This House would enable free movement of labour across Africa to alleviate poverty disparities.

Migration has remained a key concern in Africa over time; with research focused on identifying the patterns of migration, scope of migration, and fundamentally understand why people move. With 'mobility' identified as a key characteristics of our contemporary age, various trends can be found across Africa. With records showing rising rates in international immigration; and increased inter-continental movement, new theories have emerged to provide reasoning for such realities. Whether as a result of choice or constraint, such as a natural disaster, a livelihood strategy or individual decision to seek employment, the contemporary reality of migration shows movement needs to be prioritised, discussed, and debated. With the stabilisation of an African Union, or Pan-African Agenda, concern over climate change, and complexities of urbanisation, new policies and understandings are required for migration, and migrants.

Therefore in taking a synthesised perspective this debate asks what government policies are needed. Two key relationships are introduced: the relation between migration and development; and that of migration and rights. A free labour market is defined as a market sphere which enables liberty, and freedom, between buyers and sellers, to exchange, trade, and mobilise. In this case, the labour market is referred to in three contexts: internal (synthesising rural and urban markets), crossborders, and regional. The question remains, by encouraging a laissez-faire approach to the movement of people, goods, and services, can a solution be found to underlying issues across Africa?

In debating the relevance of a free labour market, and migration, across Africa this debate centres on why it remains important in contemporary Africa; and to what extent the policy will have desirable practical effects. Can the rights of migrants be met; and what opportunities does migration raise?

Free movement will provide benefits for productivity.

A free labour market provides a space for sharing (knowledge, ideas, and socio-cultural traditions), competing, and sustaining efficiency in development. As neoliberal theory advocates a laissez-faire approach is fundamental for growth. A free labour market will enhance economic productivity. Free labour movement enables access to new employment opportunities and markets.

Within the East African Community the Common Market Protocol (CMP) (2010) has removed barriers towards the movement of people, services, capital, and goods. Free regional movement is granted to citizens of any member state in order to aid economic growth. Free movement is providing solutions to regional poverty by expanding the employment opportunities available, enabling faster and efficient movement for labour, and reducing the risk of migration for labour. Similar to initial justifications of Europe’s labour market, a central idea is to promote labour productivity within the region[1].

[1] Much criticism has been raised with regards to the flexible labour market in Europe - with high unemployment across national member states such as Spain, Ireland, and Greece; the prevalent Euro-crisis, and backlash over social welfare with rising migration. Disparities remain in jobs, growth, and productivity across the EU.


The benefits of a free labour market are merely based on an idealistic reality. The CMP has only existed for three years so it is impossible to draw any conclusions. When looking at whether migration enhances productivity questions need to be raised. First, what jobs are provided in the new destination? Are the jobs safe and secure, or within informal employment? Second, where is productivity actually encouraged? Is the distribution occurring across an even geography; and assisting the poor? As yet there are no answers.

Migration is 'developmental'.

Recent reports by the HDR (2009) and WDR (2009) have shown migration is a means of development – free movement has the power to alleviate poverty, enable markets, and connectivity. Taking recent evidence concerning worldwide remittance flows, the developmental nature of free movement is shown.

In 2013, it is estimated, through international migration, $414bn were remitted back to developing countries[1]. Remittance flows into Africa (from within and internationally) accounted for $40bn in 2010, accounting for an increasing percentage of GDP (AfDB, 2013; IFAD, 2013). Northern Africa articulated the largest total of remittances received. Remittances remain beneficial for supporting livelihoods. The influx of remittances to households provides security, an additional income for support, enables household consumption, and investment in alternative assets, such as education and land, of which present crucial benefits in reducing poverty. Although the geography of remittances remains uneven, and currently barriers remain to sending and receiving money, the developmental potential of remittances from African diasporas (both outside and within Africa) is now recognised[2].

[1] See further readings: World Bank, 2013.

[2] For additional information on the debate of migration, remittances and social development see further readings: De Haas, 2010. 


Migration results from poverty; poverty will not be solved through migration. Migration is a survival strategy - therefore development initiatives are required first for poverty to be reduced. Three points need to be raised. First, patterns of migration showcase the prevalence of a 'brain drain'[1] across Africa, and inputting a free labour market will continue to attract skilled migrants to desired locations. Research by Docquier and Marfouk (2004) indicates Eastern and Western Africa accounted for some of the highest rates of brain drain; with rates increasing over the past decade . Rather than promoting free movement African nations need to invest in infrastructure, health and education, to keep hold of skilled professionals.

Second, the extent to which remittances are ‘developmental’ are debatable. Questions emerge when we consider who can access the money transferred (gender relations are key) and therefore decide how it is used; the cost, and security, of transfer.

Lastly, migration is not simply ‘developmental’ when we consider social complexities. Research has identified how increased mobility presents risks for health, particularly with regards to the HIV/AIDS epidemic[2]. Therefore migrating for jobs may put the migrant, or their partner, at risk of HIV/AIDS.

