GCRF Inclusive Societies - Migration for Inclusive African Growth

Lead Research Organisation: Open University
Department Name: Faculty of Arts and Social Sci (FASS)


After decades of pessimism some African economies have recently experienced the fastest growth rates in the world, though this growth has not yet trickled down to the poorest. The proposed research aims to address one aspect of the challenge of transforming national economic growth into more inclusive growth; namely migration. An outcome of the optimism around Africa is new and more diverse flows of migrants within and to the faster growing African economies. Yet we know very little about these migration flows and whether they offer discernable benefits for African development and redistributive potential. The overarching aim of the project is to understand whether and to what extent recent migration within and to Africa is contributing to more sustainable and inclusive growth on the continent and to enable policy-makers and practitioners to harness this knowledge for more inclusive growth.

The theoretical and policy agenda to which this research speaks is the recognition that migration is a key channel for promoting (inter)national trade, investment and other kinds of financial resources, and transferring technology, skills and knowledge. Our hypothesis is that these contemporary migrant communities have the potential to make important contributions to sustainable and inclusive growth, not only in their countries of origin but also in the African countries where they settle. To assess whether and how such benefits may be occurring we will undertake research in 4 African countries - Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and Mozambique - that are on the OECD DAC list. This will examine a range of contemporary migrant groups (including European, emerging power, African diaspora, intra-African, and internal) and examine those channels through which they may contribute to inclusive growth in Africa. The sectoral focus will be manufacturing, IT and services since these are sectors where African participation has a higher potential for more inclusive growth. The outcomes will be a more robust sense of the value of inclusive growth as an analytical concept alongside the first multi-country comparative study of contemporary migrant communities on the continent.

The project is also fundamentally concerned with re-shaping policy and practice to support more inclusive growth. It arises out of an ESRC GCRF Network grant that has cemented a strong network of migration researchers with national, continental and international expertise and policy reach. They are the African Migration and Development Policy Centre (Kenya), Network for Migration Research on Africa (Nigeria), The Centre for Migration Studies, Univ. of Ghana and The Centre for Policy Analysis, Eduardo Mondlane Univ. (Mozambique). The current network has engaged, through national workshops, with policy-makers, researchers and migrant businesses to identify learning needs and knowledge gaps. This co-design process informs the current bid and its impact activities. Policy-makers will benefit from improved information about the nature of these new migrant business communities, as well as through capacity building to help officials understand the issues and data sources better. We will also deliver training to African journalists so they can report on migration issues more effectively. Our African co-Is have delivered similar training to officials and journalists on a small scale but this project offers the opportunity to scale this up. Business people from the four African and the migrants' source countries will benefit through networking events organised by local business associations. The general public will benefit from better-informed debate about the costs and benefits of migration. Academics across a range of disciplines will benefit from new knowledge of the nature of these flows and impacts, as well as a wider venture of rethinking debates on the role of 'Southern' actors in international development.

Planned Impact

This project will have early impacts, derived from the completion of research, and longer-term impacts accrued from the influence of research evidence on policies and corporate strategies in selected African countries, the UK and other emerging economies.

Early impacts will arise from a detailed understanding of the different motivations, roles, and impacts of migrant groups in our case study countries. To date we have some data on Chinese migrants but our understanding of migrants from other emerging powers, Europe, regionally and internally is poor. The completion of this project will provide an insight into the dynamics of these different migration flows and their impacts on inclusive growth. The beneficiaries and benefits are:

1. Policy-makers and NGOs in the African case study countries and internationally. The benefits will be greater awareness of new migration flows into Africa and a better understanding of the potential impacts on inclusive growth. This will be achieved through the advisory group that has direct input into policy channels, and targeted workshops and policy briefs during the life of the project.
2. The migrant communities in the 4 case study countries. Experience from ESRC-funded research with Chinese migrants in Africa suggests that knowledge is a barrier to investment. The research will provide networking opportunities for the different migrant groups through local events organised by business associations.
3. The general public. There is much misinformation about African development and the potential of migration. The research will contribute to informed debate around how new migration flows affect African development. The researchers, and the OU more generally, have unrivalled experience in engaging publics through diverse media. We will engage publics through blogs, newspaper articles, and a communication strategy developed with the OU's media team.
4. Academics working in the fields of international development, human geography, migration studies, African studies, and international relations. To date most migration and development work has focused on 'South' to 'North' migration flows and very little has examined 'South-South' or 'North-South' flows even though these constitute the majority of the flows. We will test the conceptual linkages between migration and inclusive growth, and contribute new empirical evidence about these flows through presentations, existing networks, books, and journal papers.

Longer-term impacts build on our empirical endeavour of understanding new migrant groups and their impacts on inclusive growth in Africa:

5. Policy-makers in the African case study countries. Building on the shorter-term impacts we intend to provide longer-term capacity building of African officials engaged in migration-related areas. Through a suite of core teaching resources delivered in face-to-face training events by our African partners we will strengthen the ability of officials to understand and make decisions around migration.
6. Policy-makers and NGOs outside Africa. A report analysing innovative strategies for harnessing migration for inclusive growth will be distributed to policy makers working in UN organisations (UNCTAD, IOM), multilateral agencies (World Bank), national organisations (e.g. DFID), and NGOs (e.g. AFFORD, ADEPT).
7. African publics and the media. Train African journalists in how to understand and report migration stories so as to generate more informed and balanced public debate.
8. Academics working in multiple disciplines. While our early findings will be theoretically driven, they will not explicitly seek to push forward the wider framings of international development. Through a monograph published within two years of the project's end we will shape emerging debates around migration and development. A submission to the UK Data Service and creation of an African-based data repository will also ensure that the data is available for future researchers.


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