The latest Afrobarometer survey has found that many young and highly educated African citizens are considering emigrating across the continent in search of opportunities, with The Gambia finding itself in the top three.
In the third of its Pan-Africa Profiles based on recent public opinion surveys in 34 African countries, Afrobarometer found that “more than one-third of Africans have considered emigrating, including about half of young adults and highly educated citizens.”
“About one in five Africans say they have thought “a lot” about emigrating, and 3% say they are taking concrete steps to leave, such as obtaining a visa.” In The Gambia, 29% say they have though “a lot” about emigrating and 27% say they’ve “somehow” thought about it.
The new report shows that the most popular destination for potential emigrants is neither Europe nor North America but another African country. According to the report, the potential emigrants are overwhelmingly motivated by hunger for jobs and economic opportunity.
The report’s detailed analyses by country, region, and demographic group provide useful insights for policy making to address migration – not just in destination countries concerned about their ability to absorb large numbers of immigrants, but also in countries of origin at risk of losing some of their most educated, motivated, and creative young people.
More than one in three Africans (37%) have considered emigrating, including 18% who have given this “a lot” of thought. A majority of citizens say they have thought at least “a little bit” about leaving Cabo Verde (57%), Sierra Leone (57%), the Gambia (56%), Togo (54%), and São Tomé and Príncipe (54%).
“Among those who have considered emigrating (“potential emigrants”), on average one in 10 (9%) – or about 3% of the total population – say they are currently making preparations to move. These proportions are highest in Zimbabwe and Lesotho. Young adults and highly educated citizens are most likely to consider leaving their country: About half of each group say they have considered it at least “a little bit,” according to the survey conducted between 2016 and 2018.
It considers that potential emigrants are more numerous among men (40%) and urban residents (44%) than among women (33%) and rural dwellers (32%), while thoughts of moving abroad are about equally common among the relatively well-off and the poor.
“Among potential emigrants, more than one-third would like to move to another country within their region (29%) or elsewhere in Africa (7%).This preference for staying on the continent is especially strong in Southern Africa (58%) and weakest in North Africa (8%).”
However, Europe (27%) and North America (22%) are the most popular destinations outside Africa.
The need for The Gambia to step up
The Communications Officer at Afrobarometer’s office in The Gambia, Demba Kandeh who also took part in the survey described the findings as ‘very serious’ for The Gambia.
“In terms of proportion, Gambia has one of the smallest populations in the countries captured. If you look at the figure, The Gambia is featured in the top three countries where a lot of people migrate or are planning to migrate according to the data and that should be a cause for concern for people of The Gambia,” he told The Chronicle.
Kandeh called on the government to develop a migration policy to address the issue.
“How can you have a country where over 50% of the population is thinking of emigrating somewhere, especially the educated young people?”
Afrobarometer is a pan-African research network that conducts public attitude surveys on democracy, governance, economic conditions, and related issues in African countries.