The perception of African rural migration is wrong
Laurent Bossard, Director of the SWAC Secretariat, and the economist Jean-Marie Cour were invited to the programme “Eco d’ici Eco d’ailleurs” on RFI, a French public radio channel, where they discussed the issue of rural migration in Africa. They lamented the often-false perception of this phenomenon, which shows how difficult it is for observers and development actors to change the paradigm when it comes to how the continent’s transformations are analysed. The recent surge of migration to northern countries is fuelling the image of a deserted rural Africa, hit by a mass exodus, even though the African rural population and its agricultural productivity continue to grow. In reality, the rural movements observed on the continent correspond mainly to internal and regional settlement dynamics, which organise and redistribute the rural population according to market locations and other urbanisation processes. This important socio-demographic fact should prompt us to stop viewing urban and rural policies separately, and to give greater importance to the links between cities and rural areas. Beyond the central issue of infrastructure, which is integrated across areas, one of the priority areas for action is to provide more support for the informal sector. This sector, which accounts for about 80% of Africa’s employment, is often a gateway for rural youth coming to urban areas and provides a space for mobility between the cities and the countryside. In addition, by serving as a bridge between agricultural production and urban consumption, it is at the heart of the African food economy boom. Nonetheless, public policies and development aid tend to neglect this sector.
Listen to the show (French)