Panel 37

African migrants’ vulnerability, regional social policy development, and pan-africanist ideals

Panel organisers: Christal O. Spel, Post-doctoral Research Fellow, Social Policy, College of Graduate Studies, University of South Africa, Pretoria. and Jimi Adesina, DST/NRF SARChI Chair in Social Policy, College of Graduate Studies, University of South Africa


This panel explores contemporary African migrants’ vulnerability from a social policy and pan-Africanist perspective that links migrants’ welfare to the development of African regional social policy and integration. From a Social Policy perspective, this panel seeks to move beyond the traditional state-centric framework for Social Policy to explore contemporary African migrants’ vulnerability from a regional perspective that incorporates or proposes a regional prerogative of care for African migrants. In this sense, the activities and policies of regional institution to facilitate the integration of African migrants to host societies and or facilitate improvements in the welfare of African migrants in host society is placed under scrutiny. In addition, the capacity of African migrants to self-organize for optimization of individual and group welfare irrespective of national tensions also becomes relevant.

From a regional integration perspective, we call attention to contemporary pan-Africanist interests on integration and social cohesion, pursued through trade pacts beyond traditional sub-regions such as the Tripartite Free Trade Agreement (TFTA), and political interests to promote self-determination in the African Union. In that vein, the works of renowned and unapologetic Africanists such as Archie Mafeje that espouses the ideals of Africa-centered paradigms and empirical frameworks becomes relevant in the examination of African migration. However, pan-Africanist ideals are also challenged by current African migrants’ experiences of vulnerability, brutality and xenophobia from the north (e.g. Morocco and Libya) to the South (e.g. South Africa) of the continent, and the increasing complicit interference of international interests in shaping migration within Africa.

The papers intended for presentation at this panel should explore the conceptual, analytical and empirical linkages between African migrants’ vulnerability, the development of regional social policy, and regional integration. The panel aims to contribute to the debate on African migrants’ welfare beyond the mainstream nation-state framework.

Approved abstracts panel 37

Session 1

1. Joint Labour Migration Governance Programme for Regional Integration and Development in Africa: Critical findings for Migration Governance in Africa

Author: Cynthia Samuel-Olonjuwo, ILO Assistant Director General and Regional Director for Africa, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.

The goals and objectives of the Africa Labour Migration Governance programme derive from the long term aspiration of achieving an effective regime of labour mobility for integration and development in Africa, with the necessary governance to sustain it. Pursuant to the overall purposes, the Joint Programme facilitates implementation of the strategy of the AU Agenda 2063 and the AUC Strategic Plan 2014-2017. It also aligns with the strategic themes of the AU Migration Policy Framework and carries forward the priority actions of the AU Youth and Women Employment Pact, and the AU Employment Creation, Poverty Eradication and Inclusive Development Plan of Action, which was adopted by the African Heads of State and Governments during the 24th Ordinary Session of the AU Assembly (January 2015). It strategically responds to the Africa- EU Partnership on mobility and migration. The project also addresses the needs and concerns of migrant workers, their families and their organizations. The programme is logically organized in two major and complementary parts: 1. Strengthen effective governance of labour migration in Africa; and 2. Promote decent work for regional integration and inclusive development. The presentation will examine interesting findings from this programme.

2. Social Engagement of Africans in Yiwu, China: Self-Organisation with Administrative Guarantee

Author: Liu Ruoxi, Academy of Peking University, China.

In the last few decades, China-Africa bilateral trade has been steadily increasing. China has remained Africa’s largest trading partner since 2009, and Sino-African trade reached 149.2 billion dollars in 2016 (Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China, 2017).

Along with economic exchanges, there are social interactions. Africans are present in major Chinese cities, with an estimated total population of 50,000 (Bodomo & Ma, 2010). Guangzhou has been the largest host city in China with around 100,000 Africans. Yiwu, located in the central Zhejiang province, comprises the second most significant group of Africans in China, with about 30,000 African citizens (Rodriguez, 2012). Africans’ presence in China has not just raised public attention in Chinese society. For academics, the discussion on the social engagement of Africans in Yiwu is also of great significance for evaluating China’s efforts to integrate the international community, as China’s attitude toward the foreign population has been blamed for being of a certain precarity (McGeary, 2015).

The notion of social engagement involves the participation of individuals in a broad range of social roles and relationships (Avison et al., 2007). This process involves two parties: the immigrants, and the receiving society (Penninx, 2013). Previous scholarly discussions focus on the characteristics and efforts of immigrants and do not pay enough attention to the institutions of the host society itself (Soyal, 1999). This paper aims to examine the social engagement of Africans in the city of Yiwu by analysing its presumably “successful” social engagement model from both sides.

