Human Migration in Sub-Saharan Africa

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According to our textbook, Africa South of the Sahara, Africa has high mobility rates for many different reasons. People in Africa have migrated for religious customs, economic and agricultural opportunities, as well as involuntary migration. In our book it states that “Migrants bring with them their fertility, their wealth (or lack of it), their skills, their culture, and a host of personal characteristics, modifying in the process both the communities of destination and of origins.” (Stock, 2013) In other words, when people migrate, they do so for various reasons bringing whatever they have with them whether that be money, different skills, or their culture.

Since the 14th century, many Africans have migrated to holy places throughout Islam for religious purposes. According to our textbook, “The pilgrimage is an example of a long-established migration stream that grew significantly in the more stable political environment of the colonial era.” (Stock, 2013) This pilgrimage became more than a religious journey, it was a way for people to share their different cultures and techniques. Throughout this journey, pilgrims took jobs such as farmer laborers, barbers, or porters to financially support themselves. During this time, many villages and neighborhoods were established along the pilgrimage route so that pilgrims who were on this journey had somewhere to stay as they obtained information and different opportunities. Religious customs were one of the general reasons why people migrated in Africa during this time.

Another general reason that Africans migrated was for economic and agricultural opportunities. As stated in our textbook, “Many pastoralists move between seasonal pastures in order to have access to adequate water and fodder for their animals and to minimize risks from ecological dangers.” (Stock, 2013)This shows that pastoralists migrate seasonally to benefit from their different pastures and prevent ecological damage. It was common for agriculturalists to migrate from their homes to different sites near rivers where irrigation was possible. Economic opportunities were also a common reason for people to migrate. In our textbook it states, “Economic models conceptualize mobility as a voluntary response by individuals who are motivated to take advantage of opportunities, particularly the availability of jobs.” (Stock, 2013) This statement shows that people purposely migrate for certain opportunities that they are aware of. For example, if a farmer is having trouble selling his crops to make a profit, but he heard about a job as a farmer 20 miles south by a river that has great business, he may migrate there to benefit himself.

As stated above, many people migrate for religious reasons as well as economic and agricultural opportunities. In other circumstances, people had to migrate involuntarily. Involuntary migration occurred due to the imposition of head tax as well as unsuccessfully growing cash crops. People who lived far from water routes had slim transportation options which resulted in not being able to sell their cash crops. In our texts it states, “The expropriation of lands for European farms and forest reserves undermined the viability of indigenous economies; many African producers were forced to relocate onto smaller farms in less fertile areas or to become labor migrants.” (Stock, 2013) In other words, African producers were not given much of a choice whether to become labor migrants. They could either relocate to smaller farms that were less fertile would not make their farming successful or become labor migrants.

The general effects of migration on the regions where people are leaving include the stop of development in the rural regions and decreasing population. When people from rural areas decide to migrate towards better economic and agricultural opportunities, they are slowing down the development of their current region. As more and more people migrate to different places from their small rural areas, the population decreases. The decrease of population as well as the decreased development of the area makes it nearly impossible for the remaining people to survive there and be successful. In result, the rest of the people remaining in this area are forced to migrate. There are also general effects on migration to which people are migrating such as employment generation, and over population. Although places in which people migrate can provide jobs for people who were unsuccessful where they were migrating from, it can also cause over population if to many people are migrating to the same place. (Katseli, Lucas, & Xenogiani, 2006)

The case study I have chose for an example is from our text, Africa South of the Sahara. This case studied is called New Development in Migration: China and Africa and it discusses the two-way migration between China and numerous Africa Countries. Although there are benefits from these migrations, controversy in both Africa and China have occurred. According to the textbook, small numbers of Africans have migrated to China as early as the 1960s. African migration to China has grown rapidly since 2003 which is when China joined the World Trade Organization. Many of these Africans reside in an area called “African Town” to engage in trade. Due to the rapid increase of migration, the Chinese government has put stricter visa laws in place as well as provide a one-month limit to Africans who want to come to China. People from China also migrate to places in Africa such as Cape Verde to establish small merchandise shops where they sell mostly Chinese-made goods. Chinese engineering firms have been contracted to take on major projects in Africa which has become controversial. The use of Chinese workers takes away from local African workers opportunities for employment. Overall, two-way migration can be both beneficial and detrimental to both countries. If countries want to continue using two-way migration, I believe that their needs to be strict laws in place so that the people who have migrated don’t take away from those who originally resided there. (Stock, 2013)

In conclusion, I believe people migrate for many different reasons, but mainly to better their own lives. Migration effects both the regions where people are leaving and the areas to which people are migrating. Populations change frequently due to the vast number of people migrating as well as the changes in development of the countries. The places in which people leave have a development that is slowed down whereas places where people are migrating to are developing rapidly.

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Human Migration in Sub-Saharan Africa. (2020, Jul 23). Retrieved July 16, 2024 , from

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