“Rural migration in sub-Saharan Africa: patterns, drivers and relation to structural transformation”, FAO Rural employment working paper

GovInn is pleased to share the new FAO working paper “Rural migration in sub-Saharan Africa: patterns, drivers and relation to structural transformation” which was published at the end of 2019 but only posted recently on the FAO website. GovInners were deeply involved in its preparation with Sara Mercandalli and Bruno Losch as editors, as well as Chris Nshimbi and Robin Bourgeois.

The paper provides an up-to-date review of the literature on the patterns and drivers of rural migration in sub-Saharan Africa and explores their relation to rural and structural transformation. It aims at feeding the current policy debate on migration.

This working paper is a companion of the FAO-CIRAD Atlas “Rural Africa in motion – Dynamics and drivers of migration South of the Sahara”, published in English at the end of 2017 and in French mid-2018. GovInn had been deeply involved in its preparation. The atlas was launched in South Africa during the GovInn Week 2017.

Based on a mixed approach that combines a critical literature review of past, current and future drivers of migration and analyses of available data, the paper first elaborates a pluri-disciplinary and comprehensive conceptual framework for the understanding of the drivers and patterns of rural migration. It then examines the evolving patterns of African rural migration and presents renewed migration characteristics, which have emerged over the last decades. It reveals that migration is performing a range of socio-economic functions far beyond the only transfer of labour from agriculture to other sectors and from rural-to-urban areas. As such, migration processes highlight possible new structural transformation paths, responding to existing challenges faced by the region in terms of demographic and economic transition. The paper finally discusses the characteristics and dynamics of the drivers using existing datasets and case studies. It highlights the diverse and multifaceted nature of the drivers of rural migration and the way they act in combination to shape African rural migration dynamics today and their links to contemporary regional and sectoral processes of change.


You can access the full working paper here.

Sara Mercandalli at the International seminar on Public policies and rural development- Colombia.

During the international seminar « Public policies and rural development in LAC : balance and perspectives » held in  CIAT, Cali , Colombia on 5-7 September 2018, GovInn Senior Researcher Sara Mercandalli coordinated a panel on « rural migration and development » and had the opportunity to share her experience about the ‘dynamics and drivers of rural migration  in SSA : highlights for public policies” she has been involved with different govinners, UWC and FAO. This international seminar organised by the « Public policies and rural development network », Cirad Partnership platform in Latin America, was also a space to better get along with contents and functioning of such platform, similar to GovInn, dedicated to the study of policies and governance processes.

Members of « Public policies and rural development network », at the international seminar « Public policies and rural development in LAC : balance and perspectives » Colombia 5-7 septiembre 2018.

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Rediscussing rural change in Sub-Saharan Africa, with Bruno Losch – Rethinking development seminar

Rural diversification in sub-Saharan Africa has been one of the most debated issues over the last 15 years. On 18 March 2015 at the University of Pretoria, Dr Bruno Losch, Political Economist and lead Researcher at CIRAD, will discuss the survey results provided by the World Bank led program RuralStruc.

Chris Nshimbi giving his presentation in Singapore

Voices from Outside: Re-shaping International Relations Theory and Practice in an era of Global Transformation, Singapore 2015

GovInn’s senior researcher Chris Nshimbi took part in the International Studies Association (ISA)’s Global South Caucus (GSCIS) Conference in Singapore (8-10 January 2015). He shares his work and conclusions with us. 

by Chris Nshimbi

At the International Studies Association’s Global South Caucus Conference in Singapore I presented two papers (titles and abstracts below) and chaired a session on “Foreign Investment, Transnational Corporations and Civil Society.”
The theme was “Voices from Outside: Re-shaping International Relations Theory and Practice in an era of Global Transformation.”
It provided a great chance for sharing some of GovInn’s ongoing research and findings from that research with international scholars from the global south. It also provided a wonderful opportunity for the exchange of ideas, networking and establishment of new relationship.
The caucus developed the theme “in view of the mutuality of interest between the caucus and ISA’s
first president from the global south, Professor Amitav Acharya.

Recognizing that international relations research and scholarship is deficient with respect to the inclusion of perspectives from the south, the caucus aims, through conferences such as these, to pioneer the integration of marginalized voices into “mainstream” scholarship.”

I contributed to the conference with two papers:

  • Globalization and the threat of marginalization: towards a definition of marginalization

Abstract: This paper discusses the threat to sideline some actors from the activities that characterize globalization in the contemporary global political economy, in an attempt to definite marginalization. The absence of a definition and literature conceptualizing marginalization motivates this study. To meet its objectives, the paper addresses the question:

How does globalization threaten to marginalize some actors from the global economy?

The paper reviews existing literature on marginalization across disciplines and that literature which employs the term without defining it. The review outlines factors that characterize marginalization and, with the help of conventional regional economic integration theory, examines regional integration among strategies that those threatened with marginalization collectively use to avert the threat. The paper presents marginalization as a condition or process where some areas and actors in the global political economy participate less in and are being pushed to the margins of globalization and corresponding activities. Marginalization emerges as a governance issue where those so threatened engage the global political economy to mediate and negotiate activities on their own behalf, especially when purported global institutions fail them. Moreover, all areas and populations in the world are, without exception, susceptible to marginalization.

  • Oscillations: Short-term domestic policy considerations and regional integration in Southeast Asia and Southern Africa


Do short-term domestic considerations make member states neglect long-term goals for regional integration?

The question is addressed by examining the evolution of regionalism in Southeast Asia and eastern and southern Africa. The IPE theory, realism, provides the core lens for viewing the evolution. A comprehensive outlook incorporating other IPE, historical, and sociocultural approaches is concurrently adopted and the examination conducted at international, state, and grassroots levels. Colonialism, independence, policy reforms, crises and grassroots cross-border interactions affect regionalism. A notable phenomenon is also revealed: if integration represented the opposite of fragmentation, then the evolutionary behavior of, respectively, Asian and African regionalism is comparable to an oscillating pendulum. Members are sometimes keen on regionalism but withdraw at other times. Regional states should turn from claiming state sovereignty against regional goals. Regionalism would also flourish if regional leaders focused less on consolidating domestic power. Authorities should encourage grassroots cross-border activities to promote bottom-up integration.

Beyond-GDP in Africa: Innovative Ideas for a Regional Dashboard

On October 28-29 2014, GovInn, in partnership with the Sustainability Institute,  hosted a workshop that brought together academics and practitioners from statistical offices from Sub-Saharan Africa to identify practical solutions to measure well being and prosperity and move beyond numerical indicators such as GDP.

The title of the workshop was ‘Beyond-GDP in Africa: Innovative Ideas for a Regional Dashboard.’ Its goal was to take stock of the various criticisms raised against the gross domestic product (GDP) as a measure of economic progress and to propose a way forward for African countries.

After two days of presentations and deliberations, the participants compiled a list of recommendations with a view to identifying a practical roadmap for the translation of the ‘beyond GDP’ debate into policy reforms throughout Africa.

Click here to download the presentations at the workshop

Click here to download the workshop official statement

Learn about Beyond GDP in Africa research project and about GovInn research on New Economy