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July 2014, Volume 21, Number 3

Africa: Migrants

The largest single migration corridor in Africa, between Burkina Faso and Côte d'Ivoire, has moved about 1.5 million or eight percent of the 16 million Burkinabe to Ivory Coast. Many of these migrants work seasonally or for several years on cocoa and coffee plantations. Migrants move in both directions, as some 840,000 Ivoirians live in Burkina Faso.

A third of Burkina Faso households receive remittances that totaled $130 million in 2012, three-fourths of which come from Ivory Coast.

There were an estimated 8.4 million migrants in West Africa in 2009. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has since 2005 allowed holders of passports from the 15 ECOWAS member states to travel to another ECOWAS state without a visa for 90 days.

However, border officials often demand bribes from travelers without visas. Many citizens of ECOWAS states do not have passports and migrate between border posts.

The Wall Street Journal on April 20, 2014 profiled a Somali man who sold his farm for $10,500 to pay a smuggler to take his younger brother to Europe. IOM estimated that over 3,000 Africans a month pay smugglers $150 million a year to take them to Europe. Somalia, a country of 10 million with a war-ravaged economy, depends on remittances. The younger brother arrived in Italy's Lampedusa island, escaped from a detention center in Milan, and was detained in Germany after spending a total of $14,200.

Rwanda, a land-locked country of 12 million, hopes to become an IT hub for the 135 million strong East African Community of which it is a member. Over 90 percent of Rwandans are employed in agriculture, and almost half live in poverty. Rwanda lost much of its foreign aid in 2013 after the UN concluded that it supported separatists in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.

Can relatively crime-free Kigali become a regional IT hub rather than much larger Nairobi? Pessimists note that the authoritarian Rwandan government may not respect contracts that are the heart of modern business.