Sociology Mind
2014. Vol.4, No.1, 1-14
Published Online January 2014 in SciRes (
Youth and the 21st Century South-North Migration: In Search
of a More Relevant Perspective on Causes, Trend and Flow
Michael Onyedika Nwalutu
Humanities, Social Sciences and Social Justice Education, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education,
University of Toronto, Toronto, Ca nada
Received October 3rd, 2013; revised November 12th, 2013; accepted November 26th, 2013
Copyright © 2014 Michael Onyedika Nwalutu. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative
Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium,
provided the original work is properly cited. In accordance of the Creative Commons Attribution License all
Copyrights © 2014 are reserved for SCIRP and the owner of the intellectual property Michael Onyedika Nwa-
lutu. All Copyright © 2014 ar e guarded by law and by SCIRP as a guardian.
Advancement in communication and transport technologies has reduced the world to a global community.
This has also improved and therefore increased potentials for the movement of individuals, commodities,
and capitals across international borders as they respond to global political and socio-economic stimuli. It
is apparent though, that transnational borders are relatively more open to capital and commodities than
they are to migrant individuals. However, there are vast literature and data on the socio-political and eco-
nomic dimensions of adults’ involvement in international migration. But the youth are treated as part of
their families; hence very few literatures that devoted to youth migration exist. But movement of young
adults as independent transnational migrants is an emerging trend in international migration. In this paper,
I examined existing perspectives on causes, trend and flow of the 21st century youth transnational migra-
tion with a view to providing appropriate lenses for understanding the phenomenon, particularly as it af-
fects the contemporary massive flow of youth from developing African economies to the industrialized
Europe. Reviewed literature focused on the “push and pull” factors considered to be wielding major in-
fluence on migration-decisions of transnational migrant subjects. Push and pull approaches essentially
construct immigrants as problems to receiving countries. This paper advances the understanding of youth
migration from indigenous and anti-colonial perspective in order to disrupt and disturb existing ap-
proaches and give a more pellucid lens for understanding this emerging social trend. Significant attempt
was made in this paper to highlight the often overlooked outcome of transnational migration which, to the
sending and receiving nations, has both positive and negative reflexes. The underlying assumption of the
theoretical approach is that any appropriate theory that will inform meaningful migration policy formula-
tion on youth transnational-migration experiences, must consider the cultural environment of these youth.
It must as a matter of necessity consider the influence of colonization and neo-colonial processes on their
remote social spaces, and engage relevant strategies to establish ways in which reinventing the indigenous
worldviews subverted by colonization can equip and empower local youth, thereby balancing, if not re-
ducing the negative trend in transnational youth migration.
Keywords: Transnational; Youth; Migration; Policies; Trend; Flow
Advancement in communication and transport technologies
has reduced the world to a global community. This has also im-
proved and therefore increased potentials for the movement of
individuals, commodities, and capitals across international bor-
ders as they respond to global political and socio-economic
stimuli. It is apparent though, that transnational borders are
relatively more open to capital and commodities than they are
to migrant individuals. And while there are copious literature
and data on the socio-political and economic dimensions of
adults involved in international migration, the youth are treated
as part of familial collectives; hence very few literatures that
devoted to youth migration exist. But movement of young
adults as independent transnational migrants is an emerging
trend in international migration. Since existing transnational
migration policies are adult-specific, transnational migrant youth
might be facing peculiar social, legal and documentation chal-
lenges in several fronts.
This paper examines existing perspectives on causes, trend
and flow of the 21st century migration with a view to both pro-
viding appropriate theoretical lenses for understanding the phe-
nomenon, and accentuating the urgent need for a reinvention of
African indigenous worldvi ews to make positive changes to the
experiences of African youth involved in transnational mi-
gration. This paper is necessitated by contemporary massive
flow of youth from developing African economies to the indu-
strialized world. The underlying assumption to this theoretical
approach is that any appropriate theory that will inform mea-
ningful migration policy formulation, with a specific interest on
youth transnational experiences, must consider the cultural en-
vironment of these youth. It must as a matter of necessity con-
sider the influence of colonization and neo-colonial processes
on their remote social spaces, and engage relevant strategies to
establish ways in which reinventing the indigenous worldviews
subverted by colonization can equip and empower local youth,
thereby reducing the unhealthy trends in youth emigration. My
analysis will be shaped therefore by anti-colonial, framework
and African indigenous worldviews. Analytical approach an-
ti-colonial framework and African indigenous worldviews are
discourses that challenge all manifestations of discrimination,
hegemony and imposing structures, ideas and practices of cul-
tural and socio-political domination. This study, beyond in-
spiring the formulation of new policies on transnational migra-
tion, intends to contribute to literature on youth migration.
