Diaspora Youth as agents of transformative change in Northern Ghana

By Cosmas Kombat Lambini-#MMN Migration Expert

  • Ghana Irregular Migration Trends and Dynamics 

Ghana is located on the Atlantic Ocean in West Africa and occupies an area of about 92,099 sq. miles.  It shares boarders to Togo (eastern side), Cote d’Ivoire (western side), and Burkina Faso (northern side). Ghana has just carried out its latest population and housing census last month. This is an exercise organised every ten years. The current estimated total population according to the United Nations World Population Dashboard ( https://www.unfpa.org/data/world-population-dashboardhttps://www.unfpa.org/data/world-population-dashboard) stands at 31.7 million with young people making for one third of the population and a growth rate of 2.0% per year. 

Although Ghana is often cited as a rising star in Africa due to its major strides toward democracy under a multi-party system and a low middle-income country status due to national and regional economic reforms. There are however rising social and economic inequalities undermining transformational change and sustainable development as well as threatening social cohesion. These inequalities are pervasive and increasing particularly between men and women and the north and the south of the country. 

Migration, specifically irregular migration out of Ghana is one of the biggest socio-economic challenges the country is faced with. Ghana has been a major migrant-producing country for several decades. About 3% of Ghana’s population have emigrated since 2014, mostly to Europe and America due to uneven development and development trajectory failing particularly the young people for perceived quality of life. 

It is well documented that an estimated 1000s of migrants from Ghana enter into Europe through illegal sea crossings of the Central, Eastern and Western Mediterranean and Atlantic Oceans. According to International Centre for Migration Policy Development (cited in EC, 2004), 50 % of migrants transiting through Agadez in Niger would be from Nigeria, 15 % from Niger, 10 % from Ghana.  Ghanaian youth risk their lives to cross the Sahara-desert and the Mediterranean and Atlantic Seas for better life opportunities in Europe. By so doing they expose themselves to this deadly and dangerous journey. 

Although recent evidence shows that the number of Ghanaian nationals in irregular situations in the EU has remained stable since 2010, with the majority found in Germany (2,090), the UK (620), and Greece (395). 

Ghana is further considered a Tier 2 country as the country does not meet the minimum threshold for the elimination of trafficking and smuggling. Migrant smuggling and trafficking in persons is a serious and growing concern for the Government of Ghana and EU governments, as Ghana is recognised as country of origin, transit, and destination of individuals for the purposes of sexual exploitation, and domestic and commercial labour.

Coupled with this irregular migration is the issue of brain drain, many skilled professionals especially from the health sector have left Ghana to Europe for greener pastures impacting negatively on the quality of life and wellbeing. The country has one of the highest emigration rates for highly skilled workers in Western Africa leading to diminished human capital.

  • Diaspora Social Media Usage as a major driver of irregular migration through misinformation

Social media is a primary source of information for many people. The use of social media has transformed how the youth share and seek travel information in Ghana. For example, the daily use of social media by Ghanaian diaspora youth such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube and other forms of online engagements have negatively influenced the youth in Ghana and their perceptions on migrating to Europe. Empirical evidence from the Migration Media Network (#MMN) project alludes to some of these findings. This is especially true for young people between the ages of 15-35 years who constitute larger segment of the population.  It is very common among diaspora youth to send messages and posts to friends and families in Ghana showcasing how life in Europe is very comfortable and how one can easily get rich by just traveling to Euope. Misinformation on how easy and cheap one can easily enter into Europe through irregular routes and quick access to resident permits via marriages are very common stories on social media users from the diaspora. Prospective migrants in Ghana, on the other hand, consider this these type of information on social media as facts and based on this may decide to embark on a vicious journey to Europe though the sea or other irregular migration routes. The increasing usage of social media due to rising access to internet connectivity in Ghana and by diaspora youth have contributed immensely to irregular migration from Ghana to Europe and often cited in recent times as a key driving factor causing increasing rates of irregular migration.

  • Diaspora youth as champions of change and addressing irregular migration

The author of this blog, Cosmas Kombat Lambini comes from Ghana. Although he came to Europe through an Erasmus Mundus programme in International Rural Development (https://www.eacea.ec.europa.eu/scholarships/emjmd-catalogue_en). The author is aware of numerous youths from Northern Ghana who often risk to embark on the voyage to Europe through Agadez in Niger-deserts in Libya and Mediterranean and Atlantic Oceans to Europe. Even though Ghana is endowed with numerous natural and human resources with a lot of opportunities that most young people could tap into for national development. The Agricultural sector for example is a major contributor to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and the country has vast land for sustainable agricultural development that could be harnessed by the growing youth population as a possible alternative to address irregular migration.

In 2009, the author of this blog, founded the Anoshe Group in Chereponi in Northern Ghana, a farming community where he was born and bred. The group was registered as a Ghanaian enterprise under the Registry General Department and started farming operations in 2010.  The sole vision of the group was to create business opportunities to the youth and women though agribusiness and to reduce rural-urban migration. The group started originally with 50 households and have since grown to 1000 households (1000ha) and operating in five (5) communities in Chereponi District of Ghana. The group received initial seed funding and technical support from Sabab Lou Stiftung-(sabab-lou.de) the Hohenheim University in Stuttgart. 

The Anoshe Group is financially self-sustaining and created several direct and indirect jobs for the youth in the region. The group revenues generated through sales of farm yields and empowerment of vulnerable groups demonstrate that farming as enterprise could mitigate youth migrating to Europe with the needed support offered to them to venture into agribusiness.

In conclusion, this intervention provides evidence that diaspora youth could be positive agents of transformative change based on the rich experience and networks developed in Europe. However, this is only possible with the right individual motivation and appropriate incentives to give back to communities of origin back home in Ghana. 

Contact e-mail: cosmas.lambini@bvng.org
This blog acknowledges funding from The Migrant Media Network (https://migrantmedia.network/):“Engaging Diaspora and Potential Migrants on Safe Migration and Positive Alternatives”. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author only.

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