Crisis Region Western Africa: The Cradle of African Migration to Europe

Posted: 23 Mar 2007

See all articles by Dirk Kohnert

Dirk Kohnert

GIGA - Hamburg, Institute of African Affairs

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: March 2007


In the last decades the number of refugees from conflict regions in Africa increased dramatically. West Africa is the cradle of migration from Sub-Saharan Africa to Europe, were most African migrants with overseas destinations live. The European Union shares dual responsibility for the continuing migration pressure: First, because they fostered over decades corrupt and autocratic regimes with dire disregard to principles of "good governance". The aftermath of these regimes is still to be felt today, and constitutes one of the underlying factors for politically motivated migration. Secondly, the EU contributed to Africa's growing economic misery, due to the damaging effects of European selfish external trade policy. Nevertheless, the prevailing perspective of the EU concerning African immigration remains to be focused on security, the foreclosure of its external borders and prevention. Current EU programs to combat African migration by development orientated instead of adequate immigration policies is bound to fail, according to available evidence and literature.

The drain of human capital from Africa is most pronounced in the employment sector for highly qualified personnel. Another remarkable trend is the "feminization" of the brain drain in recent years, caused by the growing number of highly skilled African women looking for employment abroad. However, migration is not necessarily a zero-sum game. There are also positive - although often neglected - economic and socio-cultural effects of the brain drain. Remittances of African migrants contribute considerably not just to the wellbeing of their extended families at home, but to poverty reduction and development on a national level in general. They constitute the second largest source of external private finance, besides foreign direct investment. In addition, a counteracting "brain gain", i.e. new value systems, political and spiritual orientations, acquired by migrants in Europe, results in a transfer of knowledge and of innovations.

Keywords: migration, West Africa, Europe, remittances, brain-drain, foreign trade policy, security, circular migration

JEL Classification: F22, F35, F42, F53, N17, N37, N44, O15, O2, R23

Suggested Citation

Kohnert, Dirk, Crisis Region Western Africa: The Cradle of African Migration to Europe (March 2007). Available at SSRN:

Dirk Kohnert (Contact Author)

GIGA - Hamburg, Institute of African Affairs ( email )

German Inst. of Global and Area Studies (GIGA)
Neuer Jungfernstieg 21
D-20354 Hamburg


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