Locating Myself in the Work
About fifteen years ago in Benin City, Edo State Nigeria I
had sever difficulty digesting the news of and cushioning the
shock from the death of two of my diploma students who at-
tempted to migrate to Europe. As a lecturer, then with the Fed-
eral University of Technology Owerri FUTO, Benin Extension,
I found it difficult to understand why these young adults with
promising future were convinced to take the trip, what their
aspirations were; what informed their decisions to emigrate and
the ordeals that ended their lives so abruptly. The story of their
gory deaths, one across the Sahara Desert and the other afloat a
raft crossing the Mediterranean Sea from North Africa was so
hard for me to bear that in 1999, I left the institute. Today, as a
Western-educated Nigerian migrant residing in Canada I can
attempt to answer some of the questions surrounding why
adults like me would decide to leave our familiar environments
of birth, ignoring the uncertainties of being an alien in a foreign
country and migrating thousands of miles across transnational
borders to find new abodes overseas. I was nudged to rethink
my positioning as a Nigerian endowed with Western education
on the 31st of March, 2005 during my trip to secure a permanent
residence in Canada. Because our flight made a stop-over in
Netherlands en route to Canada, during check-in routines, my
wife and I, as young African migrants were surprisingly sepa-
rated from the queue and taken into an office with complex
surveillance technologies for special checks on our travel-
documents. Apologies were made to us later and we were hur-
ried into the plane. This experience, discriminatory and racia-
lizing as it was, did set in a dissonance that kept me ruminating
over my belief and pride in my Western education. This also
left me with the lingering question, Why Nigerian youth? For it
is still astonishing that despite daily inundation with news of
tragic ordeals of young Nigerians involved in migration across
the international boundaries to Europe, Nigerian youth are more
than ever ready to risk it to Oversea. Also the current global
economic recession digging at the heels of most nations in-
cluding European nations—means hostili ty from the citizens of
these nations who would look on immigrants with suspicion-
that they constitute strains on their nations dwindling resources
(Kimon, 2009; Ngai,2005; Li, 2003). I most certainly acknow-
ledge, as a matter of intellectual humility, the privilege I enjoy
as a naturalized citizen of Canada, and a student of one of the
best post secondary institutions in Canada, and must not there-
fore, assay a claim that arguments raised in this work represent
the opinions of millions of transnational migrants out there who
neither can boast of attaining similar socio-political status, and
afford the simplest shelter over their heads as legal migrants,
nor be endowed with economic capacity to receive any kind of
formal education in transition, as I presently do. I am therefore
writing bestride two worlds—one in which academic, economic
and socio-political privilege enjoyed by a few negates the right
of other citizens enmeshed in bureaucratic bottlenecks and pol-
icy imperativesand the other in which the limitations im-
posed on me by natural positioning in birth, political policies
and material realities of the social environment conflate to re-
define migrants identity and humanity. I am writing from the
standpoint of epistemic saliency defined by George Sefa Dei
(2011) as speaking from the authenticity of one’s own expe-
riences and voice. In other words, a space that allows a local
subject to speak of his/he r informed knowledge-base as distinct
from being spoken for. It is the consciousness of my position-
ing in these two distinct worlds and inherent experiences which,
constantly nudge me up to attempt to explore the ever-widening
gap between the transnational migrants (specifically, migrant
youth) and the receiving societies that informs my decision to
explore in this work, the theoretical explanations on the causes
and flow of youth transnational migration. Three questions will
guide the thrust of this paper, which includes: how are coloni-
zation and current neo-colonial projects in countries of origin
serving to prepare people (specifically, youth) to be prospective
migrants, and equip them to respond to the challenges imposed
by t hei r status as immigrants? What role could the disruption of
the various indigenous practices by colonization be playing in
the current youth emigration from the global South to the North?
How might we begin to rethink youth transnational migration?
Review of Literature
The literature used in this review fall into two major catego-
ries: scholarly academic contributions, and studies and reports
conducted by renowned international agencies and organiza-
tions such as the United Nations, UN, International Organiza-
tion for Migration, IOM, the World Bank, to mention a few.
Under academic contributions, the broad perspective examines
conceptual issues of migration such as the pressing need to
theorize migration: its causes, motives, processes and conse-
quences. The studies and reports of international organizations
on the other hand, are shaped by the urgent need for an in-
formed data on transnational migration, including: statistical
information on its global political and socio-economic conse-
quences; and documented demographic data on transnational
migrants. Each of these broad categories of information is
deemed relevant for predicting the trend and patterns of inter-
national migration in other to develop policies and praxis that
will both ensure good management of transnational migration
and safeguard the rights of migrant individuals across interna-
tional border.
Transnational Migration Defined
Before delving into the question of how current neo-colonial
projects in countries of origin serve to prepare people (specifi-
cally, youth) to be prospective migrants, and equip them to re-
spond to the challenges imposed by their status as immigrants, I
will attempt to define the concept, migration. In natural and so-
cial spheres, the world’s geographical, economic and technolo-
gical resources are not equally distributed. This means that to
survive, living organisms, including human beings may, at a gi-
ven time, leave certain locations in which they are running out
of resources that meets their survival needs, or in which their
survival is challenged and prospects of procreation questioned,
for areas they can thrive. Such programmed movement in large
numbers, of a species to new locations of survival is deemed
migration. In the words of Clugston (1998) migration is “The
seasonal movement of, usually, whole population of organisms
in response to environmental stimuli such as temperature and
daylight hours” (p. 501). In human societies, because migration
is a demographic process that can bring about changes in the
size of human population in a geographical space, its demo-
graphic importance is equated albeit differently with mortality
and fertility. Teevan (1992) states that, “Human migration can
be defined simply as the movement of people across significant
boundaries for the purpose of permanent settlement” (p. 531).
