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Current Developments and Future Challenges | Senegal |

Senegal Background Information Historical Trends Political Development Emigrant Population Citizenship / Irregular Migration Refuge and Asylum Current Developments References

Current Developments and Future Challenges

Felix Gerdes

/ 5 Minuten zu lesen

Major challenges for Senegal are controlling the emigration flow, the increasing remittances to Senegal, the development of dangerous migration routes, and the relatively new challenge of managing immigration.

Until now, Senegalese emigration has consisted primarily of migration within Africa. The development of remittance flows, the diminished attractiveness of the Ivory Coast and Gabon as destination countries, as well as the sharp fall in prices for a trip to Europe via the Canaries, however, have led to a turnaround in this area in recent years.

Controlling emigration

Controlling this flow of migration presents both Europe and Senegal with challenges. On the part of Europe, simply making access to the continent more restrictive is not likely to be an effective response; so far such efforts have only led would-be migrants to seek alternative migration routes. Furthermore, completely securing European borders, stopping old as well as new boltholes, would involve virtually unmanageable expense, and increasing deportations would entail significant legal, administrative and moral issues.

In principle, Senegal has the option of either producing migrants for the international labour market or providing qualified work within the domestic economy, in particular the health sector. For the time being, the government is focusing on using emigration and remittances as means of relieving strains on the domestic labour market. Moreover, it expects positive effects in the medium term through migrants who return with further qualifications gained abroad (notwithstanding the fact that a large proportion of qualified migrants do not find jobs in the country of destination that match their qualifications) and make investments in the country. The potentially negative effects of the emigration of qualified professionals ("brain drain") have, to date, scarcely entered into the political debate. It is also not clear how Senegal could go about strengthening its institutions and dismantling elitist structures so as to create more professional-level domestic jobs, given the lack of interest on the part of privileged elites in doing so.

With regard to the need of European countries for qualified professionals, agreements to make migration easier are in the interest of both parties. Making entry easier for professionals does not necessarily, however, mean a decrease in the readiness of non-qualified persons to migrate. In fact, due to growing migrant networks, increased migration among the latter group is equally likely. Especially in Southern Europe there is most certainly great demand for low-skilled workers. Nonetheless, if there were any interest in curbing migration, then it would make sense to promote earning opportunities in countries of origin such as Senegal, especially in labour-intensive areas such as fishing and agriculture. Subsidies for European agricultural activities continue to be a powerful obstacle to Senegal's agricultural development and, thus, to the development of earning opportunities for low-skilled workers in that country.

Increasing remittances

Remittances to Senegal will likely continue to increase in the near future, which can have both positive and negative effects. The construction sector, which has demonstrated high growth rates for some years, profits in particular from remittances, as they are often used to build private housing. This not only relieves the labour market by providing employment; it also leads to more investments in construction companies, and thus to a greater accumulation of capital in this sector. It would nevertheless be advantageous if more remittances were directed into productive sectors. Nearly all migrants are interested in investing the funds they have earned profitably in their country of origin. However, the majority of migrants have experienced the failure of their own business projects in Senegal. Existing social support structures make them wary of starting another: designed to provide mutual support, these support structures regularly swallow up business funds in the event of emergencies (illness, threatened early school leaving etc.). Added to this are significant administrative hurdles and a generally deficient institutional environment. Realising the potential of migrants for economic development will require improvement both in the support given to returnees and in the general underlying economic conditions. Politically supported investment trusts for industries with comparative cost advantages would be one possibility for investing funds earned abroad more profitably. International controls and sureties (similar to those already existing for investments in developing countries) would be a sensible solution due to the relatively low confidence of Senegalese abroad in the state's administration of finances.

Development of dangerous migration routes

European policies to prevent irregular migration by making access to the continent more restrictive have led to the emergence of highly dangerous alternative migration routes. At least 10% of migrants (or 40%, according to some estimates) who attempt the sea crossing between the West African coast and the Canary Islands die en route. This corresponds to at least 3 200 deaths in 2006 alone. Reinforced controls and increasing migrant awareness concerning the dangers have led to a decrease in the number of crossings in 2007. Nonetheless the often-inhumane business of people smuggling is unlikely to be reduced in the long term without increased legal opportunities for migration. Projects establishing legal employment agencies could well be combined with credible information campaigns in order to reduce people's readiness to migrate, which is often fuelled by unrealistic expectations of lucrative prospects in the European labour market. In view of the important role played by Senegalese fishermen in the organisation of illegal crossings, over-fishing in West African waters by European fishing fleets, which deprived the fishermen of the basis of their existence, needs to be addressed. The fishing accords with the EU expired in June 2006, and European fleets have not been allowed to operate in Senegalese waters since. The Senegalese government has taken a tough stance in its negotiations on this matter, and a new accord is not in sight. Although this will help the recovery of fish stocks, it also deprives the Senegalese government of a significant source of revenue.

Managing immigration

Finally, managing immigration is a relatively new challenge for the Senegalese state. Given the negative experiences of Senegalese migrants abroad, especially in the Ivory Coast, the country's attitude toward immigrants (who come mainly from other African states) is remarkably positive. Immigration was long regarded as little more than a manifestation of the country's symbolic commitment to the ideal of pan-Africanism. Instead of creating an extensive legal framework for regulating the immigration and integration of foreign migrants, the government has generally followed a hands-off approach. Even today, foreign migrants are mostly employed in the informal sector, and the state has political reasons for continuing to reserve access to lucrative jobs in the formal employment sector for its own nationals. Having increased the education budget to 40% of government expenses, and given the expectation that qualified Senegalese abroad will return, the state will face a great enough challenge in providing employment opportunities for its own qualified workforce. Beyond this, the question remains as to whether – and how – Senegal will create the policies needed to profit from the potential of foreign migrants living within its borders.



  1. This point is disputed. L. Marfaing (pers. comm.) and P. D. Tall (interview in: Organisation internationale pour les migrations (2007): Senegal-Migrations, Bulletin d'Information No. 4, p. 2) support a contrary position.

  2. See Hertlein and Vadean (2006).

  3. See Marfaing (2003).

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