SIHMA | Scalabrini Institute For Human Mobility In Africa


By Muluh Momasoh

Three waves of migration have been identified within the context of Africa, namely the Trans-Atlantic slave trade approximately from 1526 – 1867, saw some 12.5 million African men, women, and children transported to America and Europe (Mintz, 2023), the second wave was informed by the decolonization process that took place within the continent from the mid-to-late 1950s – 1975 which prompted a lot of young African students in their quest for the most needed knowledge that will be required for the development of the new African independent states to travel to Europe and America, and the third wave which began in the 1980s that informs recent migration patterns within the continent was partly rooted in the damaging effect of the social, economic, and political crisis in the continent - further compounded by the structural adjustment programs and the neo-liberal policies of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) (Thomson et al., 2017; Crisp, 1999; and Oberdabernig, nd). These programs were premised on the fact that for the ailing economies of Africa to gain assistance from these international entities, they were required to meet certain standards, for example, the government was required to cut down on the provision of certain social services like education and health, and the privatization of state-owned entities (some of which provides basic services). These requirements had an adverse effect – the high cost of living and unemployment in most African states where the government was seen as the sole provider of certain necessities – pushing most Africans to migrate in search of better opportunities.  

Unlike in the past when the study of migration almost entirely focused on the movement beyond the continent, recently, the changing dynamics in the movement of Africans that has seen so many Africans moving within the continent (South-South migration), for example, while approximately 19 million Africans are living out of the continent (11 million in Europe, 5 million in middle East, and 3 million in Northern America), about 21 million Africans are living within another African country (African Centre for Research Science, 2021) has precipitated the need in researching this recent development. Several overlapping factors that include environmental, disasters, conflict, social and economic conditions, and politics precipitate the movement of asylum seekers, refugees, returnees, and economic migrants within and beyond the continent. Migrants within the continent make use of both regular and irregular migration channels. While some of the regional blocks provide for the free movement of its citizens across the borders of member states, for example, ECOWAS, administrative and bureaucratic constraints compounded by bribery and corruption at the border posts act as barriers to these policies. Those who intend to reach Europe "irregularly", rely on the services of smugglers that will bring them to any one of the African countries (Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Libya, Guinea, Mali, and Niger) that is closer to Europe to use either one of the five illegal identified crossings – the Central Mediterranean Route, Western Mediterranean Route, the Eastern Mediterranean Route, the West African route, and the Western Balkan Route (Idemudia and Boehnke, 2020).

In an attempt to provide an overarching understanding of the complex migration pattern of migration within and beyond the continent, the Scalabrini Institute of Human Mobility in Africa (SIHMA) has initiated a first-of-its-kind project duped the “Migration Atlas of Africa” that will provide the migration profile of all the 54 countries in the continent of Africa - with one click on the Atlas. The project is executed through a desk-top research method based on the existing literature and data to provide an understanding of the complex movement (mixed migration) of Africans not only to Europe and America (South-North migration) but to all other parts of the world and most especially within the continent (South-South migration) and within the country (Internal migration). Also, emphasis is laid on returnees. The study also seeks to provide an understanding of the complex migration patterns that characterized movement within the continent. Central dimensions of the profile include geographical information of the country that provides some basic information of the country, historical background of migration within and out of the country and the factors that drive such migration, policies that govern migration within the country, migration-related government institutions, an understanding of what informs internal migration, information on conflict and disaster-related displacement, statistics of immigrants and emigrants and the top receiving countries of emigrants, gender and child dimension of migration, labour migration, statistics of asylum seekers and refugees and an understanding of the drivers of forced displacement, human trafficking, remittances, return and returnees and migration-related international organizations within the country.  



African Centre for research Science. 2021. African Migration trends to watch in 2022. Retrieved from:

Mintz, S. 2023. Historical context: Facts about the slave trade and slavery. Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Retrieved from:

Oberdabernig, A. nd. The effects of structural adjustment programs on poverty and income distribution. Retrieved from:

Crisp, F. 1999. The socioeconomic impacts of structural adjustment. International Studies Quarterly, 43(3):533-552. Retrieved from:  

Thomson, M., et al. 2017. Structural adjustment programmes adversely affect vulnerable populations: a systematic-narrative review of their effect on child and maternal health. Public Health Review. Retrieved from:

Idemudia, E., & Boehnke, K. 2020. Travelling routes to Europe. Retrieved from:



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