NATIONAL CONSULTATION MEETING OF THE GLOBAL COMPACT FOR MIGRATION (THE GAMBIA)

Monday, December 04, 2017

TOPIC: THE NEED TO ADDRESS THE DRIVERS OF MIGRATION, INCLUDING THROUGH STRENGTHENED EFFORTS IN DEVELOPMENT, POVERTY ERADICATION AND CONFLICT PREVENTION AND RESOLUTION

ALIEU K. JAMMEH
University of The Gambia

OUTLINE OF PRESENTATION

1.         INTRODUCTION AND MIGRATION CONTEXT IN THE GAMBIA

2.         ROOT CAUSES OF MIGRATION

3.         SOLUTIONS

4.         CONCLUDING REMARKS

INTRODUCTION AND MIGRATION CONTEXT IN THE GAMBIA

The Gambia’s population landscape is also one that continuous to be shaped by migratory movements. It is both a destination and origin country which is equally true for almost all countries.

As a country of destination, various ethnic groups migrated from present day Mali during the 11th to 13th centuries.As a country of origin, recorded history indicated that from 1681 to 1810 hundreds of thousands left the region as slaves. The outflow continued in different forms prior to and after independence in 1965. Some will go never to return whilst others do come back.

Much as it can lead to brain drain and/or brain waste, the opposite is equally true wherein migration can bring in some benefits, to both countries of origin and destination.

Available statistics covering a period of 17 years from 2000 to 2017 show how Gambia is impacted by migration. From 35,000 in the year 2000, 90, 000 in 2010 and 140,000 in 2017, there is an upward trend in the outflow. Last year alone, about 11,929 Gambians arrived in Italy as first time asylum seekers, 80% of whom are between the ages of 18 years to 34 years.During this same period, from the year 2000, about 290,000 and increasing, migrants from mainly countries in the sub region, have made Gambia their home.

These figures show that there are more inflows as compared to outflows. However, the major challenge to the country, as for any other one is how to derive maximum benefits from both streams.

For example, just few years ago, based on IMF estimates, incoming remittances averaged $81.3 million annually for the Gambia. These were more than twice the size of foreign direct investment (FDI) and are roughly equivalent to net official development assistance (ODA). On the other hand, highly educated immigrants work in higher education, provide technical support in information technology and populate the business space, contributing positively to the country’s development.

Whereas it is highly anticipated that there will be improved and increased flow of ODAs and FDIs under the current dispensation, channeling those resources in appropriate sectors to generate needed results, will determine if we are able to find solutions to the many problems responsible for the un-managed and unregulated migration.

This consultative meeting should find those solutions by taking into consideration our specific needs. The Rabat Process, Khartoum Process, Africa-EU Civil Society Statement, and Valetta Summit 2015, all emphasize the urgency of addressing root causes of such migration by looking at how to balance two priorities of development to reduce migration flows and fight against migration with a spirit of shared responsibility and enhanced cooperation.

ROOT CAUSES OF MIGRATION

Many factors, illustrated here through a push-pull framework, provides an insight into the root causes. The push factors include low wages, lack of opportunities,unfavorable economic conditions, and poor governance have led to both skilled and unskilled out-migration.These are intensified by pull factors in the form of perceived opportunity for a better life, high income, greater security, better quality of education. In addition, improved communication, greater information availability and peer influence are contributory factors.

Other related issues of concern that distorts the country’s ability to cater for the needs of the people has to do with the unpleasant politicization of ethnicity or ethnicization of politics with the potential of undermining our peace and threatening the long term security of the country, thus leading to more un-managed migration and associated consequences. Furthermore, the spread of a culture of institutional neglect and systematic plunder of the national economy have all diminished the ability of the state to generate wealth in providing for the needs of the citizenry, hence leading to more hopelessness and migration.

These are some of the ills that still continue to precipitate the exodus of the people, who are mainly the youth, some of whom get lost forever with no possibility of return.

In this light, measures in response to such an environment require the availability of opportunities that can provide decent jobs with decent wages for people trained and equipped with essential skills and knowledge operating in a socio-economic and political space that promotes growth, excellence and good governance.

SOLUTIONS

A number of urgent interventions can be made with long lasting impact. First, opportunities for the acquisition of knowledge and skills in the country needs to be broadened. A highly skilled and knowledgeable populace will certainly be a catalyst to economic growth and augurs well for diligence in delivering the public good. Therefore, based on the principle of shared responsibility, the country and its partners should strengthen existing institutions of higher education with sufficient materials and facilities for access and improved learning outcomes across the country.

Second, focus on the productive sectors of the economy, particularly agriculture. It is the most critical sector for economic expansion that can absorb many unemployed youth. An innovative platform in agriculture recently rolled out in the country called Songhai Initiative, designed as a broad, multi-partnership program to promote access of youth to appropriate agribusiness entrepreneurial, leadership and management skills, is addressing the triple challenges of youth employment, climate change and food security. This should be supported for expansion and replication across the country.

Third, an opportunity waiting to be exploited avails in the area of the challenge of waste management confronting almost all our major towns. Waste is generated but cannot be collected and managed well. At the same time, a large number of the youth wander around in the midst of such wealth creating potential. A pilot initiative in BCC, KMC and BAC might be worth considering that would mobilize and prepare youth for deployment in turning waste into wealth.

Fourth, there is already a law in place that makes it obligatory for all newly graduating students who intend to seek employment in the public sector, to first participate in some sort of national service for a minimum period of six months to a maximum period of eighteen months. The law came about as a response to satisfy the immediate needs of employment of the ever increasing qualified youth graduating from the University of the Gambia and other Tertiary Institutions in the country. The initiative was meant to be piloted this year by targeting 2000 youths for immediate employment deployed to any part of the country in sectors like health, education, forestry and agriculture. Again, this can be supported for implementation.

Fifth, there is the suggestion that, whereas one of the major short term objectives under the EU New Partnership Framework launched in 2016 is to increase the rate of returns to countries of origin, potential returnees can be provided with skills which could facilitate the process of reintegration upon their return. In fact, returning large numbers quickly without prospects could have security implications too.

Sixth and finally, is to strengthen institutions of governance in the country. Elite and factional conflict with chances of degenerating into communal types of conflict are the biggest challenges to our emerging democracy and fragile state. Elite manipulative moves along ethnic cleavages can compromise the country’s peace and security. The threat of political violence during the impasse sent out about 50,000 and created over 100,000 internally displaced persons. Political institutionalization should be a priority alongside ongoing efforts through the processes of transitional justice, dealing with economic and human rights crimes of the past. A disproportionate balance in social mobilization against political institutionalization always creates room to challenge the legitimacy of states. Government, civil society, academia and development partners all have a stake in ensuring that governance respond to social needs.

CONCLUDING REMARKS

The challenge to policymakers and program implementers, is how to harness young people’s desire for change that has the potential to translate into positive outcomes.  On the other hand, the challenge for young people, is plugging themselves in these processes, proactively joining the search for a solution.

Thank you