The Intensification of International Migration Essay


Migrant flows are always from the poorest countries with a low probability of employment towards less poor and more dynamic countries where there is an opportunity to find some sort of job. Over the last few years international migration has intensified, with the media referring to the “regionalisation and globalisation” of migration. The major centers of attraction are the same: United States and the European Union, with countries in southern Europe gradually becoming immigrant receiving countries. The third major region that attracts migrants is the oil-rich Middle East. The fourth major region set to be the target for increasing numbers is Asia/Pacific, including Australia and New Zealand.

What are the effects of migration on the countries of origin? Funds sent by migrant to families back home often play a considerable part in the development of the local economy. However, when highly qualified people leave their home country, the investment made by the developing countries in their higher education is lost. To remedy this, programmes have to be set up to encourage immigrants to return, so that they can contribute to the economic development of their home country. The political environment in some African countries must be conflict free for African professionals overseas to return home.

Africa is certainly experiencing a debilitating flight of professionals and skilled people escaping their countries’ economic crisis. The level and trend of brain drain has reached unsustainable heights. In the last few years, the brain drain has escalated in magnitude to levels that have serious implications on economic growth in countries like Zimbabwe.

Why have African intellectuals and professionals left or thinking seriously of leaving their countries? Previous studies have discovered extremely high levels of dissatisfaction with the cost of living, taxation, availability of goods, and salaries. The number of poor living below the poverty datum line has surged progressively in the last few years because of economic crisis and spiraling inflation. The situation has been exacerbated by declining real savings compounded by high levels of taxation and rising unemployment levels.

The decline in real gross domestic product(GDP), is reflective of failure to attract foreign direct investment(FDI) and increased external debt due to chronic foreign currency shortages to procure raw materials, fuel, electricity and spare parts, against a background of rising production and labour costs due to high inflation have led to declining savings. The contraction in the formal sector, owing to companies’ downsizing, reducing working periods and closure, have led to significant fall in employment levels.

Growing lawlessness and politically-motivated violence are some of the push factors for many intellectuals and professionals. The dissatisfaction goes deeper than economic and political circumstances to include housing, medical services, education, education and a viable future for children. Against this background, many skilled persons and professionals have migrated to other countries and the potential for emigrating among African university students and other is most probably very high. There is therefore need to enact policies in Africa to curb these massive brain drain and offer incentives to make staying and working in African countries attractive for professionals and skilled people.

The broad objective of this paper is to highlight African brain drain, its causes and consequences. Brain drain is seen in this paper as a complex problem created by both endogenous and exogenous factors, which prey on the disparity between technologically developed and industrialized world, and the poor developing countries.

The structure of the papers is as follows;

Section I gives a general Introduction to the problem of Brain drain. Section 2 attempts briefly to conceptualize and categorize international migration and the possible causes of international migration.

Section 3 gives a detailed analysis of Causes for African Brain Drain. Section 4 attempts to show the Impact and Consequences of African Brain

Drain, giving Zimbabwe as an example.

Section 5 Conclusion and Future Prospects and Policy Options. .


Some theories of international migration: There is no single, well-developed theory of international migration. Among the various models attempting to explain why international migration begins, five major approaches can be discerned: These were offered by Sharon Stanton Russell 2.

Neoclassical economics: macro theory (arguably the body of theory most familiar to World Bank staff) views geographic differences in the supply and demand for labor in origin and destination countries as the major factors driving individual migration decisions. Among the assumptions of this model are that international migration will not occur in the absence of these differentials, that their elimination will bring an end to international movements, and that labor markets (not other markets) are the primary mechanisms inducing movements. Government policy interventions affect migration by regulating or influencing labor markets in origin and destination countries.

Neoclassical economics: micro theory focuses on the level of individual rational actors who make decisions to migrate based upon a cost-benefit calculation that indicates a positive net return to movement. In this approach, human capital characteristics that raise the potential benefits of migration, and individual, social, or technological factors that lower costs, will lead to increased migration. Differences in earnings and employment rates are key variables, and governments influence migration through policies that affect these (e.g., through development policies that  raise incomes at the point of origin, decrease the probability of employment at destination, or increase the costs of migration).

The new economics of migration views migration as a family (i.e., group) strategy to diversify sources of income, minimize risks to the household, and overcome barriers to credit and capital. In this model, international migration is a means to compensate for the absence or failure of certain types of markets in developing countries, for example crop insurance markets, futures markets, unemployment insurance, or capital markets.

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Dual labour market theory holds that demand for low-level workers in more developed economies is the critical factor shaping international migration. To avoid the structural inflation that would result from raising entry wages of native workers, and to maintain labor as a variable factor of production, employers seek low-wage migrant workers. In this model, international migration is demand – based and initiated by recruitment policies of employers or governments in destination areas.

World systems theory focuses not on labour markets in national economies, but on the structure of the world market-notably the “penetration of capitalist economic relations into peripheral, non-capitalist societies, “which takes place through the concerted actions of neocolonial governments, multinational firms, and national elites. International migration is generated as land, raw materials and labour in areas of origin are drawn into the world market economy and traditional systems are disrupted.


