On 20 July, LeadUP held a thought-provoking discussion at the Future Africa Auditorium. The session was chaired by UP and PDBY alumni and broadcaster, Sebenzile Nkambule. The discussion was diverse in its interrogation of all possible contributors to migration – including issues pertaining to climate change and war. The session was opened to the audience, which engaged with the panel.
The panel included the following:
- Ashraf El Nour – the IOM regional director for Southern Africa
- Abiy Ashenafi – the manager of the Migration Unit at the Centre for Human Rights
- Prof. Chris Nshimbi – SARChi Chair in the Political Economy of SADC region
- Prof. Jo Vearey – the director of the African Centre for Migration and Society and
- Dr Nomzamo Malindisa – migration researcher
The session was opened by the moderator, who introduced UP Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Prof. Tawana Kupe. In his opening remarks, Prof. Kupe highlighted the need for objective and fair media reporting on migration. The images we mostly see circulating about migration in Africa seek to propagate the narrative that Africans are leaving the continent for Europe. This is on the contrary to reality, as there is a higher level of intra-African migration than migration to Europe. “If you watch television channels around the world with an image of African migration, [they show] Africans on a rickety boat trying to come into Europe. Actually […] there is more migration within Africa than those in the rickety boats,” said Prof. Kupe. Furthermore, Prof. Kupe highlighted the need to be scientific and factual in our analysis of migration because migration has a more far-reaching impact than we care to observe. According to Prof. Kupe, we need to “promote fact-based and data-driven migration discourse. Not the ones driven by emotions and prejudices”.
Opening the floor for the panelists, Nkambule questioned the current state of migration that is rooted in data. The panel delved into qualitative data, the “push-pull” factors, and the factors that are part of fundamental drivers of migration in Africa. In addition to the specified drivers of migration and the actors involved, the panel analysed the intersectionality of these factors that contribute to migration in Africa. The drivers of migration include economic opportunities, higher and/or lower human development index, and social economic inequalities. Additionally, the state, interest of private capital, and politicians are the biggest actors in the ecosystem. Prof. Nshimbi said, “There have been economic hubs that attract migration […] For example, the diamond industry in Botswana, the copper mining in Zambia. Zimbabwe was once the breadbasket of Africa in the Southern African region, but this can be extended to the entire continent.”
Dr Malindisa lamented the impact of inaccurate data about migration: “The challenge [is] the lack of migration data. This then makes it very difficult to accurately understand the impact of migration on our communities. This is very important to help inform migration policies and other intervention policies.”
Nkambule brought up the issue of anti-foreigner sentiments. Nkambule stated, “Let us jump into the issue of anti-foreigner sentiments and speak to the fears that people have, where there is high competition for jobs, high competition for resources and where you pick on the other. When you attack them, where has the other been fatally harmed? […] Are these fears justified?”
Prof. Nshimbi replied, “A lot has been said about the anti-foreign sentiments, especially in South Africa, […] where the debate has even been what these sentiments must be, whether it should be called xenophobia or Afrophobia. […] If you say it is a fight for limited resources, how would you explain the negative attitudes towards foreigners that happen in affluent parts of the country?” To which Prof. Vearey replied, “We need to ensure that people don’t interpret that migration alone is responsible for their vulnerabilities.” Migration is a way of life irrespective of wars, climate change, terrorism, and a declining resource base.
When closing the session, Dr Malindisa and Prof. Vearey agreed that the issue is not migration or migrants but rather migration management and governance. Similar sentiments were shared by Prof. Nshimbi.