By employing qualitative methodologies such as fieldwork, interviews, and content analysis, the paper will explore the interactive model between the African community and the local administration. In the first section, the historical origin and recent development of African societies in Yiwu will be laid out. The second and the third sections will study Africans’ self-organised activities as well as the reaction of the local administration. Although the current literature on Africans and the foreign population remains somehow descriptive, generalist and lacking in theoretical foundation, this paper will refer to the theory and literature on the social integration of immigrants in a host society more generally. The paper argues that even though the process of social engagement asks a great deal of effort from immigrants, administrative guarantees also play a vital role in shaping the participation of immigrants.

3. Are regional institutions relevant for African migrants’ welfare in Africa? Perspectives from African migrants and state officials in Ghana

Author: Christal O. Spel, Post-doctoral Research Fellow, Social Policy, College of Graduate Studies, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa.

Estimates emphasize the large volume and diversity of African mobility within Africa. Presently, on the one hand, the common national policy response to informal migration is to strengthen migration control and deportation processes. For example, the AFDB and AU visa report (2016) shows that only 13 out of 55 African countries offer liberal visa access (Visa free or visa on arrival) to all Africans. Also, South Africa deported 312, 733, 00 informal African migrants between 2007-2008, and 75,336,00 between 2011-2012. On the other, in the contemporary drive for regional integration, national borders in Africa are being politically blurred to facilitate the mobility of trade and labour in line with regional development goals. For example, the 1.2 trillion dollars Tripartite Free Trade Agreement (TFTA) that was initiated in 2008 and signed in June 2015, embracing 26 African nations with population of over 527million. More recently, the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AFCFTA), signed on March 21 2018 has been lauded by the media as the biggest trade agreement since the World Trade Organization (WTO). The AFCFTA is expected to be signed by all the member states of the African Union, making it a trade area of 1.2 billion people with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of over 2 trillion dollars. In the above regional context, the vulnerability and social exclusion of African migrants have soared, calling attention to a widening social gap in the quest for African regional integration. As regional actors focus on economic integration, with neoliberal assumptions that benefits will trickle down to all and sundry, the case of informal African migrants’ wellbeing and social inclusion becomes relevant from a critical perspective. This paper will present part of my preliminary fieldwork data that examines whether and how African regional institution affect the substantive wellbeing and social inclusion of African migrants in the host country.

4. Securitization of the Somalia Refugee in Kenya 1990-2017: A security management strategy or symptom of frail Social Policy?

Author: Onditi Francis, School of International Relations and Diplomacy, Riara University, Nairobi, Kenya.

(De) Securitization theory, developed by Barry Buzan and Ole Wæver in 1990s and other scholars, is considered as a reflection of Copenhagen School. Its main contention is that security construct of a state or individual, be it through perception, public utterances, actions, speeches or through agents, frames a threat. However, the idea of investigating (de)securitization process through the lens of a state is not cure-all in understanding consequences of (de)securitization. Uncertainty, remains as to whether the various drivers of (de)securitization (audience, power relations, context and practice & instruments), are enablers or barriers to responding to security threat? Focusing on the refugee phenomenon from both domestic and external military and nonmilitary threats, this article follows this mode of uncertainty. We argue that the formal processes of (de)securitization employed by the Kenyan government for the last two decades, have been incapable of managing the refugee phenomenon. Rather than promoting human(e) security values, this approach seems to have intensified violation of deontic rights of refugees, hence, leading to intractable ‘real’ or ‘perceived’ ‘association’ of refugees with terrorist and radicalization activities.

Session 2

1. The Relationship between the Concept of Pan Africanism and the Contemporary African Migration in Africa

Author: Doumbia Sory, University of Letters and Human Sciences of Bamako, Mali.

This paper addresses the issue of the relationship between migration in Africa and the concept of Pan Africanism and the extent to which migration inside Africa could be a great opportunity for the unity of Africa and the well-being of Africans. Africans have always been on move from one place to another for a better living condition inside and outside the continent. The big African cities receive uncountable young people throughout the year. They move for different reasons and in various conditions. As a result, they live different realities and yield different productions. Although migrants in their native countries do not have serious obstacles to socio-economic participation, they always prefer to explore new economic horizons. But, on their move on the continent, they face serious problems in the host countries, so much so that one can wonder if they pertain or are from to the same continent or origin. Also, some of the migrants earn a lot in their receiving countries and significantly contribute to their development. In spite of that, people often have the feeling that African migrants are still strangers on their own African soil, such as in Zambia, in Equatorial Guinea, in Angola, etc. The experiences of the migrants calls important attention to the disappearing and the less consideration of the founding fathers’ ideas of Pan Africanism. In order to examine the relationship between the concept of Pan Africanism as advocated by African founding fathers like Kwamé Nkrumah, Sékou Touré, Modibo Keita and contemporary migrants experiences, we undertook surveys in our local areas with migrants of different status and collected data through questionnaires, conversations, and WhatsApp chats about the problematic. To have larger idea about African migrants in Africa requires taking into account the cases of other countries. In order to fill this gap, we referred to information from different media. We conclude by presenting some suggestions for improvements in the treatment of African migrants inside the continent.

