OIM NigerNiger

Migration au Niger : Profil National 2009


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Number of pages : 172
Format : Softcover
ISBN:: 978-92-9068-566-1
Language of Publication: French
Year of Publication: 2009

Niger’s low level of development has given rise to more emigration than immigration. For the past ten years, the country has registered a negative net migration rate (per 1,000 inhabitants) of -0.6, although it has increasingly become country of transit for migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa (UNPD, 2008).

Emigration from Niger

There is very limited data on emigration from Niger. There is no ministry or service entrusted with collecting data on Nigeriens living abroad. Even during the last general population censuses, not a single question on emigration was asked.

According to the estimates of the Centre on Migration, Globalization and Poverty (DRC) of Sussex University, published in 2007 and based on 2000 Census Round data, there are 496,773 Nigerien emigrants outside their country, i.e. about 3.5% of the total population. This proportion of emigrants has increased from 1.7% of the total population for the period 1988-1992, i.e. 99,927 emigrants (REMUAO, 1997).

DRC estimates show that the main countries of destination of Nigerien migrants are Burkina Faso (27.8%), Côte-d’Ivoire (26.2%), Nigeria (11.9%), Guinea Conakry (10.8%), followed by Ghana (5.2 %), Togo (3.4%) and Benin (3%). The first two of these countries (Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire) alone receive more than half of these Nigerien migrants. West Africa is the leading destination of Nigeriens, as 88.3 per cent of Nigerien expatriates are concentrated in 7 West African countries. All in all, more than 89 per cent of Nigerian emigrants are based in ECOWAS countries.

According to data available on brain drain, although in 2000 50 per cent of Nigerien migrants are highly-educated, these emigrants only represent 6 per cent of the overall population with tertiary education, suggesting that the phenomenon does not seem to be as widespread in Niger as it is in other West African countries (Docquier and Marfouk, 2005). During the 1995-2005 period, 9 per cent of Nigerien doctors and 2% of nurses emigrated, while in countries like Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea Bissau or Senegal, over 50 per cent of their doctors emigrate (Clemens and Pettersson, 2007).

Immigration to Niger

The existing data on migration to Niger is scanty and is not frequently updated; however, it seems that international immigration does not seem to be significant in Niger. International immigrants represent less than 2 per cent of the total resident population (1.8% in 1995, 1.5% in 2000 and 1.4% in 2005) (UNPD, 2008). Moreover, the increase in immigrant stock has slowed down in Niger. The annual growth rate of the international immigrant stock registered a 3 per cent increase between 1977 and 1988, but dropped to 0.6 per cent between 1988 and 2001.

Most international immigrants come from West African countries bordering Niger: Nigeria (34%), Mali (28%), Burkina Faso (9%), Benin (8%), Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana (4% each) (DRC, 2007).

No information on the proportion of international migrants in the total active population has been published. Estimated from the potentially active population of immigrants to that of the population also potentially active (that is, within the same 15-64 year age bracket), the portion of international immigrants is very consistent and does not generally exceed 3 per cent regardless of age groups and sex (table 49 in annex I). However, this share exceeds the average of immigrants in the total population (less than 2%).

Niger does not receive many asylum seekers (20 in 2008) and refugees (320 in 2008); even though a considerable number of asylum seekers flooded into the country in the 1990s (more than 27 000 in 1995), essentially from Chad (UNHCR, 2008).

The number of immigrants (workers or non workers) in Niger whose papers are not in order is probably very high, according to discussions held with the Border Surveillance Directorate. Thus, in view of the fact that there is no system to collect and process reliable information on migration in the country, it is not possible to know the exact number of irregular migrants.

Factors leading to migration

Although entry requirements for immigrants from ECOWAS countries were relaxed, the prolonged economic crisis confronting the country during the 1980s and 1990s certainly contributed to declining growth rates of the immigrant stock as immigrants struggled to find employment.

