Migration Policy Briefs
Balsillie School of International Affairs
Southern Africa has a long history of intra-regional migration, dating back to the mid-nineteenth century. Migration was probably the single most important factor tying together all of the various colonies and countries of the sub-continent into a single regional labour market during the twentieth century. However, entrenched patterns of migration have undergone major restructuring in the last two decades. Southern Africa is now a region on the move (McDonald 2000). Several broader changes underly this shift towards greater and greater intra-regional mobility.
First, the end of apartheid, a system designed to control movement and exclude outsiders, produced new opportunities for internal and cross-border mobility and new incentives for moving. The ensuing integration of South Africa with the SADC region brought a major increase in legal and undocumented cross-border flows and new forms of mobility. Second, the region’s reconnection with the global economy has opened it up to forms of migration commonly associated with globalization (Crush and McDonald 2002). Third, growing rural and urban poverty and unemployment have pushed more people out of households in search of a livelihood. One aspect of this has been a significant gender reconfiguration of migration streams (Dodson 1998). Fourth, HIV/AIDS has also impacted considerably on migration. Not only is the rapid diffusion of the epidemic inexplicable without reference to human mobility but new forms of migration are emerging in response (Williams et al. 2003; IOM 2003a). Finally, the countries of the SADC are still dealing with the legacy of mass displacement and forced migration. The impact of the Mozambican and Angolan civil wars continue to reverberate. Recurrent civil strife in the rest of Africa has generated mass refugee movements and new kinds of asylum seeker to and within the region. The cessation of hostilities and threat has confronted countries of asylum with issues of repatriation and integration.
Policy responses as the local, national, regional and continental scale must take into account the extraordinary dynamism and instability of migration forms and patterns in the region. Governments wedded to legal frameworks of control and exclusion are finding it increasingly difficult to cope. The fundamental policy challenge is to move the states of Southern Africa to a regionally-harmonized and consistent set of policies that emphasize good governance, sound management and client-centred service delivery (Klaaren and Rutinwa 2004). In addition, because migration is a cross-cutting phenomenon, it needs to be integrated into all facets of state policymaking and planning, including programs and strategies to alleviate poverty and reduce inequality. For this to happen, migration’s key role needs to be documented by researchers and recognized by policy-makers.
Crush, J., Peberdy, S., & Williams, V. (2006). International Migration and Good Governance in the Southern African Region (rep., pp. 1-46). Waterloo, ON: Southern African Migration Programme. SAMP Migration Policy Brief No. 17.