A Continent in Crisis: Migrants and Refugees in Africa
Michael J. Schultheis
Africa is sometimes called a continent on the move. But Africans have always been "on the move," long before they had any contact with Europe. In a vast and sparsely populated continent, people and communities migrated to maintain ecological balance, to seek a more secure environment, and to achieve better living conditions. Almost every region of Africa has witnessed various streams of population distribution and redistribution, although it is impossible to define them precisely and to delineate their frontiers.
Population displacements and human migrations are neither unique to Africa nor confined to the twentieth century. They are the inevitable companions of war, civil conflict, and prolonged economic deprivation. They also accompany rapid economic and social change. However, present migration patterns in Africa have several alarming dimensions. An estimated 10 million or more Africans are uprooted from their homes. Nearly half are refugees; the rest have left their homes in search of food. They reflect the widespread famine, political conflict, and declining standards of living, especially in rural areas.
The purpose of this chapter is to identify some generally unexamined dimensions of migration in Africa. It views refugees as one category of migrants, often no more vulnerable and at no greater risk than other migrants. Alternatively, it views most Africans "on the move" as refugees, in the sense that they are reluctant migrants,