So, who is an international migrant? The significant words in
the definitions of migration above include movement, bounda-
ries and settlement. International migrants therefore are persons
who travel from their countries of birth, across transnational
boundaries into a destination country where they would live
temporarily or permanently. “The termmigrantis understood
to mean any person who lives temporarily or permanently in a
country where he or she was not born, and has acquired some
significant social ties to this country(UNESCO, n. d.). Thus,
it includes those who enter a country irregularly, through traf-
ficking or fleeing from human rights violations, as well as im-
migrants who are regularly (legally) and permanently present in
a country. For these reasons, it has been repeatedly emphasized
that deprivation of human rights in countries of origin is a fore-
most migration push factor (see also Save the Children, 2008;
ECA, 2006; Abramovich, Cernadas, & Morlachetti, 2011).
Theorizing the Causes, Trend and Flow of 21st
Century Transnational Migration
Scholars of international migration and economy have con-
tinued to speculate on factors that nurture the desire of individ-
uals to migrate from their countries of origin to foreign coun-
tries (Chua, 2003; Castle & Miller, 2009; Appadurai, 1996).
Outstanding among the factors originally thought to be insi-
nuating this movement from developing to the developed na-
tions were the push and pull factors which include: poverty,
overpopulation, unemployment, environmental degradation,
war, natural and man-made disasters (Simms, 2009; Mueller,
2009; Chomsky, 2006; Klein, 2007). There is also an argument
of thought that some economic or fiscal structural policies and
changes exerted on developing economies by the West and
Western-based international agencies such as the World Bank
and IMF have been majorly though indirectly responsible for
this trend in migration (Valiani, 2012; Adepoju, 1993; Parrenas,
2005; Sassen, 1988). Among relevant narratives is that of the
inflow of migrant youth from the so called minorities of Europe.
This flow informed by the 1991 disintegration of the former
Soviet Union generated a pattern and flow of immigrants from
Eastern to Western Europe, such as from the Balkan states and
less economically buoyant members of the European Union, to
the more industrialized European states which is met with stiff
resistance by both the states and citizens of main destination
countries. As depicted in the dialogue session of Youth in Eu-
rope organized by the European Youth Centre of the Council of
Europe, in destination countries such as Switzerland, Austria,
Germany, Australia, Denmark, France Sweden, Italy, the UK,
Slovenia and Greece the current relationship between immi-
grant European youth and their host societies have been largely
characterized by issues of socio-economic dimensions. Most of
the existing challenges stem from ignorance, prejudice, stereo-
types and media influence (European Youth Centre of the
Council of Europe, 2010). Agitations are also polarized depen-
ding on which side an individual finds her/himself. While youth
participants in this session, as prospective immigrants, appeal
for the recognition of their rights as migrants based on the ar-
ticles of the European Convention on Human Rights; citizens of
the host societies nudged by the current global economic reces-
sion perceive immigrant youth as threats—and look on immi-
grants with suspicion—that they constitute strains on their na-
tions dwindling resources (see Wong, 2009; IOM, 2009). Nev-
ertheless, transnational mobility of human (labor), goods and
money is vital for transfer of knowledge, ideas, capital and en-
trepreneurial skills, although as observed earlier international
borders are more porous to goods and capital than to people
(Allen, 2008; Solimano, 2010). This is not different from what
obtains in North America. In Canada and to a large extent, the
United States of America discourses around the experiences of
immigrants are not divorced from the questions of discrimina-
tions based on ethnicity and race because the skin color of im-
migrants factors in directly or indirectly to often distort immi-
grants contributions to, and therefore influences how they are
perceived and received in North American spaces (Li, 2008;
Issahaku, 2008).
In her Mobility of labor and capital: A study in international
investment and labor flow, Sassen (1988) charts a different tra-
jectory by compellingly arguing that the West’s foreign inter-
ests in developing nations often masked in their Foreign Direct
Investments, FDI has much to do in disrupting existing subsis-
tence socio-economic structures; and nurturing people with
foreign ideological leaning, who are adapted, and therefore
addictive to foreign culture and taste in developing economies
(at the expense of the ir indigenous) systems; but also forcefully
displacing these category from their natural environment to the
foreign countries. This perspective is also shared in the World
on fire: How exporting free market democracy breeds ethnic
hatred and global instability, in which Amy Chua (2003) ar-
gues that rather than ensconcing peace and development West-
ern projection of free market and democracy to developing
economies tends to yield economic and cultural conflict, and
socio-political displacement of people in developing countries.
From the foregoing, the displacement of individuals from their
countries of origin among other factors becomes one of the
major forces of the South-North migration, and the counter bor-
der gate-keeping measures in receiving nations create the no-
tion of illegal immigration which itself results from binary cate-
gorization of migrants into wanted and unwanted, desirable and
undesirable immigrants (Li, 2003). Nevertheless, the phenome-
nal and persistent rise on the cases of African youth emigrating
to European countries; the paradox of defying the uncertainties
of transnational migration, and the emerging economic and lo-
gistics crisis in receiving nations are enough evidence that the
motives, patterns and costs of the 21st century youth migration
on all the parties concerned are unscathed by the current thrusts
of discourses and speculations in finding solution to the prob-
Patterns of Migration and Why People Migrate
Again, reflecting on Giovanni Arrighi (1994)’s work on the
system of capitalist expansion that has bedevilled the world
from the earlier part of 20th century, which metamorphosed into
today’s globalization, it becomes imperative to connect coloni-
zation with the spread of Western militancy and use of force in
quest for control of economic territories from Europe to the
Americas, to Africa, Asia and the rest of the world (see also
Allen, 2008). In many of the periods of capital expansion Ar-
righi portrayed, what is not highlighted is the subtle link colo-
nization of indigenous peoples’ culture and ways of knowing
shared with the colonizers’ ploy of raising from the ashes of the
ruins they created, a host of migrant laborers who, being equip-
ped with Western education and culture may no longer find
themselves relevant in their environments and cultures of birth
but must migrate to serve at the master’s tables. Anderson
(2006) in the Colonial pathologies: American tropical medicine,
race, and hygiene in the Philippines shows how the United
States’ colonization of Philippines in the late 19th century shap-
ed the present pattern and flow of contemporary emigration of
Filipino labor to the US, in which, their skills and qualification
were under-valorized, and they were both under-employed, ex-
ploited and underpaid.