However, with progressive economic revival and very promising economic prospects expected in Niger, due to the imminent exploitation of oil, uranium and gold deposits as well as the construction of a major hydro-electric dam over the Niger river, it can be expected that the international immigrant population will progressively increase.

It is worth noting that, one of the particularities of Niger is that it serves as a transit point to North Africa (particularly Libya and Algeria) and developed countries of the North, especially for migrants from West Africa. Political concerns were expressed as regards this economic transit migration and efforts were made to strengthen the means of controlling this type of flow which usually ends in irregular entry to North African countries. With respect to emigration, the persistence of the economic crisis of the 1980s and 1990s, endemic poverty affecting 6 out of every 10 Nigeriens, the geoclimatic harshness with which this country is constantly confronted, recurrent food crises, strong annual demographic growth (over 3%), and the creation of ECOWAS (as a space for the free movement of persons and goods) are all factors that push Nigeriens to migrate to other countries with the hope of improving their living conditions and that of their family.

The emigration of Nigeriens has intensified during recent years and has become more extra-regional, heading for Europe, the Middle East and North America.

However, with the currently observed progressive economic revival, actions geared towards poverty reduction and new economic prospects, emigration may slow down somewhat without stopping completely.

The consequences of migration on Nigerien

society Although remittances from Nigerien emigrants are fairly modest - at least the transfers through regular channels - compared to countries like Mali, Senegal or Togo, these money transfers certainly represent significant financial resources injected into Niger’s economy.

People emigrate to improve their living conditions and emigration seems to make that happen. Thus, according to the results of the QUIBB (Questionnaire unifié des indicateurs de base du bien-être) survey “close to 66 per cent of households consider that their living conditions have improved comparatively over the last five years (i.e. between 2000 and 2005)” thanks to various factors. Migration, i.e. the transfer of funds by members of the family who have emigrated, is mentioned in 15 per cent of cases. Other factors mentioned may be linked to migration, notably the existence of a job (16%) and the creation of a business corporation or a new activity (15%) (SP/SRP, 2007). Since there is no study on this theme, it is difficult to evaluate the real impact of these funds on poverty reduction and the country’s development.

Finally, the official use of migration as a factor of development is beginning to gain ground in Niger through expatriates’ knowledge transfer programme (TOKTEN) and public policies like the rural development strategy (RDS).

The policy framework and migration management challenges

In 2007, the Government set up an Interministerial Committee to prepare a migration policy in order to improve the management of internal and international migration flows. This committee is headed by the Ministry of Interior, Public Safety and Decentralization, which is the leading State institution in charge of migration issues at both the legal and security levels.

The migration policy is based on existing legal and legislative texts and on several international agreements ratified by Niger. These include the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) regulations.

The Government also seeks to turn migration into a tool for national and local development, by involving migrants in economic and social actions. An issue the government particularly seeks to address is the productive use of remittances. Migrants, who have stable incomes, often send remittances to Niger through informal channels. But the transferred funds are generally used for household consumption and rarely for productive investments.

In addition to this, the TOKTEN programme is being prepared with a view to getting Nigeriens living abroad to support their country in various fields, through their know-how, by organizing short visits.

Data gaps

The migration profile involved the collection of national and international data. National data is incomplete. Not much information is available on all the essential elements of the migration issue (immigration, emigration, funds transfer, irregular migration movements, etc.). Even though additional information is collected at border posts, for example, they are not generally used or published because of the authorities’ lack of interest in information concerning migration flows. Moreover, most of this information is typed by hand, making its collection more complicated.

In general, regardless of the national source of information, there is a need to modernize the means of collection of data, strengthen technical, material and human capacities as well as that of processing and disseminating this information. Further precision and more detailed information should be provided. Access to information should also be facilitated by increasing the publication of data, through the creation of more public data bases.

It is highly recommended that the major data collection operations at national level (i.e. general population census) include questions on international emigration on which information is particularly scarce.