The Impact of youth migration on economies in Africa

According to data from the United Nations, in 2020, the number of international migrants worldwide was estimated to be 281 million, with Africa accounting for around 37 million of these migrants.

Africa has one of the youngest populations in the world, with more than 60% of its people under the age of 25. However, a worrying trend has emerged in recent years, as more and more young people are leaving the continent in search of better opportunities elsewhere.

This brain drain is having a significant impact on Africa’s development, and it is essential to understand why it is happening and what can be done to address it.

Why are young people leaving Africa?
There are many reasons why young Africans are leaving the continent. One of the most significant factors is the lack of job opportunities. Despite Africa’s rapidly growing economy, unemployment remains a significant problem, particularly among young people. The International Labour Organization estimates that the youth unemployment rate in sub-Saharan Africa is around 13%, but it is much higher in some countries. In South Africa, for example, it is more than 50%.

Another factor driving young people away is political instability. Many African countries have experienced conflict or political upheaval in recent years, which has led to economic uncertainty and insecurity. This has made it difficult for young people to plan for their futures and build a life for themselves.

Finally, there is a perception among many young Africans that the grass is greener on the other side. Many see leaving the continent as a way to escape poverty, oppression, and limited opportunities. Social media and the internet have made it easier for young people to see what life is like in other parts of the world, and this has fueled their desire to emigrate.

Do policymakers recognize the youth in their Policymaking?
Many policymakers recognize the importance of engaging and involving young people in policy-making processes. However, the extent to which young people are involved in policymaking varies depending on the specific policy area, the country or region, and the political context.

Youth representatives are sometimes included in policy-making bodies or consultations. For example, some countries have established youth councils or forums to provide young people with a voice in policymaking. Additionally, international organizations such as the United Nations have established mechanisms to ensure that youth perspectives are taken into consideration in policy-making processes.

However, in other cases, young people may not be explicitly included in policy-making processes, or their perspectives may be overlooked or undervalued. This can occur for a variety of reasons, such as a lack of resources, a lack of political will, or a perception that young people are not sufficiently knowledgeable or experienced to contribute to policymaking.

What are the consequences of the brain drain?
The brain drain is having a significant impact on Africa’s development. When young people leave the continent, they take their skills, knowledge, and talent with them. This means that Africa is losing some of its brightest and most promising individuals, who could have contributed to the continent’s development and growth.

The brain drain is also exacerbating the already significant skills gap in many African countries. Many of those who leave are professionals, such as doctors, engineers, and scientists, who are essential for building a strong and resilient economy. When these professionals leave, it becomes more challenging for African countries to provide essential services such as healthcare, education, and infrastructure.

What can be done to address the brain drain?
Addressing the brain drain is a complex issue that requires a multifaceted approach. One of the most important things African countries can do is create an environment encouraging young people to stay. This means investing in education and training, providing job opportunities, and improving living standards. African governments can also create a more stable political environment, reduce corruption and improve governance, which will help create a more attractive environment for young people.

Another essential step is to create more opportunities for young people to participate in shaping the future of their countries. This means giving them a voice in decision-making processes, creating opportunities for them to take on leadership roles, and encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation.

Finally, it is essential to create better networks between African countries and the rest of the world. Many young people leave because they feel isolated and cut off from the rest of the world. By creating better connections, it becomes easier for young people to collaborate and share ideas, which can help to create a more vibrant and dynamic African continent.

The brain drain is a significant challenge for Africa, and it is essential to address it if the continent is to achieve its full potential. By creating a more attractive environment for young people, giving them a voice in decision-making, and creating better connections between African countries and the rest of the world, we can help to create a brighter future for Africa’s youth. It is time for African governments, civil society, and the private sector to work together to create a more prosperous and inclusive future for Africa.


  • Catalyzing youth Opportunity across Africa/AFDB 2016
  • IOM UN Migration 2023, International Dialogue on Migration (leveraging human mobility in support of the sustainable development goals)
  • Africa Youth Migration /2019 Ibrahim forum
  • 2022 Africa Youth Survey
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