Posted on December 21, 2021

The Bittersweet Reality of Intra-African Migration

Mimi Mefo Takambou, Deutsche Welle, December 17, 2021

Africans are getting around their continent in greater numbers these days. But the poor treatment many receive in some countries casts a shadow over the prospects for intergration, experts say.African Union figures show that the level of intra-African migration rose from 13.3 million to 25.4 million between 2008 and 2017. But, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) that’s only half the story.

“We really have a very incomplete picture of the most recent trends and mainly also the number of people moving across countries,” Rango Marzia of the IOM’s Global Migration Data Analysis Centre (GMDAC) told DW.

A 2020 IOM report confirms that 80% of Africans, responding to a 2017 survey, said they had no interest in leaving the continent.

“There’s a whole story of migration within Africa and across Africa, particularly across countries in the same regions such as West Africa where interregional mobility is high, that we don’t really see in mainstream media,” Marzia said.

The reasons for such massive movement of people across African countries range from economics to the need for security.

Not always welcome

DW asked Christian Kobla Kekeli Zilevu, an immigration official in northern Ghana about the picture within the regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

“People move from one country to the other for survival. Some also travel because they feel their homes are not okay and they want to try another place,” he said.


The IOM’s Rango Marzia acknowledges that the negative perceptions associated with migration are largely linked to political instability, conflicts and climate change. However, she argues that these problems don’t make migration bad but rather the manner in which it is managed.


The impact of poorly implemented migration policies affects people like the Cameroonian man in Equatorial Guinea who said his biggest problem is how he and other foreigners are treated by host countries.

“Even if you have all the documents, they will still maltreat you.” There is constant harrasment, both from citizens and authorties in Equatorial Guinea, he told DW.


Integration within the ECOWAS zone is still in its infancy, but there is growing hope that it is on the path to success.

“We are starting from a point, but I can say categorically that the ECOWAS sub-region is more integrated than previously,” Christian Kobla Kekeli Zilevu, the Ghanaian immigration officials said.

The Cameroonian man who feels unwelcome in Equatorial Guinea wants this to become a reality within the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC). Equatorial Guinea is one of the bloc’s six member states.

“We are in the CEMAC region. They should respect the laws of CEMAC. We are one people, and we should always respect the colour we have as Africans,” he said.

Zilevu notes challenges, with a tinge of optimism, and says it will take time but successful integration is a possibility. “There will be challenges. So, for the blocs, CEMAC and ECOWAS it’s a gradual process.”

The prospects of increasing intra-African migration remains huge, according to Marzia. Long before the creation of colonial borders, Africa moved within the continent and beyond. The public debate that fuels anti-migrant sentiments is not offen backed by evidence. But efforst are being made to reverse that.