However, the idea of migrating is on the minds of many Africans living south of the Sahara. According to a 2017 Pew Research Center survey in six sub-Saharan countries that have supplied many of the region’s migrants to the U.S. and Europe, many say they would move to another country if the means and opportunity presented themselves. And in Senegal, Ghana and Nigeria, more than a third say they actually plan to migrate in the next five years. Of those who plan to move, more individuals plan to move to the U.S. than to Europe in most countries surveyed. …
If circumstances permitted, many sub-Saharan Africans would migrate abroad Between February and April 2017, Pew Research Center surveyed in six of the 10 countries that have supplied many of the sub-Saharan immigrants now living in the U.S. Four of these countries – Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana and Kenya – are also among the top 10 origin countries for sub-Saharan migrants to Europe.
The survey asked respondents whether they would go to live in another country, if they had the means and opportunity. At least four-in-ten in each sub-Saharan country surveyed answered yes, including roughly three-quarters of those surveyed in Ghana (75%) and Nigeria (74%).
The population of Nigeria is said to be, currently, 186 million, so that’s 137 million Nigerians who want to leave (counting their children, etc.)
The relatively high shares of people in these countries who say they would resettle in another country is generally consistent with findings from other surveys, like Afrobarometer in Nigeria and Ghana, that pose questions about the desirability of migrating. Compared with other world regions, Gallup polls find that sub-Saharan countries have some of the highest shares of people who say they would move to another country.
What’s behind the widespread appeal of migrating in some sub-Saharan countries? Multiple factors could be at play. To begin with, while many sub-Saharan African economies are growing, many countries continue to have high unemployment rates and relatively low wage rates. In addition, the job market looks unlikely to improve anytime soon, thanks to high fertility levels that will mean even more people competing for jobs. Against this backdrop, sub-Saharan Africans could see migrating to countries with more – and better paying – jobs as a means of improving their personal economic prospects. …
Pressures related to economic well-being and insecurity may help to explain why, beyond a general willingness to migrate, substantial shares of sub-Saharan Africans say they actually plan to move to another country in the next five years. Among the six countries polled, the share with plans to migrate ranges from roughly four-in-ten or more in Senegal (44%), Ghana (42%) and Nigeria (38%) to fewer than one-in-ten in Tanzania (8%).
So 70 million Nigerians are planning to migrate in the next five years.
But, of course, the United Nations forecasts that the population of Nigeria will more than quadruple to about 800 million by the end of the century.
Here’s my graph of the UN’s 2017 population forecast, which says Nigeria will have more people than Europe by the end of the century.
Of course, a lot of the currently born Nigerians don’t intend to stick around in Nigeria for that to happen.
Will all those with plans to migrate in fact leave their home countries in the next five years? If recent history is a guide, the answer would most likely be no. But data from official sources suggest that this will not be for lack of effort.
For example, 1.7 million Ghanaians (or 6% of Ghana’s population) applied for the U.S. diversity lottery in 2015, even when only 50,000 people worldwide are permitted to move each year to the U.S. through this visa program. In the same year, other sub-Saharan African countries, such as the Republic of Congo (10%), Liberia (8%) and Sierra Leone (8%) saw high shares of their populations apply for the lottery. Although the lottery only requires an online application and the completion of a high school diploma for eligibility, the high number of applicants underscores the seriousness with which many sub-Saharan Africans contemplate and actively pursue migrating abroad.
In some sub-Saharan countries, U.S. preferred over Europe as destination Europe’s border statistics show a well-traveled route of migrants from Africa to Europe. But this does not necessarily mean Europe is the top choice of potential sub-Saharan African migrants. In fact, in several of the countries surveyed by Pew Research Center, those planning to migrate more often cited the U.S., as opposed to Europe, as their preferred destination when asked where in the world they planned to move.
For example, among the 42% of Ghanaians who say they plan to migrate abroad in the next five years, four-in-ten (41%) identify the U.S. as their intended destination, while three-in-ten (30%) name a country in the EU, Norway or Switzerland. Similarly, shares of potential migrants in South Africa (39% vs. 22%) and Kenya (39% vs. 12%) say they intend to migrate to the U.S. over Europe.7
Only in Senegal, a Francophone country, do more respondents that plan to move intend to migrate to a European country (49%), as opposed to the United States (24%).
The survey did not ask respondents why they preferred the U.S. or Europe, but it did ask whether respondents were in personal contact with friends or relatives in other countries. People planning to migrate in the next five years tended to identify destinations where they already had friends or family. This finding is generally consistent with studies showing that personal connections influence the decision and likelihood of migrating.
This is why Poland and Hungary would be crazy to accept some of Merkel’s Million Marching Muslim: they would establish beachheads to be exploited by their family and friends over the generations.
Higher shares of adults in Senegal and South Africa say they have friends or relatives they stay in touch with regularly in Europe than say this about friends or relatives in the U.S. Meanwhile, in Ghana, Nigeria and Tanzania, people have friends or relatives they stay in touch with in Europe and the U.S. at about the same rate. In Kenya, a higher share of people have contacts in the United States.