Migration cannot resolve poverty disparities across Africa. Poverty disparities, both spatial and social, reflect the unequal, growing, gap between the rich and the poor. Neither economic growth, or migration, will reduce poverty in the face of inequality.

[1] ‘Brain drain’ is defined as the loss of high-skilled, and trained, professionals in the process of migration.

[2] See further readings: Deane et al, 2012.

Policies towards a free labour market will create unity.

National borders are a result of Africa’s colonial history. The boundaries constructed do not reflect meaning or unite ethnic groups across the continent. The border between Togo and Ghana alone divides the Dagomba, Akposso, Konkomba and Ewe peoples.[1] Therefore encouraging freedom of movement across  Africa will erase a vital component of Africa’s colonial history.

The erasing of boundaries, for labour markets, will have significant impacts for rebuilding a sense of unity, and reducing xenophobic fears, of which have been politically constructed.

A sense of unity will motivate citizens to reduce disparities and inequalities of poverty.

[1] Cogneau, 2012, pp.5-6


A unified labour market will not be achieve if root issues remain unresolved.

Within East Africa, the construction of an East African Community has been met with political tensions. The recent evictions of nearly 7,000 Rwandan refugees from Tanzania indicate the idea of free movement does not provide a sufficient basis for unity[1]. Despite regional agreements for free movement, political tensions, the construction of ethnicity and illegality meant forced deportation was carried out by Tanzanian officials. Political hostilities amongst heads of government is continuing to divide the nations within East Africa.

Further, cases of xenophobia remain prevalent across Southern Africa. Frequently reported cases of xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals - including nationals from Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Malawi[2] - indicate the inherent tensions of migration when jobs remain scarce and poverty high. Dangers occur in advocating a free labour market when the perception of migration is misunderstood, and/or politically altered.

[1] See further readings: BBC News, 2013.

[2] See further readings: IRINa.

Implementing a free labour market will enable effective management of migration.

Even without the implementation of a free labour market, migration will continue informally; therefore policies introducing free movement and providing appropriate travel documents provides a method to manage migration. In the case of Southern Africa, the lack of a regional framework enabling migration is articulated through the informal nature of movement and strategic bilateral ties between nation-states.

Several benefits arise from managing migration. First, speeding up the emigration process will provide health benefits. Evidence shows slow, and inefficient, border controls have led to a rise in HIV/AIDs; as truck drivers wait in delays sex is offered[1]. Second, a free labour market can provide national governments with data and information. The provision of travel documentation provides migrants with an identity, and as movement is monitored, the big picture of migration can be provided. Information, evidence, and data, will enable effective policies to be constructed for places of origin and destination, and to enable trade efficiency. Lastly, today, undocumented migrants are unable to claim their right to health care. In Africa, availability does not equate to accessibility for new migrants. In South Africa, migrants fear deportation and harassment, meaning formal health treatment and advice is not sought (Human Rights Watch, 2009). Therefore documentation and formal approval of movement ensures health is recognised as an equal right.

[1] See further readings: Lucas, 2012.


Promoting a free labour market across Africa will exacerbate difficulties for planning. The geography of migration is uneven; and spatial disparities in the proportion of migrants presents challenges for urban and rural planning, which needs to be considered.

First, where will migrants be housed? The housing crisis, and prevalence of slums, across Africa show an influx of new workers will overburden a scarce resource. In addition, the complex, and insecure, nature of land tenure across Africa raises further questions for housing and productivity - will new migrants be able to buy into land markets to enhance their capabilities? Second, are road infrastructures safe enough to promote the frequent movement of labour? Will implementing a free labour market ensure the safety of those migrants?

We need to ensure planners and policy can establish fundamental rights to a home, land, and personal safety, before promoting free movement.

The freedom to move is a human right.

Mobility is a human right - which needs to be enabled across national spaces and Africa. Obstacles need to be removed. Mobility enables access to interconnected rights - such as ensuring women their right to move enables empowerment in the political, social and economic spheres.

Taking the case of migration of young people, the process reflects a right of passage, a means of exploring opportunities and identity.For example the Mourides of Senegal have established a dense network sustaining informal trading across multiple scales based on a foundation of ‘Brotherhood’ youths leaving rural areas become integrated into dynamic social networks and educated within the Mouride culture. As research in Tanzania shows although migration is not a priority for all youths, many identify the opportunity as a time to prove yourself and establish your transition into adulthood. The process empowers human identity and rights.  


The reality of achieving free labour movement is not as simple as it may seem in practice. Contradictions have emerged in the laws implemented by national governments, such as Uganda, and the desired EAC regional laws. In addition, the recent eviction and detainee of refugees from Rwanda and Burundi, from Tanzania, indicate political tensions are at the heart of ensuring 'free' movement. Labour and migrant workers rights cannot be guaranteed until the duty, and responsibility, is taken on at multiple scales - from local, national, and regional authorities.

