Monday, December 17, 2018

Migration as Beneficial

Of the 258 million international migrants globally, 36 million live in Africa, with 19 million living in another African country and 17 million in Europe, North America and other regions, Ashraf El Nour, Director of IOM, New York, informed Africa Renewal.

“The narrative of migrants as a threat, as a source of fear, which has colored international media coverage on migration, is false,” said Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), a UN body that deals with trade, investment and development issues, in an interview with Africa Renewal.

Negative attitudes or even violence against migrants typically stem from fears that they take jobs away from native-born citizens or that they engage in criminal activities, according to a study by the South Africa–based Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), a statutory research agency.
In the HSRC study, which focused on South Africans’ attitudes toward immigrants, 30% of the public blamed foreigners for “stealing jobs from hardworking South Africans,” while another 30% pointed to immigrants’ criminal activities.
But IOM South Africa countered that “immigration does not harm the long-term employment prospects or wages of native-born workers,” adding that “migrants are twice as likely to be entrepreneurs [as] South African nationals.” The South African government regularly condemns xenophobic attacks.
Mr. Kituyi said that most migration studies focus on “the plight of migrants, the crisis of international solidarity or humanitarian challenges.” He wished that more attention were paid to migration from the perspective of economic development.
Ms. LĂșcia Kula, an Angolan migrant who is a researcher in the UK, concurred, adding that conversations about migration should shift to the migrants’ contributions to their new society.
“One of the main things they [immigrants] do in the economies they get into is create value. They enter niches where they are more competitive…and it can boost the local economy,” Mr. Kituyi elaborated.
Many migrants are talented professionals and offer expert services in their new countries. Iso Paelay, for example, left Liberia in the heat of the war in the 90s and resettled in Ghana, where he became a star presenter for TV3, a leading media house in the country. Apparently, Liberia’s loss was Ghana’s gain.
Mr. Kituyi points to a phenomenon of migrants going to other countries to engage in the ethnic food business. “They start creating routes to get food from their home country,” he said. Ethiopian restaurants in Nairobi, Kenya, including Abyssinia, Habesha and Yejoka Garden, serve Ethiopian dishes such as injera.
Abuja International Restaurant in Union, New Jersey, sells Nigerian food such as eba, amala and fufu and the popular beer Gulder. In New York, Africans and others throng “Little Senegal,” a single street in Harlem, to shop for anything African—foodstuffs, music CDs, hair products, religious items and finely tailored clothes.
While working hard, earning money and making contributions to their new countries, African migrants also “remit small monies back home to support their families,” explained Mr. Kituyi. “Eighty-five percent [of immigrants’ earnings] goes to the host country and 15% to the country of origin through remittances.”
In 2017, remittance flows from migrants to sub-Saharan Africa were $38 billion, reports the World Bank. That is more than the $25 billion official development aid (ODA) to the region that year.

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