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?