and motivations for migration like Political pressure, economic pressure, religious and culture pressure, and narratives of ‘utopia’ glorifying European countries.

Narratives of ‘faith’ expressed by some of the correspondents were voiced in relation to migrants motivation versus the high risks involved in the journey. Phrases of ‘’Only God/Allah knows’’ or ‘’It’s in God’s hand’’ were used interchangeably by correspondents.More so, among the 20 interviewed people in the UK, women correspondents expressed the ordeal of cultural pressures including forced marriage and sexual harassment.

Recommendations to the European Union:

  • Connect job creation to social and political context because sovereignty needs to be dealt with through dialogue;
  • Encourage refugees to stayby creating more incentives (easier ways to send money) Address the risks to ensure the effectiveness of work in transit routes;
  • Offer training programmes;
  • Use media to push counter-narratives as current fears are viewed as propaganda;

Recommendations to the AU:

  • Address the ongoing challenge of bad governance and corruption;
  • Support member states to address the issues of cultural pressures on women;
  • Include civil society in policy dialogue for policy formulation;
  • Be pragmatic and assertive on the continental challenges.

Participants of the workshop recognized that capturing the motivations of migrants does not also encompass the whole story. There is also a need to document moments of despair to understand the entire migration dynamics. The discourse recognized the importance of multi-stakeholder dialogue and the need for creativity and innovation for healthy job creation.

Furthermore, the discussion attempted to address;

  1. Who is responsible for migration;
  2. The loss revenues of origin countries;
  3. The connection between the narratives of utopia and migration trends;
  4. The place for involuntary migration, for instance, due to natural disasters and persecution;
  5. Regular and irregular immigration terminologies as preferable to illegal migration;
  6. The influence of the global North on migration policies in Africa.

In conclusion, the overall workshop called for a mindset change, youth engagement and participation. The need for a cosmopolitan approach to development and strengthening governance structures was also recognized, particularly the encouragement for transformative visionary leadership.

Click here to view photos from the event