Throughout its history, Africa has experienced important migratory movements - voluntary and involuntary. These movements could be legal or undocumented and have taken place within or beyond its borders. The context of migration in Africa may take place in the form of nomads migrating in search of pasturelands; young men from the country side setting off to work in the city; highly qualified educated professionals responding to greater opportunities overseas; refugees fleeing civil war or natural disaster.
In Africa, poor socio-economic conditions, such as low wages, high levels of unemployment, rural underdevelopment, poverty and lack of opportunity fuel out-migration. Of the 150 million migrants in the world, more than 50 million are estimated to be Africans. Furthermore, about 50 per cent of the internally displaced persons in the world and 28 per cent of the world's refugees are in Africa. Given that the number of migrants is rising and that this trend is likely to persist in the foreseeable future, the management of migration has become one of the most critical challenges for African States in the new millennium.
In recent years, migration has been making its way steadily towards the top of the continental and international affairs agenda. There is a need for a comprehensive and balanced approach to migration taking into account migration realities and trends as well as linkages between migration and other key economic, social, political and humanitarian issues.
A contemporary aspect of migration in Africa is the growing feminization of migration as women have also started to migrate in search for greater employment/economic opportunities. Women currently make up half of Africa's migrants suggesting that traditional social roles have been modified considerably. This calls for a paradigm shift in the way migration is managed.
Whereas well-managed migration may have a substantial positive impact for the development of origin States and yield significant benefits to destinations States, mismanaged or unmanaged migration can have serious negative consequences for States' and migrants' welfare, including potential destabilizing effect on national and regional security. Migration management now centres on how to maximize development effects of migration while at the same time minimizing the negative aspects such as brain drain, human rights violations, human trafficking, migrant smuggling, exploitation, xenophobia, racism and discrimination.
The increasing number of illegal migrants in a context of limited opportunities for legal migration, including to Europe, have exacerbated the tensions and the passions over the whole issue. In this context, and given the magnitude of the phenomenon, EU and African states are called upon to identify measures conducive to find lasting solutions to stop and /or reverse the trends observed.