Staying or Leaving? Migration in the Life Plans of Western African Students: Case Studies in Abidjan, Niamey and Saint-Louis

What are the motivations and expectations of highly-qualified young people from developing countries for leaving their country and what are the alternatives?

Project Summary

This research project examined the reasons for highly-qualified young people from developing countries, especially from Africa, for leaving their country. Excessive emigration whereby young, talented individuals do not return to their native countries has an extremely negative effect known as the brain drain. The study aimed at gaining a better understanding of the expectations relating to migration that are cited by young people: What are the reasons for leaving their country, but also what are the reasons that could lead them to stay?

The research carried out allowed to refine migration theories by identifying the factors that persuade or dissuade individuals to leave. Three options have been studied: long-term emigration (leave), local anchoring (stay), and commuting between several spaces (move around). The research team has investigated the reasons for migration and alternatives among students at Niamey University (Niger), Cocody-Abidjan (Ivory Coast) and in Gaston-Berger – Saint-Louis (Senegal). Through the involvement of geographers, sociologists and architects, the individual and collective economic, social and spatial dimensions of the phenomena were taken into ‘account.tutional’ design.

Academic Output

Working Paper

The move to move

This paper attempts better to apprehend the mixed motivations that lead to international migration amongst young West African university students. We use an original survey dataset based on standardized questionnaires collected among more than 4000 students in Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal and Niger. Multivariate statistical methods and interviews allow us to test a series of hypotheses linking the intensity of the intention to migrate to the perceived situation in the country of origin as well as to perceptions of the destination country in terms of economic prospects, political freedom, gender relations, opportunities for personal development, etc. We analyze conjointly intervening factors such as gender, age, ethnicity, financial resources, past migration history or networks, and put the results into perspective with contemporary migration theory. Our findings contrast strongly with the stereotypical idea that the sole dream of young Africans is to migrate to Western countries, pushed by dissatisfaction at home and lured by the sirens of an imaginary paradise abroad. Their motivations for migration, on the contrary, are mainly based in a rational awareness of the pros and cons of moving. Most students wish to leave only temporarily, in order to improve their human capital and to acquire degrees abroad. Furthermore, formulating a migration project remains a luxury; those who can afford to do so tend to be wealthier and have a higher level of social capital at the outset.

Executive Summary

The objective of this research is to understand whether and how temporary or sustainable migration is envisaged by students at three West African universities. After an in-depth theoretical overview, the study analyses a questionnaire completed by more than 4000 students and isolates a series of factors that contribute to generating initial intentions: family networks abroad, the degree of progress in studies, lack of confidence in the country’s future, the family’s favourable attitude, etc. Conversely, ethnic and religious variables, as well as the degree of dissatisfaction with living conditions or resources, play little role. Contrary to a widespread image in the media and political debates in industrialized countries, migration intentions are not a headlong rush but appear to be thoughtful and proactive. Students are relatively well informed and their migration intentions, most of them temporary, are based on a balance of interests in terms of training and work experience for a productive return to the country. The study therefore calls for a better articulation of mobility and development policies, which can enhance the migration potential and thirst for knowledge identified in the three countries studied.

Report

To leave or to stay? Migration in the Life Project of Students in West Africa Niger – Université Moumouni – Niamey

This report presents in detail the results and progress of a case study on Niger as part of the research project “Leave or Stay? Migration in the life project of university students in West Africa”, funded by the Swiss Network for International Studies (SNIS), between October 2008 and September 2010. The case study can be read for itself by the reader interested in the country concerned, but the theoretical foundations and overall methodological options are presented in the synthesis report. Two other case studies were carried out, one in Côte d’Ivoire and the other in Senegal.

Report

To leave or to stay? Migration in the Life Project of Students in West Africa Ivory Coast Report – Cocody University – Abidjan

This report presents in detail the results and progress of a case study on Côte d’Ivoire as part of the research project “Leave or Stay? Migration in the life project of university students in West Africa”, funded by the Swiss Network for International Studies (SNIS), between October 2008 and September 2010. The case study can be read for itself by the reader interested in the country concerned, but the theoretical foundations and overall methodological options are presented in the synthesis report. Two other case studies were carried out, one in Niger and the other in Senegal.

Report

To leave or to stay? Migration in the Life Project of Students in West Africa Senegal – University Gaston Berger – Saint-Louis Report

This national report for Senegal is one of three components of the international study on the desire/no desire for migration of African students, entitled “To leave or to stay? Migration in the life project of university students in West Africa”, funded by the Swiss Network for International Studies (SNIS). This research began in October 2008 and is expected to be completed by September 30, 2010. One part of the study was carried out in Côte d’Ivoire (Abidjan, University of Cocody) under the direction of Raffaele Poli, another in Niger (University of Niamey) under the direction of Patrick Gilliard, the whole being coordinated and directed by Professor Etienne Piguet of the University of Neuchâtel and Denise Efionayi-Maeder of the Swiss Forum for Migration and Population Studies.

Research Team

Etienne Piguet
Coordinator
University of Neuchâtel

Jérôme Chenal
Principal Member
Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne

Guéladio Cissé
Principal Member
Centre Suisse de Recherches Scientifiques en Côte d’Ivoire

 

Denise Efionayi
Principal Member

Patrick Gilliard
Principal Member

Désiré Nassa
Principal Member

 

Hamissou Oumarou
Principal Member

Yves Pedrazzini
Principal Member
Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne

 

Status

completed

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