In a different thrust, the Norwegian Emigration Center con-
ducted a session on Youth and Migration aimed at providing
European youth with a basic knowledge of migration so as to
help them understand the causes and course of action in the 21st
century migration with a view to drawing connection between
the emigration of Europeans to the “New World” in the last two
centuries and the twenty first century immigration taking place
today. Documentation of the outcome of this session is critical
to this paper because of its emphasis on the need to create glob-
al awareness on tolerance amongst immigrants sending and re-
ceiving societies of the world, especially among young peoples.
According to the Norwegian Emigration Center (2008), know-
ledge of the processes of migration will provoke discourses on
the concept between young people from the various European
cultures and other parts of the world, including: USA, Latin
America, Africa and Asia, which in turns will be a potent wea-
pon to eliminate xenophobia by entrenching better understand-
ing, openness and tolerance between the native inhabitants and
the immigrants of Europe. It is a stunning discovery that two to
three hundred years after the major emigration of citizens of
Europe to the Americas, Africa, New Zealand, Australia etc.,
the same set of motives and compelling factors could be traced
to underpin most of the current migration of peoples from the
former recipient nations to Europe. “More than 50 million Eu-
ropeans, among them some 900,000 Norwegians, were direct ly
affected by a process that had fundamental consequences for
both the countries from which, and to which, the migrations
took place. To some, the motivation to emigrate was a desire
for freedom from religious and social oppression, while others
fled wars and persecution. However most of them pursued a
dream of improved economic circumstances” (p. 3). It is inter-
esting that Norwegian Emigration Center could draw connec-
tion between the past two centuries Europeans’ migration to the
New World and the present mass movement of people across
international borders, from the developing world to Europe. Of
considerable importance to this work though, is the observation
that the motives of the twenty first century immigrants are sim-
ilar to those of their peers in the previous centuries.
It is not an understatement to insist that international mobili-
ty of human (labor), goods and money is vital for transfer of
knowledge, ideas, capital and entrepreneurial skills, yet as not-
ed earlier transnational borders are more porous to goods and
capital than to people (Allen, 2008; Solimano, 2010). Going be-
yond the banality of push and pull debates on the factors un-
derlying the 21st century migration, Solimano, opting for a freer
and more humane international border management, extensive-
ly accentuates some critical themes on the contemporary globa-
lization as it affects the nations and nationals of source and
receiving countries. Most relevant to this paper is his insistence
that the global North should not always be fingered as prime
architect and culprit of current South-North flow in global mi-
gration. He argues that migration of citizens of the global South
to the North might and have been a response to economic and
political failures in the global South. In fact, his view affirms
Sefa Dei (2012), which blames the underdevelopment of the
Global South, specifically Africa, on poor judgment, misma-
nagement, and lack of accountability among the leadership.
This paper strongly suggests however that it might be simplistic
to ascribe all South-North movement of individuals across in-
ternational border to economic factors since a host of other
factors could possibly be at play. Also, as plausible as Solima-
no may sound, his work came short of drawing attention to how
the insidious, pervasive and pernicious Western socio-econo-
mic policies and practices has continued to perpetuate albeit
indirect hegemonic domination on the Southand through this
subtle processes—rendering all positive development efforts of
Southern economies ineffective, so that the developing coun-
tries of the South remain economically subservient to the indu-
strialized North. One good example is the structural adjustment
policies, SAP that was developed by the IMF/World Bank
(Bretton Woods Institutions) against Southern developing eco-
nomies. Because these practices have continued to weaken all
meaningful efforts made by most independent Southern states
towards economic self-sufficiency, one could justifiably claim
that the North is responsible for the economic woes of the glo-
bal South, and is therefore indirectly responsible for the current
trend in the South-North migration. It is however important to
mention that the pattern and flow of international migration is
no longer altogether mono-directional, as implied by South-
North migration. Instead, there are omni-directional flow of hu-
man, goods, capital, ideas, cultures and technology (Appadurai,
1996). For instance, as nationals of Southern states and raw ma-
terials migrate North, many Northern-based multi-national cor-
porations, in attempt to reduce manufacturing cost have resort-
ed to establishing oversea plants in developing countries, and
by deploying their technical and high management staff to these
Southern locations; North-South migration flow also takes
place. One of the positions of this work is that migration of in-
dividuals across national borders may be, not just as a result of
economic factor but due to other potential factors that are natu-
ral or socio-political in nature, example war or natural disaster.
