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November 2002, Volume 9, Number 11

Africa: Ivory Coast

The Ivory Coast has millions of migrants from nearby countries, including Burkina Faso and Mali. A military coup in 1999 led to instability since then, and in September-October 2002, an armed rebellion threatened the cocoa crop and the jobs of migrants.

Relative harmony between immigrants and local ethnic groups ended after the 1993 death of the Ivory Coast's Felix Houphouet-Boigny, who had encouraged immigration. Houphouet-Boigny's successor, Henri Konan Bedie, adopted the philosophy of "Bviorite-or preferential rights for "pure" Ivorians, which aroused opposition to immigrants. Residents of Daloa complained that government troops were attacking Dioulas, a largely Muslim northern tribe, as well as Muslim migrants from Burkina Faso and Mali. The northern part of Ivory Coast is largely Muslim, and is controlled by the rebels, while the south is mostly Christian and animist.

The fighting threatened the cocoa crop and the jobs of migrants. There is a dispute over whether the jobs in Ivory Coast are a step up for poor migrants, or a new form of slavery. The New York Times on November 18, 2001 profiled a 15-year old Mali boy who set off to the Ivory Coast on foot in search of employment. He was befriended by a smuggler, taken illegally over the border, and told he had a one-year contract to work on a cocoa plantation for 7,500 Central African francs ($10) a month. Despite the experience, he returned to Ivory Coast again, because he had no work in Mali.

Ivory Coast gained independence from France in 1960, and migrants from nearby countries arrived in the 1970s and 1980s to work on cocoa farms. Ivory Coast produces one million tons of cocoa annually, about 40 percent of the world's supply, and most is shipped between October and December.

Mozambique. In 1979, the German Democratic Republic signed a labor recruitment agreement with Mozambique. The German government took over responsibility for the 11,251 migrants after unification, and refunded the migrants' social security contributions, some $7.5 million, as well as providing aid for the re-integration of the migrants. However, the Mozambican government by 2002 had not yet returned the money to the migrants, known as "majermanes," and they are demanding far more, some $100 million.

Brain Drain. Some of the most significant brain drain losses due to migration are from Africa: 75 percent of those emigrating from Africa have some college education. For example, 30 percent of all highly educated Ghanaians and Sierra Leoneans are believed to live abroad. With less than five percent of the residents of most African countries going to college, this means that some of the poorest countries in the world are subsidizing education for some of the richest.

The US educates about a third of all foreign students and half of all students who get PhDs in the United States are still there five years later. The result is that a small percentage of educated migrants abroad may earn as much as their more numerous nationals at home. For example, the one million Indians in the United States accounted for only 0.1 percent of India's population but earned the equivalent of 10 percent of India's national income in 2000.