2. Migration, Rights and Social Assistance in Southern Africa

Author: Jeremy Seekings, University of Cape Town, South Africa.

The expansion of social protection across Southern (and East) Africa poses challenges with regard to eligibility criteria. Rights to contribution-financed social insurance benefits might not be limited legally by citizenship and location, but are widely curtailed in practice. Rights to tax-financed social assistance are more contentious. Through the expansion of social assistance programmes (especially social pension programmes), national governments have assumed many of the responsibilities previously shouldered by kin or community, replacing the boundaries of kinship or community with those of citizenship or location. This poses at least two major challenges: How to regulate eligibility in border areas, where borders are porous and citizenship perhaps blurred; and what to do about non-citizens. This paper explores these challenges, and responses to them – including, most notably, the South African constitutional court’s judgements that certain categories of non-citizens were eligible for social assistance. Discourses and legislation governing eligibility for social assistance is examined in light of both general elite ideologies of responsibility and the political pressures resulting from electoral politics.

3. MIGRATION POLICY (IN)COHERENCE IN NIGER: Citizens and Migrants wellbeing, and the challenges for other stakeholders

Author: Harouna Mounkaila, Groupe d’Etudes et de Recherches Migrations, Espace et Sociétés (GERMES), Université Abdou Moumouni de Niamey, Niger.

Niger is a country with a triple migration functions – It is a country of departure, of transit, and immigration. It is a country in which all the forms of mobility intermix. This makes it an interesting context for the examination of contemporary migration management in Africa. This paper will examine the motives and interests of the actors that shape migration policy in Niger, and call attention to the impact of the complex migration management system on the household and local economy of Niger and on the wellbeing of the migrants. The convergences and divergences of the stakeholders in production of migration policy will be highlighted. The paper concludes that the  increasing control at the borders, the fight against illegal migration and the paradigm of  development to eliminate them, might reduce the number of migrants crossing the Sahara, but they neither stop the departures nor the deaths.

4. Migration, Social Policy, and the Idea of Pan-Africanism: Rethinking the conceptual framework

Author: Jimi Adesina, DST/NRF SARChI Chair in Social Policy, College of Graduate Studies, University of South Africa, City of Tshwane, South Africa.

The ideas of pan-Africanism and regional integration was originally constructed largely as a cultural, political and economic agenda. But pan-Africanism and regional integration are ultimately about people and their movement. Free movement of people assumes access to social provisioning in the locale of residence. Yet the discourse of social policy assumes rights inscribed on bearers of citizenship. If for TH Marshall access to rights reaches it epoch with social rights, these are nonetheless bound in the language of citizenship. Extension to such rights to non-citizens is often circumscribed. Underpinning social rights is an assumption of states with obligations to provide such rights.

The AU Agenda 2063 sets out a vision to “enhance free movement of African citizens in all African countries by 2018” and the issuance of ‘the African Passport.” This is linked to two migration policy instruments of the Union: the AU Migration Policy Framework for Africa (2006) and African Common Position on Migration and Development (2006). The principle of non-discrimination in the Framework and the implied rights assumed in bearers of ‘African passport’ inhabit a double paradox: on the one hand, the moment of invocation of such principles (and the heightened deployment of the language of universal human rights to underpin social provisioning) is also one in which the state’s public obligations for social provisioning is being severely retrenched on the continent. Public provisioning is often reduced to targeted poor-centric social assistance. On the other, is the privileging, in practice, of trade and financial flows over people.

Rethinking the nexus of social policy in the context of migration requires rethinking not simply the state/citizens nexus but state/residents nexus. State’s obligations that extend to migrants derive from the obligations the state accepts it owes to its own citizens, framed within the principle of universalism. At its best, it is underpinned by the principle of ‘from each according to his/her ability and to each according to his/her needs.’ It involves twinning production with redistribution. This paper offers such rethinking of the nexus of migration and social policy. At the heart of this is sensitivity to the diversity of migration.

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