I will argue that the current migration trends and patterns have
always revealed the fluidity of migration flow shaped by non-
palpable social and environmental factors as man-made or nat-
ural disasters, economic recessions and political instability. Im-
migrants’ demographic constitution therefore change from one
geo-ethnic location to another in varying times of history, and
so do destination locations change with time. For instance, in
late 19th century A. D, (1870-1914), citizens of Western Euro-
pean countries such as Ireland, Italy, Spain, Poland and the
Scandinavia formed the bulk of immigrants to the New World
countries comprising: the United States, Canada, Argentina, Af-
rica, Australia, Brazil and New Zealand (Solimano, 2010; Allen,
2008). But in the recent economic recession (2007-2009), be-
cause capital and labor flow simultaneously to nations that offer
better economic opportunities than what obtains in the migrants’
countries of origin; immigrants are met with hostility and skep-
ticism. Yet immigrants’ contribution to the economic prosperity
of host countries is indisputable (Deaux, 2006; Sassen, 1988;
Solimano, 2010).
Reconnecting with Sassen (1988) again, it would be noted
that from a broadly global perspective, her work insists that a
comprehensive analysis of factors prompting migrants to leave
their countries of origin to settle in foreign country must in ad-
dition to domestic considerations of sending and receiving na-
tions, reflect on how the foreign policies and economic practic-
es of receiving nations results in influx of migrants from deve-
loping economies, (one can point to the active role of US firms
in the disruptio ns of traditional e conomic structures due to large-
scale development of commercial agriculture with its associated
displacement of small holders and subsistence growers, or due
to massive recruitment of young women into labor for export
manufacturing). My position in this paper however, is that
while Sassen’s explanations of the connection between US fo-
reign policies, her economic practices and the flow of immi-
grant labor into the country may, to some extent be true of few
other developing economies, such bilateral links may not ade-
quately account for the massive exodus of citizens of a country
like Nigerian to Europe for instance, because no single Euro-
pean nation has the kind of massive foreign direct investments
in Nigeria that could wield the sort of monopolistic influence
Sassen illustrated. However, Western representation in Nige-
ria’s oil industry is increasingly enormous to entrench a differ-
ent kind of ideological influence in Nigeria’s socio-cultural
environment. In this respect, I would acquiesce in Sassen’s
argument on the indirect consequences of Western foreign di-
rect investment on developing countries to stress that “it is here
that the facts of foreign investment and general cultural Wes-
ternization acquire weight, as do a liberal immigration policy
and a tradition of immigration” (p. 7). On the other hand, the
spreading of US military bases in almost all the regions of the
world in which they have economic interest might create what
Amy Chua (2003) refers to as aggressive marketing of US free
market and democracy, which has the tendency to generate
middle-class political refugees who may share the desire to
emigrate to the US. If however the US economic, military and
diplomatic activities were strong inducers for citizens of de-
veloping countries to migrate to the US, the premise does not
substantiate contemporary surge in youth emigration from
Africa to industrialized countries of the North for instance. In
fact the reverse seems to be the case. Until recently, there has
been no apparent European military presence in Nigeria. Of
course, some diplomatic and economic ties thrive, especially in
Nigerian booming oil and gas industry. But there is no obvious
subversive diplomatic activities from the other European coun-
tries Nigerian youth tend to migrate to. It is interesting though
that Sassen believes that the foreign direct investment, FDI in
itself does not cause emigration but is a structure, a highly me-
diated process that creates conditions for emigration as an op-
Shifting from Sassen’s views on factors that forms, drives
and facilitates emigration of citizens from developing countries
to the industrialized North, Amy Chua (2003) argues that it is
the aggressive spread by the West (spear-headed by the US) of
free markets and democracy that creates the 21st century middle
class international migrant individuals. Chua is of the notion
that the internationalization of global economy (globalization)
which the United States of America is frantically marketing to
developing world has dire consequences in the socio-economic
and political stability of these nations. Her work features, for
the first time, ethnicity in the core of a thesis on globalization
and migration. She believes that Western propagation of free
market and democracy to developing world creates lopsided
binary powers in these nations that tend to instability and war.
A rich and economically powerful minority is created by free
market while democracy invents a politically powerful but eco-
nomically marginal large population which becomes envious
and resentful of the market dominant minority. Chua argues
that instability and war will result as globalization exacerbates
ethnic disparities in wealth and political power distribution,
thus producing a middle class refugee that emigrates to the
West. While Chua’s work is only indirectly linked to emigra-
tion, it is crucial for understanding how the mediated socio-
economic and political activities of the West have continued to
disrupt existing socio-economic equilibrium in the developing
countries. Chua is apt to argue that she does not aim to prevent
the promotion of free markets and democracy in the world but
insists that the version of free market and democracy exported
by the US is ill-conceived because no Western nation has
adopted the liaise–faire system that West is imposing on de-
veloping countries (see also: Sassen, 1988; and Adepoju, 1993).
Sequel to this direction of argument, this paper urges for a re-
evaluation of the IMF-World Bank hegemonic policies in de-
veloping economies as a way of understanding how its intro-
duction of structural adjustment policies manifests as cut-throat
measure to further cripple developing economies of the South.
While US and other Western countries subsidize farm produce,
award tax leverages to corporations and even dole out lump
sums as recovery loans to their suffering industries during eco-
nomic recessions, the West uses SAP to forbid such gestures in
developing economies and insists on open-door to free market
which exterminates domestic industries of poor nations and
force them to accept the role of dumping ground for Western
products, and to a large extent, foreign cultural practices. Chua
and Sassen however agree that Western external influences
pose disruptive threat to the socio-economic and political stabi-
lity of developing countries, resulting in the harvest of force-
fully displaced peoples from developing economies who mi-
grate as either economic or political refugees to the West.
