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Maty Konte and Linguère Mously Mbaye (eds). Migration, Remittances, and Sustainable Development in Africa

Routledge Studies in Development Economics, London and New York, Routledge, 2021, 313 p. ISBN: 978-0-36725-647-0. £96
Alice FABRE
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Maty Konte and Linguère Mously Mbaye (eds). Migration, Remittances, and Sustainable Development in Africa. Routledge Studies in Development Economics, London and New York: Routledge, 2021, 313 p. ISBN: 978-0-36725-647-0. £96

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1This book presents a collection of empirical work and literature reviews, mostly by UNU-MERIT development economics researchers, on the links between migration, remittances and sustainable development in Africa. The originality of the volume is to link research on migration and remittances to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for Africa.

2In recent years, the issue of migration and remittances has figured prominently in the media, the political agenda, and in economic research. The work of economists, both theoretical and empirical, has focused on migration decisions and on the impact of migration in host and home countries, and the challenges for the Official Development Assistance (ODA). The work of international organizations, as the International Organization for Migration (IOM), has also put forward new data, allowing for the modification of narrative, particularly for Africa, showing the dynamism of internal mobility in Africa, and the challenges of migration for growth and economic development. The brain drain/ brain gain, the impact of transfers, the influence of migration on savings, human capital, labor markets, income inequality, democracy represent some of the major topics studied in the field.

3The scope of this book is quite different and innovative. Intended for a public of policymakers, as well as students and researchers in social sciences and in development economics, it aims to study how the phenomenon of migration and transfers (financial, knowledge) can accelerate or inhibit the achievement of the SDGs, adopted at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit 2015.

4A dozen young researchers with field expertise have been called upon to explore how migration (internal, short-term, of youth, etc.) and associated transfers can be linked to SDGs and, potentially, constitute a lever for action. Two targets in the SDGs obviously deal with migration (Goal 10, Target 10.7 "Facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people, including through implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies" and Target 10.c "By 2030, reduce to less than 3% the transaction costs of migrant remittances and eliminate remittance corridors with costs higher than 5%"). But the working hypothesis of the book is that remittances and migration can also have a cross-cutting impact on the SDGs. In addition to Targets 10.7 and 10.c of Goal 10, covered, without surprise, in eight of the fourteen chapters of the book, eleven of the seventeen Goals defined by the United Nations are studied (excluding therefore the six specific Goals linked to environmental issues, outside the scope of the study): i.e. SDG 1 (no poverty, in three chapters), SDG 2 (zero hunger, in one), SDG 3 (good health and well-being, in one), SDG 4 (quality education, in four), SDG 5 (gender equality, in one), SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth, in four), SDG 9 (industry, innovation, and infrastructure, in four), SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities, in one), SDG 16 (peace, justice, and strong institutions, in five), and SDG 17 (partnerships for the goals, in three). Consequently, the key themes examined in the fourteen chapters of the book are migration and remittances, and their relations with education, knowledge, poverty and hunger, corruption and conflict, gender, trade, new technology, challenges in managing migration flows. Each chapter starts with a quite relevant literature review, followed by an empirical study (quantitative or qualitative), and a discussion on the link between the sustainable development goals and their policy implication for the SDGs, including how the lack of responsive migration policies may affect the success of some of the SDGs.

5The authors go beyond the narratives, and conduct quantitative and qualitative research, and give some policy recommendations, for each specific SDG goal studied. From the introduction, the two editors announce that the main objective of the book is to research, document and discuss the role of migration in transforming the economic, social and political aspects necessary for the success of the SDGs, and the book delivers quite well, exploring new paths, and offer interesting figures. Some classic topics (as remittances and saving and investment among recipients, remittances as a stabilization tool or as an insurance for instance) are not, or hardly, studied in favor of new questions, as the transmission of norms and knowledge, and their impact on political changes in home countries (chapter 10), the effect of parental migration (chapter 6), or the costs and corridors of remittances (chapters 5 and 9).

6The focus is put on Africa’s rapid development: all the contributions show a dynamic view of a booming Africa, in the pre-COVID period, and highlight the positive role that migration and the correlated transfers can play. Even chapters 11 and 12, on corruption and violence, mitigate some classic negative results.

7The pre-COVID figures proposed in the book are helpful to put into perspective the narrative around African migration, which often focuses on the flows outside the continent, or the phenomenon of irregular migration (addressed only in chapter 14). The chapters highlight the diversity of the migration phenomenon — internal and external, on the long run and short run (tourism, chapter 3) —, and contribute to show how remittances can accelerate the SDGs. Some topics are barely touched upon and could have given rise to more developments (conflicts, refugees, curse of resources, ...), others open, in an exploratory way, new avenues of research: the role of digital and mobile phones (to reduce the cost of transfers), sustainable cities, networks, transmission of social standards, gender issues, for instance.

8Some chapters are more convincing than others, but each one provides useful material for our understanding of the continent's evolution, whether through a review of the literature or an original statistical study.

9The book is easy to read, and not too technical; it provides comprehensive evidence to inform students, academics, researchers, policymakers, and all those interested in the links between population movements and the SDGs in Africa, two very topical subject matters. It could be a nice material for introductive lectures in development economics, and gives a picture of Africa, before COVID, more complex and nuanced than one might think, and illustrates the challenges between internal and external migration.

10It should be noted that the conclusion of the book offers a short, but successful, assessment of how the SDGs targets can be better understood and addressed by the research proposed in the book; it adds a useful complement to the reading.

11From a methodological point of view, however, the set presents some limitations. The different chapters emphasize the importance of data (interviews, barometers) and some of them deal with interesting longitudinal studies to build a narrative. Nevertheless, with its deliberately empirical approach, the book suffers sometimes from a lack of theoretical support, mitigated by the quality of the literature reviews. Some game-theory models (in Part IV on conflict and corruption, for example) could provide a useful analytical framework to better document the mechanisms at work. Similarly, growth models with social norms could add some substance to the questions being explored. On the empirical side, a discussion of existing methods, such as impact evaluations, would have merited at least some discussion (experimental design RCT, diff-in-diffs, etc.).

12However, the different chapters, anchored in often quite well-documented reviews of the literature, provide a lot, nice and useful, food for thought, and open up avenues that can enrich policymakers and academic’s research programs and guide public action. An evaluation of the policies targeted in the framework of the SDGs, proposed in the book, could perhaps inspire a second volume.

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Référence électronique

Alice FABRE, « Maty Konte and Linguère Mously Mbaye (eds). Migration, Remittances, and Sustainable Development in Africa »E-rea [En ligne], 19.1 | 2021, mis en ligne le 15 décembre 2021, consulté le 26 janvier 2022. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/erea/13204 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/erea.13204

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Auteur

Alice FABRE

Aix Marseille Univ, CNRS & EHESS, AMSE, Marseille, France

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