West African Papers

The West African Papers series explores African socio-economic, political and security dynamics from a regional and multidisciplinary perspective. It seeks to stimulate discussion and gather information to better anticipate the changes that will shape future policies. The series is designed for a wide audience of specialists, development practitioners, decision makers and the informed public. Papers are available in English and/or French, and summaries are available in both languages. Initiated by the Sahel and West Africa Club (SWAC) to highlight and promote West African issues, the work presented is prepared by its Secretariat, Members and partners, other OECD departments, related international organisations, associated experts and researchers.

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Identifying the Factors Driving West African Migration

Since 2014 over 600 000 African migrants have arrived in Italy through the perilous Central Mediterranean route, and nearly 120 000 arrived in 2017. This paper is the first examination of migration motivations at the individual level using nationally representative surveys and focus group data collected in West Africa. Respondents in six West African countries cite economic factors as the reason for migrating and those who wish to stay claim family and love of country as the ties that bind. The study then specifically focuses on Nigeria, the country of origin for a quarter of all Africans traveling through the Central Mediterranean route. Half of the Nigerians were interested in leaving their country of origin if given the opportunity, well above the number in neighbouring countries. Evidence from the six-country survey suggests individuals are migrating for economic reasons but statistical analysis of the Nigeria data reveals a different set of push factors behind the desire to migrate. In fact, economic standing has a limited effect on Nigerians’ desire to leave their home. Instead, individual perceptions of the strength of Nigeria’s democracy are most strongly associated with Nigerians’ desire to migrate abroad, in addition to low levels of trust in local security institutions. Urban and more highly educated Nigerians, especially from Lagos, are also more likely to want to migrate abroad. These findings shed new light on domestic policy steps that could address the grievances and concerns of those who seek to migrate.


Keywords: Nigeria, migration, migrants, smuggling, West Africa
JEL: J11: Labor and Demographic Economics / Demographic Economics / Demographic Trends, Macroeconomic Effects, and Forecasts; R23: Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics / Household Analysis / Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics: Regional Migration; Regional Labor Markets; Population; Neighborhood Characteristics; O15: Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth / Economic Development / Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration; O20: Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth / Development Planning and Policy / Development Planning and Policy: General
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