Horn of Africa Blog
Disseminating Research and Conference papers . Created by Resoum Kidane
Friday, 16 September 2016
Migration in Ethiopia: History, Current Trends and Future Prospects
It is estimated that in 2010, 10.2 percent of global migrants will hail from Africa (UNDP, 2009). Only three
percent of the world migrates, and around 1.9 percent of Africa‟s population engages in international
migration (UNDP, 2009). This is not surprising, however, as it is well documented in migration studies that
the “poorest of the poor” do not migrate, and Sub-Saharan Africa is the poorest region in the world.
Migration flows from Sub-Saharan Africa are thus occurring within a context of extreme poverty, conflict,
and the HIV/AIDs pandemic, all of which impact migration dynamics (Adepoju, 2008).
Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world and in 2005 had an emigration rate of 0.6
percent, which is low in comparison to Africa as a whole. Ethiopia faces complex challenges of food
insecurity, overpopulation, drought, political instability, and ethnic conflict. In addition to these issues,
Ethiopia faces large challenges with respect to migration flows.
From the 1980s onward, the Horn of Africa, which consists of Eritrea, Sudan, Djibouti, Somalia,
and Ethiopia, became the largest refugee-producing area in the world, with Ethiopia being the largest
contributor to the refugee flows (Bariagaber, 1999). As a consequence, Ethiopia became internationally
known for its refugee crisis, including problems of managing refugee flows and the issue of repatriation.
Today the number of Ethiopians seeking refuge in other countries has drastically decreased.
Political instability in the 1970s and the large refugee flows of the 1980s led to the development
of the Ethiopian Diaspora, which today is actively engaged in political and development processes in
Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Diaspora is one of the largest of all African countries and is concentrated
primarily in the United States and United Kingdom. Remittances to Ethiopia from the Diaspora provide
an integral source of income for families to sustain themselves through external shocks and meet their
Internal migration flows in Ethiopia are currently larger than external flows, but the exact number
of people who migrate internally is not known. Internal migration occurs in the form of rural-urban
migration, rural-rural migration, and resettlement policies, which are all substantial in Ethiopia. Internal
migration in Ethiopia has traditionally occurred at marriage when the wife moves to live in the husband‟s
community. In addition to this traditional internal mobility, urbanization in Ethiopia is a growing trend that
puts pressure on urban infrastructure and resources (De Waal, 1991: Ezra & Kiros, 2001).
The objective of this paper is to provide an overview of migration and development in Ethiopia.
This will be achieved through a discussion of historical and contemporary migration patters (Section 3 and
4), the Ethiopian Diaspora (Section 5), the development impacts of migration in Ethiopia (Section 6),
migration policies in Ethiopia (Section 7), an exploration of the migration relationship between the
Netherlands and Ethiopia (Section 8), and a conclusion that examines potential future migration flows in
Ethiopia (Section 9)
Horn of Africa
Migration and Development
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