African Migrations: Patterns and Perspectives

African Migrations: Patterns and Perspectives

African Migrations: Patterns and Perspectives

African Migrations: Patterns and Perspectives


Spurred by major changes in the world economy and in local ecology, the contemporary migration of Africans, both within the continent and to various destinations in Europe and North America, has seriously affected thousands of lives and livelihoods. The contributors to this volume, reflecting a variety of disciplinary perspectives, examine the causes and consequences of this new migration. The essays cover topics such as rural-urban migration into African cities, transnational migration, and the experience of immigrants abroad, as well as the issues surrounding migrant identity and how Africans re-create community and strive to maintain ethnic, gender, national, and religious ties to their former homes.




Migration within countries, between countries and between continents, is a central characteristic of the twenty-first century. Castles and Miller (2003) have characterized the end of the twentieth and the beginning of the twenty-first centuries as “the age of migration,” referring to population movements across national, regional, and continental borders. Our goal in this volume is to assess the part that Africa and Africans play in this process of human mobility provoked by economic, social, and political forces operating at different yet interconnected levels—local, national, and global.

The various approaches to the study of African migrations necessitate a multidisciplinary approach. The multiple destinations of African migrants and the translocal/transnational connections established between the departed and those left behind compelled us to solicit contributions focused on domestic (rural to urban and, increasingly, urban to rural), regional, and intercontinental migration patterns. The multidisciplinary approach and domestic/regional/intercontinental scope allow these chapters to speak with each other in ways that set this volume apart from previous edited works on the subject (Amin 1974; Manuh 2005; Diop 2008).

There is no better indicator of the level of despair among Africans today than the exponentially growing numbers trying to exit at all costs for a better life elsewhere in urban Africa or Western countries. Since the early 1980s, Africans, particularly the youth, have been voting with their feet. If the wave of democratization that swept Africa in the early 1990s created a sense that political participation would lead to better governance and economic prosperity, then the conflicts in Liberia, Sierra Leone, So-

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