Migration, mobility and the African city
Oliver Bakewell , Gunvor Jónsson
This paper draws on insights from the African Perspectives on Human Mobility research programme, which included four research teams based at universities in Ghana, Nigeria, Morocco and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The paper first provides some details on the background and findings of the projects conducted by the four teams in various African cities. It then turns to some reflections on the theoretical implications and questions raised by these research findings and presents four broad points. First, by showing African cities as a place of attraction for international migrants, these findings highlight the curious absence of other research into international migration towards other African cities. Second, the city is a zone of departure not just in terms of being a stepping stone to long-distance migration, but also in terms of being what we might call a ‘forge’ for migratory behaviour – where migration is shaped through urban life. Third, the paper draws attention to the different practices of integration and exclusion of migrants that are in evidence in these African cities, again observing the limited research in this area. Fourth, in contrast to the global cities literature, which largely bypasses the African continent, we note that the cities included in this study are clearly enmeshed in transnational and global networks, not merely as departure points for migrants, but also, significantly, as attractive spaces for migrants and mobile traders – for creativity, connections and exchange. The paper concludes by reflecting on how we might better understand the links between internal, regional and inter-continental migration in the context of Africa, suggesting that examining global African migrations in more detail may help us understand better the emergence of new migration systems.