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Staff at the German-Nigerian Center for Jobs, Migration and Reintegration in Lagos, Nigeria's economic capital, process applications for funding.

Staff at the German-Nigerian Center for Jobs, Migration and Reintegration in Lagos, Nigeria's economic capital, process applications for funding.

Prioritizing Africa’s Needs: How to Strengthen Africa-German Cooperation on Migration

Blog Joint Futures 30, 01.12.2023

Germany’s Africa policy must maximize co-benefits by focusing on the migration-development nexus, argues Susan Ekoh (IDOS). The government needs to mainstream climate change needs in migration cooperation due to the present realities and future projections of climate-induced mobilities.


There is growing interest from the German government to strengthen its relations with African partners. As the government revises its Africa policy, German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, visited Ghana & Nigeria in November 2023 to discuss cooperation opportunities in the areas of energy, digitalization and agriculture. One very important area of Africa-German relations is migration. Official statistics dating to December 2022 show that about 611,000 foreign-born Africans currently reside in Germany. Looking at Africa-EU relations on migration historically, curbing irregular migration is high on the agenda. This is evident through funded projects on strengthening border controls and on return and reintegration. However, from the African side, especially among West African countries, research shows that curbing outflows of people and return and reintegration are not political priorities. These are sensitive topics for national governments because it is politically unfavourable among their citizens.

Aligning interests on migration and development

High on the agenda for African states is the development side of migration. In particular, countries like Senegal show great interest in diaspora engagement. African countries are interested in harnessing development opportunities that come with migration through remittances and diaspora investment in the countries of origin. Studies show that remittances contribute positively to economic growth in the African context when the financial environment is healthy (Olayungbo and Quadri, 2019; Nyamongo et al., 2012).

The new Africa-German policy needs to take this into account. It could be particularly relevant in the context of Germany’s interest in increasing labour migration of skilled workers. This is due to a shortage of skilled workers in parts of Germany, e.g. in the fields of STEM (Science, Technology, Mathematics). However, there are barriers associated with attracting these workers to Germany, especially from African countries.  Long visa processing times and bureaucratic hurdles are barriers that may deter potential workers from Germany as a labour migration destination. In Nigeria for example, current processing times for long-term visas can take up to a year.

Cooperation on Climate change and human mobility

A second area to be accounted for in a new Africa policy is a strong emphasis on climate change and human mobility. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) sixth assessment report clearly highlights that the adverse impacts of climate change increasingly influence human mobility in Africa. Impacts on food security, livelihoods, well-being or habitation drive people to leave their homes or to be trapped in high-risk areas for those who lack the resources to move. Climate change also contributes to conflict situations and displacement in places like the Lake Chad region and the Horn of Africa where we see competition for scarce resources increase.

This area is a shared priority and needs to be addresses in the new Africa Policy Guidelines. The German Federal Ministry for Cooperation and Development (BMZ)’s 2030 strategy highlights climate and energy as one of five core areas of collaboration with partners. Furthermore, the BMZ has identified migration – understood as an adaptation strategy - as possible area of cooperation e.g. through financed projects that support labor migration to fill labor gaps in Germany, while also providing development benefits to countries of origin.

In the African context, the climate-human mobility nexus is a key issue that is reflected in several national migration and climate policies, Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), National Adaptation Plans (NAPs), climate communications and even regional initiatives. For example, Ghana’s National Migration Policy strongly emphasizes the impact of climate change on human mobility in the country. In 2022, Ministers of Environment, Interior and Foreign Affairs of countries in the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the East African Community (EAC), and States of the East and Horn of Africa also launched the Kampala Ministerial Declaration on Migration, Environment and Climate Change. These types of initiatives enable stakeholders to identify priorities and foster cooperation on the nexus of climate change and human mobility.

Funds for climate adaptation and loss and damage in the context of human mobility

In the area of migration, new Africa Policy Guidelines must reflect climate-induced human mobility as key areas of cooperation. The agreement to establish a loss and damage funding arrangement at COP 27 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, is an opportunity for Germany to contribute towards supporting affected communities in Africa dealing with displacement. Germany can also support efforts to build resilience of communities against climate risks to mitigate displacement. In this, adaptation is paramount and should be scaled up. Furthermore, migration and/or climate policies need to reflect these issues that did not get the proper attention so far. For example, in West African cities like Accra and Dakar, urban climate plans do not sufficiently address the climate and human mobility nexus even though these cities are top destinations for migrants internally and from outside the respective countries.

In conclusion, it is important for Germany’s Africa policy to strengthen two key areas: the migration and development nexus and the climate-human mobility nexus. On one hand, the policy should reflect the integration of climate change concerns within cooperation efforts on migration, accounting for human mobility within countries, regional movements and international migration to Germany. On the other hand, in terms of international migration, there is an opportunity for cooperation on skilled labour migration from Africa. This will potentially yield co-benefits to Germany and Africa by filling labour gaps in Germany but also increasing remittances for African states to contribute to development and resilience building in countries of origin.

Responsibility for the content, opinions expressed and sources used in the articles and interviews lies with the respective authors.

Susan S. Ekoh is a researcher with the German Institute of Development and Sustainability (IDOS) in Bonn, Germany. Her research covers the topics of climate (im)mobility in African cities, climate adaptation and resilience in Africa.