Finally, in order for mobility to be seen as a right, labourers and migrants need to be granted the right to organise. Currently, labour unions operate at a national scale - for mobility to be accepted as a right and migrant rights to be recognised labour unions are required across COMESA, EAC, and ECOWAS.

Migration reasonings and exploitation.

A free labour market perceives migration in a predominantly neoclassical light - people migrate due to pull factors, to balance the imbalance of jobs, people move due to economic laws. However, such a perspective fails to include the complex factors enticing migration and lack of choice in the decision. Promoting a labour market, whereby movement is free and trade enabled, makes it easier to move but does not take into account the fact migration is not only purely economical. By focusing on a free labour market as being economically valuable, we neglect a bigger picture of what the reasons for migration are.

Without effective management a free labour market raises the potential of forced migration and trafficking. Within the COMESA region trafficking has been identified as a growing issue with the 40,000 identified cases in 2012 being the tip of the iceberg (Musinguzi, 2013). A free labour market may mean victims of trafficking will remain undetected. Moving for ‘work’, how can distinctions be made to identify trafficked migrants; and clandestine migration be managed?

A free labour market, across Africa, justifies cheap and flexible labour to build emerging economies - however, remains unjust. Promoting free labour movement needs to be matched with a question on ‘what kind of labour movement’?


The prevalence of trafficking across Africa today is not new so it is likely a free labour market will make little difference. Further, uncertainty remains as to whether or not the extent of human trafficking is actually rising. With the exact number of cases unknown[1] - are concerns sensationalised hype or a growing reality?

[1] See further readings: IRINb, 2013. 

Urbanisation without industrialisation, the dangerous livelihoods of migrants.

Across Africa a reality of ‘urbanisation without industrialisation’ is found (Potts, 2012). Economic growth, and activity, have not matched the urban phenomena across Sub-Saharan Africa. The sombre picture of urban economics questions - what do new migrants do as opportunities are not found?

More than 50% of Youth in Africa are unemployed or idle.[1] With migrants entering urban environments presented with a lack of safe and secure jobs unhealthy sexual politics are found, and precarious methods are used to make a living. The scarcity of formal jobs, means a majority of migrants are forced to work in informal employment. Informal employment will continue to rise creating its own problems such as being barrier to imposing minimum wages and employment security.

[1] Zuehlke, 2009


Working within informal employment is better than nothing. Although debates have raised over the costs-benefits of informal employment - when considering the need for capital, money, and an income, informal employment presents a better alternative. 

Who is left behind?

In promoting a free labour market, we need to ask: who is left behind? To understand the developmental nature of migration investigation is needed into who doesn’t migrate - the non-migrant’s lifestyles raise key concerns.

Data from the EAC indicates the EAC labour market remains popular among over 65's and in favour of men; and further, a majority of employment occurs within agriculture[1]. The labour market remains inadequate in providing jobs for women and youths. Women and youths reflect disproportionate numbers of those forced to adapt, and create, new livelihoods following migration. Further, migrants are returning home, retiring, and therefore with limited effect on productivity.

The impact of migration is distributed unequally. In a previous study by Brown (1983) the detrimental effect of male out-migration from rural areas in Botswana was indicated. Family units were altered, changing to being predominantly female-headed households, the lack of human capital resulted in sustaining the agrarian crisis, and women were forced to cope with the burden of care. Little assurance was found as to whether the men would return, or remit resources.

[1] EAC, 2012.          


Positives arise from a predominantly male out-migration. Women are provided with a means of strategic, and practical, empowerment - as power is redistributed within the household. Women are placed in a position whereby capital assets and time can be controlled personally[1]

[1] For more on the debate see: Chant (2009); Datta and McIlwaine (2000).


AfDB (African Development Bank Group), ‘AfDB Supports the Africa Remittances and Money Transfer Markets Forum’, 2013,

Brown, B. ‘The Impact of Male Labour Migration on Women in Botswana’, African Affairs, 82, 328, pp 367-388, 1983,

Cogneau, D., and Moradi, A., ‘Borders that Divide: Education and Religion in Ghana and Togo since Colonial Times’, African Economic History Working Paper Series, No.4, 2012,

Docquier, F., and Abdeslam, M. ‘Measuring the International Mobility of Skilled Workers (1990-2000)’, World Bank: Research Working Paper Series, no WPS 3381, 2004,

EAC, 'The East African Community Common Market Protocol for Movement of Labour: Achievements and Challenges of Implementation of the Protocol', Conference Report, Nairobi, 2012.

Human Rights Watch, ‘South Africa: Improve Migrants’ Access to Health Care’, HRW Online, 2009,

IFAD, ‘Africa’, 2013,

Musinguzi, B. ‘Human trafficking: The modern form of slavery eating up East Africa’, Daily Monitor, 2013.

Zuehlke, Eric, ‘Youth Unemployment and Underemployment in Africa Brings Uncertainty and Opportunity ‘, PRB, February 2009,