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International Organization for Migration (IOM)

Migration and development: New strategic outlooks and practical ways forward.
The cases of Angola and Zambia

Dr Savina Ammassari, Independent Consultant

International Organization for Migration (IOM)

June 2005

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Executive Summary

The complex reciprocal relationships between migration and development are raising growing interest among policy makers. Though the analytical understanding of these links remains somewhat limited, there is today a greater awareness that development affects migration and that migration influences development. The major challenge for policy makers is to find innovative and effective ways to enhance the benefits of migration whilst mitigating its adverse development implications for emigration countries.

For this purpose it is important to distinguish between different groups of migrants based on their level of skills. Governments of emigration countries look upon the permanent departure of highly educated and trained nationals with considerable concern. This kind of emigration in fact tends to translate into negative phenomena such as brain drain and consequent human resources shortages. However, this kind of emigration does not only have adverse effects. It may also have positive consequences for the development of emigration countries. These benefits can be triggered through temporary returns and other diaspora options facilitating the transfer of human, financial and social capital back to the country of origin.

This study represents a follow-up activity to the MIDSA Workshop on Migration and Development in Southern Africa that took place in Zanzibar (Tanzania) in 2004. It assesses and analyses the migration and development situation of Angola and Zambia, with a special focus on skills migration. Field research was conducted in both countries where information was collected through consultations and interviews with key officials and various stakeholders as well as from a range of secondary sources.

After an introduction focusing in general terms on skills migration in the Southern Africa region, the report analyses the situation of development and migration in Angola and in Zambia. It reviews government policies and capacity related to skills migration and initiatives of various stakeholders, including donors and civil society organizations. Based on this review some major policy gaps are identified, and a strategic outlook as well as recommendations for the future formulated. Practical measures and consecutive steps are suggested in order to attenuate the negative effects of skills migration and to amplify its positive development impacts in the two national contexts.

The findings of the study confirm the usefulness of adopting a country-specific assessment approach. It is pointed out that the historical backgrounds as well as the future prospects concerning migration and development for Angola and Zambia differ in many respects. National peculiarities and priorities need therefore to be adequately factored into the design of policies and into the formulation of programmes directly or indirectly affecting migration.

In Angola the long and devastating war provoked the flight of several thousands of Angolans across national boundaries and constituted an important push factor for skills emigration. But the process of recovery and reconciliation, as well as the country’s immense stock of natural resources, represent a fertile ground for the expansion of opportunities. The latter can pull some of the educated and highly qualified Angolans back home on a permanent or temporary basis.

It is therefore advisable to strengthen the links between Angola and its diaspora, and to adopt policies facilitating in the medium term the spontaneous return of skilled and highly skilled expatriate nationals. Human resource needs arising in the short term in relationship with the reconstruction and rebuilding of the country can instead be addressed through temporary return schemes and other measures harnessing the development potential of the diaspora. These measures require of course a preliminary assessment of capacities in-country, as well as among Angolan emigrants. In the longer term, opportunities should be created based upon public-private partnerships regarding the reconstruction of infrastructure and the provision of services in order to attract highly skilled expatriate nationals back home.

In Zambia the situation of migration and development is different because skills migration is more of a structural problem. In contrast with Angola, the country has been enjoying peace and stability. Despite this, it experienced steady trends of decline in socio-economic conditions. For this reason it is unlikely that significant spontaneous return migration will occur in the near future. Here the problem of the brain drain is more acute and deeply rooted, a reason why in Zambia effective policy measures need to be adopted in order to retain essential skills and capacity in-country.

In particular, the emigration of health workers and the resulting health sector crisis are issues that must be dealt with urgently if the MDGs are to be achieved in Zambia. Retaining capacity in the public sector through incentive schemes and bonding mechanisms are measures that require immediate support. Concurrently, innovative ways need to be found to expand domestic educational or training outputs in spite of the critical shortage of teaching personnel. This means that human resources gaps need to be filled through diaspora options and replacement policies.

Another initiative which has good potential in Zambia is the involvement of the Zambian business diaspora in private sector activities back home. The private sector could draw great benefits from the transfers of financial, human and social capital operated and/or facilitated by the diaspora. Measures facilitating the transfer and productive use of migrant remittances should be given due consideration. A major constraint is given by the lack of data on the scale and nature of these monetary transfers.

In both countries a better coordinated and more coherent action is needed grounded in reliable statistical and solid empirical evidence. Without timely and reliable, comprehensive and possibly harmonized migration data it is difficult to develop effective policies and programmes to manage skills migration. Substantial efforts are needed to improve quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis and to disseminate lessons learned. The development of an integrated migration data management system is a priority in each national context which, taking into account regional initiatives, should be adequately supported.

In more general terms there are two objectives requiring special attention. There is a critical need to factor migration into just about all national and sectoral development policies. This can only be achieved if migration is perceived as a variable able to make a substantial difference with respect to development outcomes and if it is systematically integrated into development assessment models and policy frameworks. Migration should represent a cross-cutting issue in PRSPs, national development plans and sectoral policy documents, as is already the case concerning issues such as gender, governance and HIV/AIDS.

For migration to be systematically examined for its implications and adequately dealt with in all the different policy sectors, governments will have to work towards the establishment of a centralized structure or agency dealing with migration as a multi-sectoral issue. This body could assume different forms depending on the national context, but it must be sufficiently flexible and dynamic in order to allow heterogeneous perspectives to be taken into consideration. This is why it should be composed of representatives of different government departments and other stakeholder institutions, and be connected with the leading policy decision making, planning and coordination structures.

This study confirms that skilled and highly skilled migrants can play a role in the development of their home country, even when they decide not to return on a permanent basis. However, reversing the brain drain through permanent return migration remains an objective which should not be ignored. Past return programmes have often been criticized because of their alleged low cost effectiveness. One problem is that the outcomes of such programmes were evaluated too early and did not leave return migrants enough time to make an impact. Evidence from the field suggests that some of the highly skilled migrants whose return was supported in the 1990s, are indeed making a difference today. A well designed follow-up evaluation in different countries which benefited from return programmes would be valuable in order to reassess their effectiveness and impact and draw more reliable conclusions that would allow to improve future policies and programmes.

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