Throughout its history, Africa has experienced important voluntary and forced migratory movements, which have contributed to its contemporary demographic landscape. Significant internal migratory movements – such as rural – urban migration – add to the complexity of the picture. Populations of many border regions live in inherently unstable situations, in part due to war, ethnic fighting and/or drought. They are also engaged in a perpetual cycle of migration due to cross-border economic activity and pastoralist traditions. Cross-border migration in Africa also represents an important source of livelihoods and a coping strategy for ecological and economic downturns; it is also key to understanding, as well as forecasting, the onset and evolution of humanitarian disasters.

International migration management cannot afford to overlook the dimension of migration in Africa, as it has a major impact on irregular migration, HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases, smuggling and trafficking of women and children, management and protection of refugees and other vulnerable groups, ethnic conflicts and border management – it also has long-term implications on national, regional and international security.

The globalization process will also influence migration as it facilitates the movement of people across the various regions in Africa (through regional integration) and to other regions outside the continent, and the number of migrants is expected to increase, which will have social, economic, environmental and political implications and pose challenges for policymakers in the management of migration.

Sub‑Saharan Africa has also generated significant outflows of intercontinental migration, mainly to Western Europe, but also to North America and the Arab region. Intercontinental migration has diversified, however, and increasingly includes unskilled labour migrants who emigrate in significant numbers to Europe, North America and the Middle East.

Within Africa, migrants are not distributed evenly among the various regions. By 2000, 42 percent of migrants lived in West African countries; 28 percent in Eastern Africa; 12 percent in Northern Africa; and 9 percent in Middle and Southern Africa. Against this backdrop, internal, regional and out-of-Africa migration is occurring on a scale larger than in any other region.

IOM Regional Geographical Coverage