Sculpting Sout hern Migrants: SAP to the Rescue of
Western Neo-Colonial Project
In the impact of structural adjustment on the population of
Africa: the implications for education, health & employment
Adepoju (1993) reviews the impact of the Western imposed
Structural Adjustment Policies, SAP on African nations shortly
after they gained political independence from Europe. He ar-
gues that the disruptions, stagnations and eventual decline of
the economic growth of independent African nations replaced
the optimism of Africans at the wake of their attainment of po-
litical independence from Europe. In his work which teases out
the socio-economic implications of SAP introduced to the nas-
cent African economies shortly after independence by the Wes-
tern-based Bretton Wood institutions (IMF and World Bank)
Adepoju incriminates the pre-independent structures craftily
established to perpetuate Africa’s supply of primary commodi-
ties, including labor to the industrialized world for the woes of
the continent, and therefore the current brain-drain in the con-
tinent. This is an economic position which in addition to the
imposition of Western colonial education provided no room for
environmentally relevant technological advancement. In Ade-
poju’s view this rather secures perpetual dependence on impor-
tation, and outsourcing of finished goods and technical man-
power from the West. Among the salient points in Adepoju’s
work was that SAP does not provide for African countries to
survive the effects of unfavorable long run external economic
shocks. The second point which is the most relevant to this
paper is that the structural adjustment programme has debilitat-
ing socio-economic consequences on citizens of Africa nations.
For instance, the removal of government subsidies from do-
mestic manufacturing systems, agriculture and the basic social
subsectors such as education and health; coupled with high
domestic interest rates resulted in closure of many domestic
businesses and manufacturing units. The resulting poverty, un-
employment and population surge boils down to regional and
international emigration. The serious but indirect effect of SAP
on African nations, as a hegemonic neo-colonial project that
could account for emigration of the citizens of Africa to the
West resonates with Sasken Sassen’s earlier arguments. How-
ever each differs on the nature of external influences. Sassen
believes that Western foreign direct investments, diplomatic
and military practices constitute some disruptive effects on the
existing socio-economic structures of developing countries,
which eventually facilitates the formation and flow of labor
migration to the West. Adepoju insists that the use of jeopar-
dizing fiscal policies on Africa by the Bretton Wood institu-
tions was the bane of the continent’s socio-economic life-wire.
Both Sassen and Adepoju agree however that the end result of
the negative external socio-economic pressure is the formation
of acceptable migrants, and eventual emigration of these indi-
viduals as political or economic refugees seeking safe haven or
greener pastures in the West.
This paper intends to shift the trajectory of the discourse by
arguing that if the other factors of migration Adepoju analyzed,
including: high population growth rate, poverty, economic
stagnation, and unemployment were to be the focus of analysis,
one would be playing into the hands of industrialized nations in
viewing migration as a domestic matter that lies solely in the
inadequacies of the sending nations, thus constructing transna-
tional migrant subjects as liability and therefore an unnecessary
burden to the receiving nations. This posture of argument ex-
onerates the West’s neo-colonial propagations from blames in
maltreatment of immigrants, thus granting automatic power to
the industrialized world to accept immigrants under stipulated
conditions. With the trajectory that views transnational migra-
tion from the lenses of labor and capital flow, Sassen (1988) as
in Solimano (2010) believes that while capital mobility has
necessitated mobility of labor, and economic practices collabo-
rate with technological advancement to create an international
space for the circulation of capital; it is actually a set of policies
originating in the West, specifically, the United States that de-
marcates, regulates and makes this space viable. In order words,
what could normally be seen as transnational movement can as
well be viewed as a movement within a single global entity in
which countries that are parties to international migration oper-
Sasken Sassen further explores how this transnational space
continues to influence the circulation of capital on international
labor formation which in itself shapes the pattern and flow of
migration of individuals. Interestingly, her work reviews Brim-
ley Thomas analysis of international migration in the Atlantic
economy of the 19th century which posits that free trade induces
international migration of labor and capital if subjected to im-
mobility of labor and capital across social classes. Sufficing to
argue that the emigration of labor and capital from England to
the United States within the century was informed by condi-
tions of social stratification which existed in England but was
absent in the United States. This leaves an unsavory question:
could this situation still account for the increasing emigration of
youth from the developing world to industrialized nations? To
this question this paper would differ, for going by the existing
arguments, the emigration of Nigerians for instance, applies to
a different historical period which might espouse a different
process of internationalization, leaders of organized investors
and locations of investment operation. Besides internationaliza-
tion of trade previously mentioned, today there is also the in-
ternationalization of production sites epitomized in foreign
investment so that one begins to examine the conditions under
which internationalization of production could generate labor
immigrations. Sassen locates the connection between national
labor migrations and internationalization of production at the
intersection of three prominent forms of internationalization,
viz: development of (for export) production in several develop-
ing nations in the later part of the century, such as the sub-con-
tracting, off-shore production sectors and export processing
zones; the development of major cities into centers for the con-
trol and management of global economic systems; and lastly,
the emergence of US as the major recipient of direct foreign
investment in the world. So by establishing the links between
USA and countries that become major senders of immigrants to
the US, the paper concedes to the argument that some forms of
internationalization of production could interact with basic so-
cio-economic conditions (such as poverty, overpopulation, war,
natural disaster, unemployment and so on), to generate mi-
gration inducing conditions. But the view that these factors are
the major causes of the 21st century migration is altogether un-
realistic because as suggested earlier in this paper, focusing on
these factors alone might give a constricted view that sees in-
ternational migration as a domestic problem that could be trac-
ed to the socio-economic inadequacies of the migrants’ countri-
es of origin. Thus immigration becomes constructed as a prob-
lem for the receiving country, specifically, the West.
