Pew: Sub-Saharan Africa Is Fastest Growing Region for ‘Exporting’ Migrants

immigrants europe
AP/Santi Palacios

Emigration from countries of Sub-Saharan Africa has risen dramatically in recent years and the region currently accounts for eight of the 10 fastest growing international migrant populations, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center.

Analyzing the latest United Nations data on the number of people living outside their country of birth, Pew found that the rate of emigration from these eight African nations—South Sudan, Central African Republic, Sao Tome and Principe, Eritrea, Namibia, Rwanda, Botswana, and Burundi—grew by more than 50 percent, and in some cases as much as 200-300 percent. The number rises to 9 of the top 10 if Sudan—much of which is sub-Saharan—is included.

As Pew notes, sub-Saharan Africa comprises all countries and territories in continental Africa except Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia and Western Sahara. Sub-Saharan Africa also includes a number of islands: Cape Verde, Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mayotte, Reunion, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, and St. Helena.

The worldwide average increase in international migration for the same seven-year period was 17 percent, just over half the average increase in emigration among all sub-Saharan African nations (31 percent).

The only country outpacing emigration from sub-Saharan countries was Syria, which saw a massive spike in emigration due to the large numbers of people fleeing armed conflict and Islamic State terrorism.

As a region, sub-Saharan Africa experienced the second highest growth in emigration between 2010 and 2017, more than doubling the rate of increase from both the Asia-Pacific (15 percent) and Latin America-Caribbean (9 percent) regions. Only the Middle East-North Africa region outpaced sub-Saharan Africa with the slightly larger increase (39 percent) of people living outside of their birth country.

In 2017, some 25 million sub-Saharan migrants lived outside their countries of birth in 2017. Moreover, the destination of migrants has also shifted. Whereas in 1990, 75 percent of emigrants from the region had moved to other sub-Saharan countries, this share dropped to 68 percent by 2017. Contemporaneously, the portion of sub-Saharan migrants living in European Union countries, Norway and Switzerland increased from 11 percent in 1990 to 17 percent in 2017.

Italy, which has taken the brunt of immigration into the European Union ever since Turkey began blocking migrants from crossing over into Greece in March 2016, receives migrants almost exclusively of African provenance.

Among countries of origin, Nigeria accounts for the largest single group of migrants entering Italy by sea, with nearly twice as many (15.7 percent) Nigerians entering Italy during 2017 as those from Guinea, the second largest immigrant group by country of provenance (8.4 percent).

Among the top 10 countries of origin, nine are African with the sole exception being Bangladesh, which accounted for 7.7 percent of new arrivals into Italy in 2017.

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