Document Type

Migration Dialogue for Southern Africa (MIDSA) Series

Publication Date



Southern Africa is characterized by long-established patterns of intra-regional migration, with countries sending and receiving labour migrants especially for employment in mines and on commercial farms and plantations since the late nineteenth century. However, these pat­terns and processes have undergone notable change in recent decades, the outcome being a progressive intensification of mobility in the region. The underlying determinants of this trend include increased and new opportunities for internal and cross-border movement follow­ing the end of apartheid, the region’s increasing engagement with the global economy, persistently high and worsening levels of poverty and unemployment, the impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and the dis­placement and forced migration borne out of conflict and civil strife

These changing dynamics are occurring at a time when there is an increasing recognition of and desire to understand the multifaceted and complex relationship between migration, livelihoods and poverty. This coincides with the emergence of a ‘New Poverty Agenda’, which builds upon the 1990 and 2000 World Development Reports and reflects the concern with poverty reduction as an integral part of the international development paradigm. At the international level, the Millennium Development Goals form an important expression of this agenda. Similarly, since 1999, Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) have become the most noteworthy policy instruments in low income coun­tries to emanate from the new poverty agenda.

The principal objective of this paper is to examine the extent to which recent poverty reduction strategies and policy in Southern Africa reflect the current understanding of migration and its dynamics. This is of particular relevance since such policies, either directly or indirectly, can promote, accommodate or inhibit population mobility as well as affect the experiences of those who move and stay behind. The analysis also provides some insight into the prevailing assumptions about migration and development of regional organizations, governments and donors that have shaped poverty reduction strategies in the sub-region.

This audit is organised into four chapters. Chapter 2 provides a content analysis of migration in SADC’s Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP, 2004). The next chapter examines the seven low-income SADC countries that have adopted the World Bank/IMF Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper approach and shows how migration issues are dealt with in their PRSPs. The report then provides an analysis of how migration has been incorporated in the general poverty reduc­tion strategies of middle-income countries. Based on the results of the audit, the final chapter identifies the issues and considerations neces­sary to effectively mainstream migration in ongoing poverty reduction strategies in Southern Africa, at the provincial, national and regional levels.

Study Approach

The study is a review of the recently completed Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan for the SADC region, the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers and national poverty reduction strategies produced by countries in the region, and other relevant documentation. In terms of the assessment framework used for the analysis, this report examines three dimensions of the mainstreaming of migration. The first is the extent to which migration issues have been described in the poverty profile or situational analysis contained in the strategy documents. These profiles aim to identify the nature and causes of poverty, and are natural focal points for the inclusion of specific concerns and opportu­nities pertaining to migration. The focus is on identifying analytical and structural gaps. Secondly, the extent to which the links between migra­tion and poverty have been incorporated into this contextual analysis is addressed. The third and final dimension is the degree of sensitivity to migration issues in the policy and programmatic responses that are formulated to address national poverty situations and challenges. This entails a reasonably comprehensive review of the sector-based priori­ties or focus areas that collectively form the basis of poverty reduction strategies. This review will also assess whether mobile populations are specifically targeted and whether they are recognised as a means of poverty reduction.