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Buddy, Why Don’t You Stay Home?

Michael Boampong's picture

Photo: Arne Hoel / The World Bank

“How can we mitigate the risks that youth migration brings while enhancing its development potential?”

That was the predominant question at a panel discussion organized by the Youth Economic Dialogue – Africa, a civil society organization that promotes youth entrepreneurship, in commemoration of this year’s International Youth Day. Being a Ghanaian emigrant myself, I was excited to join a panel of experts to share my perspectives and listen to what my fellow Ghanaian youth had to share.

Here are four takeaway messages that emerged from the dialogue:

  • Enhance the capacity of local authorities (e.g. district assemblies) and civil society organizations to address the challenges that potential youth migrants face. There is supporting evidence that local authorities, the private sector, civil society organizations and diaspora groups can strengthen positive links between migration and development.
  • Though migration can serve as a way of capital accumulation for youth enterprises, young participants suggested the need for the government and private sector to develop a collateral-free funding scheme accessible to young entrepreneurs. This would provide an incentive for youth to “stay home” while contributing to economic development. Ghanaian youth feel that now is the time for this challenge to be addressed, since youth-led enterprises have become an alternative means of employment for youth in Ghana.
  • Government should promote a more equitable distribution of economic opportunities and basic services to reduce the inequities that are a primary cause of migration.
  • The UN Task Team on the Post-2015 Agenda has emphasized that migration is an “enabler” of development.  And it is an undeniable fact that migration has contributed to the progress on the current MDGs. As the international community is identifying relevant priorities for the post-2015 development framework, it is important to have migration-specific indicators such as reducing the cost of remittances and promoting youth labor migration to reduce youth unemployment.
At the event, one participant questioned my enthusiasm about expanding legal opportunities for potential youth migrants and ensuring that they are empowered with information and relevant skills. He suggested that young people should “stay home” instead of migrating to other countries.

The short answer is that development by itself does not dissuade people from moving, considering that it is not always the poor who migrate across borders. Some young migrants pay as much as $10,000 to travel when this money could help them establish a small business in Ghana.

Even when people are poor, they may embark on internal migration to acquire needed economic and social resources to reach their desired destination. Evidence suggests that migration will be stimulated in the future given the structural inequities in societies across the world. Thus it is incumbent upon governments to work through development cooperation interventions to address migration’s challenges. Restrictive migration policies targeting young migrants will only encourage irregular migration, which worsens the risks and vulnerabilities. Conversely, preparing potential youth migrants before travel will enhance social, cultural, and economic integration and their success.

The young participant’s concern is worrying because another rationale held by some Ghanaians is that most highly skilled young Ghanaians move with the intention of “no-return” to Ghana. Additionally, there is considerable information that Ghana continues to experience “brain drain,” especially in the health and education sectors, due to the emigration of young professionals.

What can we – young people, organizations, and governments – do?


Interesting submission Michael. Yes, but it is not only rich or "able to afford" that migrate. Sometimes poor people also do. The do it as a business adventure or risk. How many times we not read about a young man that stole from the boss and attempted to travel abroad? Or actually managed to travel and made attempt to pay back the stolen money?

Now to the substantive issue: what can we do - young people, CSO's, governments, etc? I would say first, that we recognise that travelling for all manner of people is a GREAT way to learn. If half the world travelled, I believe we would have less war and internal conflicts, especially in Africa. We would for example learn that the America that is projected in movies is not all clean and shiny. That there are no cash growing trees in Europe, etc. I find it sad that travelling is not encouraged among Africans and for that matter Ghanaian youth. So I would say let us explore credible ways we can support and encourage young people to travel outside the shores of Ghana.

I am currently based in The Netherlands. I came for a year of Masters' education and I am still here two years later. Indeed, I will love to go back to West Africa right now if I have to (not to Ghana). I have had to stay to nurture and grow my organisation before I can return.
In 14 months, ACIPP West Africa has grown into 3 West African countries. I could not have done that with the ease I did it if I were in Ghana. Politics, bureaucracy, back-biting and plain envy just poisons the environment for growth and creativity. The amount of energy any one will spend to grow a business in Ghana is just not realistic. It takes a lot of gut, removes years off your life to be able to manage a successful business in Ghana.
It behoves on the "system" therefore to make business registration processes and support system to new entrants straightforward and simple. I registered ACIPP in the Netherlands under 48-hours when I met all the needed requirements. I was aware from the beginning how much I needed to pay including fees for the lawyer to draft the legally accepted statues.

