This is a featured blog post by Professor Giles Mohan, Director of the OU's Research Network in International Development and Inclusive Innovation.
In my previous post, Chinese Migration to Africa, I briefly discussed the economic and social tensions that sometimes accompany inward migration. We have seen outbreaks of xenophobia – dislike of or prejudice against people from other countries – in most countries and in the UK this has been exacerbated by the Brexit vote. Although the causes of such opinions are complex and context specific, in general they tend to focus on the tensions occurring ‘over here’ when migrants arrive or settle.
Yet migration can also cause tensions in the countries and places from which migrants come. Many of those who leave, for example, are the more affluent or skilled members of their societies who, in what is sometimes referred to as the ‘brain drain’, take these assets with them when they leave. Once settled in their new countries, however, many of these migrants will send money back to their family and kin, as discussed in Dr Ben Lampert's podcast in yesterday's post. Collectively known as remittances, for some countries these payments represent a major source of finance – despite being hard to track and measure because they pass between family members. On the downside, these remittances can also lead to resentment if they go towards consumption, as families with relations who are overseas migrants will be noticeably better off in otherwise poor communities.
Migration, then, is not – or rarely ever – smooth. But can we make migration more inclusive and less exclusive? It’s a question a research project I’m currently running at The Open University hopes to answer by trying to understand if migration in, to and from African can bring about inclusive growth.
A key starting point was to work out what we actually mean by ‘inclusive growth’. Very broadly, inclusive growth addresses some of the deficiencies that have come about as a result of focusing too narrowly on economic growth, together with recognition that global growth in the past 30 years has been accompanied by rising inequalities. As such, inclusive growth focuses on the quality of growth rather than growth per se with the OECD (2014) discussing the ‘growth dividend’ that needs sharing more fairly and the fact that purposive policies are required to achieve this. Most proponents of inclusive growth agree that growth has to be long term and broad based, covering multiple sectors. In addition, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), rather than large multinationals alone, are critical for inclusive growth. Indeed, this is especially true in sub-Saharan Africa where around twice as many of the working population are employed in SMEs compared to large firms.
The next step was to discuss our ideas with the people who actually do things on the ground around migration. This includes the migrants themselves and the policymakers and organisations whose work affects migration, including immigration and investment agencies, as well as NGOs involved with workers’ rights. To carry out this step, we chose four African countries with high levels of migration in and out – Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya and Mozambique – and held in each what we call an ‘evidence café’. At these events we brought the above-mentioned actors together to discuss: (i) how we define a migrant; (ii) how knowledge about migrants and migration is generated, and; (iii) how we can improve this knowledge. Participants recorded these discussions visually on a table, which we have made available as a PDF.
The results across groups were interesting. Whatever their background, most people based their judgements or decisions related to migrants and migration on ‘stories’. By this we mean anecdotal or journalistic pieces rather than what some people term ‘hard data’. In fact, even where officials did collect data – through entry cards issued at airports, for example – little was then done with it. In general it was simply processed and stored without any further analysis. Furthermore, official data was patchy. Although it might be collected for a short period of time, it wasn’t for long enough to really identify trends.
To conclude, it’s clear from our findings so far that considerably more work needs to be done on unpicking the fine-grained impacts that constitute inclusive growth. It’s an exciting time, so watch this space as our research unfolds.