Transnational Migration in a Polarized World: Trend and
Flow as Functions of Unequal Power -Play
That governments of African nations (and of course other
sending countries of the South) wield a little or no influence on
welfare outcomes of their migrant citizens whose remittances
have so much implications for the fiscal well-being of their do-
mestic economies is highlighted in Ratha, Mohapatra, Özden,
Plaza, Shaw, and Shimeles (2011). Of great import to this paper
are the observations that information on the nature, impact and
patterns of migration is an indispensable precondition for im-
proved management of migration, and such understanding is
lacking among developing economies due to inadequate infor-
mation on migration processes in these countries. The paper
further shows that economic prosperity and acquisition of the
colonialist form of education influence the flow and pattern of
human migration from the developing South to the North. The
reverse is not the case with North-South migration, going by
the earlier discussion. Shimeles et al. also observes that appro-
ximately two-thirds of migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa, es-
pecially migrants who are both economically indigent, and do
not possess some recognized level of Western education mi-
grate to other countries in their economic region. The contribu-
tion of their work to the understanding of migration patterns
and flow that is relevant to this paper is the connection it makes
between the economic status of the migrants and the destination
of migrants. The economic status of migrants is often one of the
factors determining how far and to what destination they can go.
For example migrants from richer countries tend to migrate
more to destinations outside Africa, while potential migrants
from economically disadvantaged countries would choose to
migrate more to their neighboring countries, assessed to have
more buoyant economies. The argument raised here might well
apply to adult migrants, but the spontaneity and flux in the 21st
century youth migration, as observable from other data sources
(see IOM, 2009; Collins, 2011; Higley, Nieuwenhuysen, &
Neerup 2011; and European Youth Centre MOE, 2010) seem to
contradict this claim. In fact, poor migrant youth from Eastern
Europe and Asian countries as well as those from the Middle
Eastern and North African countries seem to be influenced by
economic status only with respect to the mode of transportation
and movement they employ during their migration, but not their
choice of destination countries. The outstanding thesis of the
above analysis that this paper also considered critical to under-
standing migration causes, patterns and flow is the revelation
that current patterns and trends of migration are shifting with
demographic composition of migrants. Noteworthy is the result
of household surveys conducted in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Nige-
ria, and Senegal which shows “that migrants tend to be young
adults (two-thirds of Burkina Fasos emigrants were between
the ages of 15 and 40) and male (more than 90 percent in Bur-
kina Faso), generally with some education beyond primary
school” (p. 2). This observation is in agreement with most of
the literature used and is an indication that studying the causes,
patterns and flow of transnational migration as well as the mi-
gratory experiences of youth is urgently becoming a necessary
step towards generating crucial data to enhance reasonable and
humane policies for both the citizens and migrants in global so-
Gender and t he Flow of Transnational Migration
It is important to explore the influence of gender on the pat-
terns and flow of the 21st century migration. Salima Valiani
draws from Nicola Piper’s edited volume on New Perspectives
on Gender and Migration to accentuate the pattern of feminiza-
tion of migration flow over the past five to ten years which she
traces to four phenomenal shift in global socio-economic struc-
tures to include: improved statistical visibility of women as
migrants, increasing participation of women in most migration
streams, growing unemployment among men in migrant-send-
ing countries, and increasing demand for labor in feminized
sectors in migrant-receiving countries (Valiani, 2012). The pa-
per argues that more than anything else, the change in socio-
cultural norms, values and mores in developing countries, has
greater impact on the gender constituents of migrating catego-
ries. It is also the view of the paper that the effects of coloniza-
tion on mostly indigenous societies of the South tended to sub-
vert and modify gender roles in developing economies which
might account for the increased recognition of women’s roles in
the flow of international migration. Drawing on DESA (2006)
which projected figures indicates that female international mi-
grants constitute almost fifty per cent of all migrants in the year
2005, as compared to forty seven per cent in 1960, Valiani’s
work elaborates on the complicit activities of some migrants’
state of origin in the preparation and export of labor to receiv-
ing countries (mostly Western economies). A good example be-
ing the roles of the Philippines’ state policies in establishing the
country as the leading international exporter of labor. By chal-
lenging the popular Push and Pull explanations, Valiani under-
scored the role of structural adjustment programs of the 1980s
as giving rise to low wage employment, and in turn, labor mi-
gration. He argues that “it is the historically-entrenched struc-
ture of the Philippines state which is underlined here. It is ar-
gued that the Philippines state embarked upon a labor export
policy, from the early 1970s due to contradictions arising from
trade relations shaped under colonialism, severely unequal
land distribution, and weighty US American political influence
(Valiani, 2009: p. 114). While her work affirms the arguments
of Adepoju (1993), Sassen (1988) and Amy Chua (2003) res-
pecting the role of the West in the formation of Southern mi-
grant subjects, and the flow of labor from developing countries
to the Western industrial capitals, it falls short of revealing how
the potential South-North Philippines migrant subject (for in-
stance) are complicit to their lopsided immigration experiences
and has little or nothing pointing to the surge in youth transna-
tional migration. Also the migrants are depicted in Valiani’s
work as devoid of agency—being victims of their own state ar-
chitecture, and those of Western neo-colonial propagation. Yet
they are not, if we consider Fanon’s injunction on matters of
imposition of domination and hegemony. In fact, a deconstruc-
tion of her work would show how, by acquiring Western educa-
tion and trainings the migrants began to perceive the indigenous
Philippines’ traditions and environment in the spectacles of the
West and by themselves nursed and executed the desire to mi-
grate to the Americas.