Organisations like the World Bank (based on my personal experience) are not different from what our governments and quasi-state institutions do interns of guidelines and transparency. They are bogged by bureaucracy, "who-you-know" and cronism. Organisations representing youth should stop holding themselves and the de facto voice for young people. Many of the times, the views and experiences they share are not those of the youth they claim to represent. How many youth seat on the boards of organisations that claim to represent youth?

The church, mosque, shrine and what have you have continuously relegated young people to the background, speaking for them and acting for them. A time comes when the independent minded ones will find their wings and move to places where they become respected members of society and not just a cohort or statistic.

For me, as long as young people research they travels, have the legal and legitimate paperwork, I say, go! Explore!!!!

Thanks Simon for sharing your comments with us. Indeed migration is an interesting exposure that personally i think every young person should be allowed to experience - so long as it is carried out in a legal way.

As a matter of fact some studies have shown that most young people when they migrate have intentions of returning home (either temporarily or permanently) and i think the 2007 World Development Report attested to this. I think often the challenge ( for instance bribery and corruption) is that the challenges they faced in their home country, which led them to migrate continues to persist and that is where governments and other non-governmental actors (including youth organizations) must step in to provide the needed programmes and platforms (for instance diaspora volunteerism for development) that can encourage return migration and civic engagement of diaspora youth in their countries of origin.

I think you made a great comment regarding the role of religious bodies in addressing migration issues. Indeed they could play a key role given the influence some religious centers have on their their constituents.

Submitted by Paa Kwesi Inkumsah on

You have spoken well Simon. The issue about business registration is an interesting one. Over here in the UK, it takes same ample time and your documents get delivered to you. i.e. if you met all the requirements. It could take over two weeks in Ghana to get a business name checked because the computers are malfunctioned and another two weeks if you are lucky to get the business registered.
The summary of all of this is that we need to change the system back home in Ghana or Africa to make it less stressful,more comfortable to get young people to be entrepreneurial. A few days ago, I had one of the finest opportunities from the UK to propose an enterprise solution trade marked Spark Mpuntuo that I together with enterprise experts developed and designed to help improve entrepreneurial development in Ghana. Obviously, an answer to the GYEEDA challenge. I was in the country for a few days to meet stakeholders etc to discuss the proposal and its really quite interesting the kind of frustrations I have to go through to bring in a solution the country needs. As we speak, Nigeria will be deploying that solution, together with many others from across the globe.
I think the private sector has a role to play in ensuring youth inclusion and development. Another thing is a solution I brought for the National Communication Authority that would provide them with a mobile software that can help them enhance their work and do it more efficiently and having accurate benchmarking statistics to get telecom networks to be offering the right type of service, but have had some ridiculous attitude. The summary of all of this is, the government must create an enabling environment that would foster growth and when young people find solutions and want to help their country, they should get down from their high horses, listen and include these individuals in solving the challenges. Its the only way we can get better.
I am willing to engage government to help bring solutions and create employable opportunities to help augment migration. The solutions are there, the people are willing. Government must engage these individuals when they knock on their doors. It gets very frustrating when you have the solution and have to go through uncomfortable processes to render it.

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Submitted by Emmanuel Duker on

Everyone has dreams to travel out of his/her home country. Some for pleasures and sightseeing, some to make wealth, others for traveling sake but majority of people travel because of the current economic hardships in their various country. In most cases many get the perception that when they get to over stay a current visa of a said country for about 10 years at least it qualifies them to get resident permits, but forgetting he or she is still an immigrant. Anyway good job Michael for this insightful blog

Thanks for sharing your insights with us. Most young people have greater tendency of moving out of their country for some of the various reasons you cited. Making migration a choice and not as a matter of necessity is something that stakeholder should aim for. Presently though most young people may move voluntarily for education often there is a forced condition (e.g. they may be forced to move because they do not have better jobs or education in their home country). I think the issue of overstaying visa is something that happens but it has a lot of ramifications for young people as it increases their risks to exploitation and limits most of them to the three D's job sector ( dirty, demeaning and dangerous jobs )due to their irregular status. Thus it is important for young people to move under legal options which personally, i think can enhance their human development.