In the 1960s most of the African countries became independent, with the former Portuguese territories in 1975. In 1995, the last colony in Africa – South Africa – achieved majority rule. With accession to independence there was a marked change in the pace of migration. The first development plans and those subsequently adopted, accentuated existing disparities between urban areas which enjoyed the benefit of investment and rural areas. In some countries the most elementary freedoms were denied, giving rise to mass exodus of people unprecedented in the history of Africa. The gap between the economic and social development of different regions within countries and of different countries inside and outside Africa, has continued to widen over the years.

Brain drain is a migration of professional people(as scientists, professors, or physicians) from one country to another, usually for higher salaries or better living conditions. Despite the clarity of this definition, most efforts to halt the brain drain or reverse the process, especially in African countries, seem to pay little attention to economic and social imperative to brain drain, and instead, centre on appeals to the spirit of nationalism and patriotism. In extreme cases, some governments threaten to hire foreign professionals as replacement labour for those who left-a more complicated and costly option.

Political Turmoil: Political turmoil is linked to the failure of economic development. As pressures of poverty, rapid population growth, disease and illiteracy and environmental degradation mount, they produce a volatile cocktail of insecurity. Resulting war, civil strife, state – sponsored terrorism, riots and other forms of political violence can lead to the displacement of large numbers of people as migrants, refugees, or asylees. In the late twentieth century, compared to previous centuries, more wars are taking place, and they are lasting longer and causing more devastation. According to Papademetriou both internal and regional conflicts, often based on religion and ethnicity, are precipitating unprecedented high levels of international migration.

Economic and Political factors: The economic and political factors associated with international migration that have so far been discussed so far forces on the lack of economic development and political stability in many Third World countries. They are the major push factors in migration.

The push factors are circumstances in the home environment that make a person think about leaving his normal place of abode for another part of the same country, neighbouring countries, or for a more distant place like the United Kingdom of the United States.

Pull Factors i.e. those that draw people to particular destinations, are equally important. The post – World War II expansion of the industrial economies of Western Europe and North America (especially the United States) has led to immigration policies in these countries designed to meet a burgeoning demand for cheap labour. Globalization has made possible a massive transfer of resources like technology and capital; labour has become another form of large-scale resource transfer; Although more than half of recent international migration flows are between developing countries, the flow from the Third World to industrial nations has grown to unprecedented levels.

That developed countries are a magnet for the world’s migrant is evident from statistics. In 1990, half of the world’s migrants (excluding those naturalized, which would increase even more than the number in developed countries) were in industrial countries: 15-20 million were in Western Europe, 15-20 million were in North America, and 2-3 million were in the industrial nations of Asia (e.g. Japan, Taiwan).7 This globalization phenomenon has not escaped the attention of Deepak Nayyar, who observes that: the process of globalization is bound to exercise a significant influence on the push-factors underlying international migration. It would decrease emigration pressures if it leads to a convergence of levels of income between the industrialized countries and the developing countries.

But it would increase emigration pressures if it leads to a divergence in levels of income between the industrialized countries and the developing countries. Similarly, it would decrease emigration pressures if it leads to a reduction in poverty, an expansion of employment opportunities and an improvement in the quality of life for the people in developing countries. But it would increase emigration pressures if it leads to rising poverty, growing inequality, worsening employment prospects and deterioration in the quality of life of people in development countries.8 In summary it should be realized that the globalization of economies, lack of development and political stability in Third World countries, and immigration policies that reflect the need for labour in the receiving industrialized countries have thus far been proposed as the major factors explaining international migration from the Third World to the developed countries e.g. USA, UK., etc.

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But these alone do not adequately explain why certain countries or individuals, not others, dominate migration flows nor do they explain the particular destination choice of migrants. As earlier discussed, economic globalization, lack of development and political instability, industrial nations’ immigration policies, and linguistic and historical ties are major factors that account for Third World immigration to developed countries in general. The same factors enable us to understand African immigration to Europe and the United States of America.

Sub-Saharan Africa, like most other developing regions, has been integrated into the global economy primarily as a source of cheap primary goods and cheap labour. Initially, African labour was exploited within colonial boundaries but after World War II African labour was often actively recruited by ex-colonial European powers as competition for more expensive European labour. For example, France gave its former African colonies favoured nation status and formed agreements with such African states as Senegal, Mauritania, and Mali to promote labour migration. By 1960, about 20 000 Sub-Saharan Africans were in France; 12 000 in the late 80s.

The British were less hospitable to immigrants from their former African colonies. Beginning in 1962, Africans in England were denied full social and political rights. They were subject to four immigrant control and three race relations outs that gradually withdrew their citizenship rights. Pass laws and voucher systems were introduced in order to “terminate black settler immigration and to introduce repatriation. In 1971, the British passed an immigration act to expressly limit immigration from its former colonies.

It can, therefore, be said that Sub-Saharan Africa has generated significant global flows of migrants in the post-war era, mainly to ex-colonial states: Nigerian, Tanzanian, Ugandan, Asians and of late Zimbabweans have migrated to the U.K., Central and West Africans to France; Zairians (Congolese) to Belgium. However, the OECD has argued that these movements are dwafted by regional migrations within Africa. Regional labour have flowed primarily to Nigeria, South Africa, Gabon and the Ivory Coast. The main countries of emigration have been Zaire (now Congo), Angola, Mozambique, Cameroon and Botswana as well as all of the North African Nations, though rarely have their emigrants crossed the Sahara.

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