Migrant Subj e ct and Identity-Crisis, the Legal and
Illegal: South-North Mi grants and Transnational
Border Surveillance
Immigrants and international border restrictions are becom-
ing predictable oxymoron. It is no longer a myth that series of
political and socio-economic activities of industrialized North
have continued to perpetuate disruptions in the developing
South (Simms, 2009; Chomsky, 2006; Willinsky, 1998), con-
stituting citizens previously settled and peaceful into stateless
forced migrants ( Baxter, 2008; Chua, 2003). These forcefully
displaced migrants, mainly from the global South are continu-
ously faced with enormous restrictive rules designed to check
their entry into receiving societies of the North. Michelle Low-
ry and Peter Nyers (2003) explore the global movements of re-
fugee and migrant rights. Their work expresses concern on the
impact of the heightened securitization of migrants and intensi-
fication of selective surveillance on the cultures of political asy-
lum (of countries like Canada for instance), as it affects interna-
tional freedom of movement. The key idea pervading their
work remains the identification of the verity and source of mi-
grants’ political agency. Lowry and Nyers’ work as expose on
critical border interactions between migrants and receiving na-
tions, shows different measures adopted to refuse immigrants
entry when state and media prey on their citizens’ gullibility by
framing migrants as murderers (Australia), criminals, and fa-
natical terrorists (Europe). The work in addition reflects on
struggles of activists for migrant rights, and the migrant peoples’
resistance. It draws extensively from Mai Kaneko’s and Helena
Schwenken’s contributions on the active contestation of op-
pressive and restrictive immigrant and refugee policies in Af-
ghanistan, Canada, the European Union, Australia, and Japan.
With no intention to negate existing international laws, my
views in this paper are different from Lowry and Nyers position.
In fact, there seemed not to be any trace of international free-
dom of movement for citizens of the Southern hemisphere at
any particular point in the history of colonization and Western
domination. What apparently exists is an international freedom
of movement that is limited to citizens of specific race who ap-
parently share lasting immunity over international border sur-
veillance systems. Because of the obvious imbalance in the
power dynamic between industrialized countries of the West
and independent countries of the South, the identity of privi-
leged citizens of the Northern states are constructed to permeate
with no restrictions, the territorial borders of developing coun-
tries of the South either for leisure-seeking or official diplo-
matic r ela tions at a ny time or within a given period. This binary
construction of peoples’ identifiers into legal, and illegal; citi-
zen and alien, smuggled or trafficked or genuine and refugee
could in fact be traced to the previous colonization and hege-
monic domination of most countries of the global South by Eu-
rope and other colonizers. It is as Sassen (1988) suggested ear-
lier, a ploy to tag immigrants as “problem” to the receiving na-
tions (see also: Sharma, 2008, Li, 2003). It is therefore the view
of this paper that the lopsided power relationship in interna-
tional boundary policing and surveillance is a renewed ploy of
Western colonial overlords to control the flow and trend of
transnational migration by tightening their hegemonic grips on
the rest of the world.
In an attempt to expose the challenges posed by ambiguities
and insecurities resulting from the erosion of the traditional
components of modernity to both the sovereign subject and
sovereign nation state as it affects transnational borders and
regulation of national border-crossing migrant, Kapur (2005)
examines how the current extraordinary movement of people
across international borders exposes “the porosity of borders,
the transnational reality of subaltern existence, and the contin-
gent foundation of international law(p. 137), by interrogating
how, on one hand, encounters with the constitutive “Others”, or
the transnational migrant subject disrupts and disturbs univer-
salists’ notion of international law, and on the other, the mod-
ernists’ perspective on international law that attempts to counter,
curtail, restrict and resist the cross-border migrants. Kapur’s
work is relevant to this paper in helping to expose the power
imbalance in the management of international border and
movement of goods and persons across these borders. It is es-
pecially disconcerting that the whole idea of universality of
cross-border movement as it relates to the international migrant
subjects receives its definition, interpretation and meaning from
the West. Documented evidence doesn’t however suggest that
citizens of the industrialized West are more involved in trans-
national migration than citizens of the developing South (Hig-
ley, Nieuwenhysen, & Neerup, 2011; Deaux, 2006). This lop-
sided structure and control system ostensibly apportions power
of attorney of international borders to Western states and their
citizensto enter and leave any sovereign territory without
restrictionwhen such opportunities are denied international
migrant subjects from the South. If therefore the legitimacy in
international law as it affects cross-border migration is vali-
dated, challenged or altered based on the individual’s position
about modernist argument of human progress, or level of align-
ment with the dominant social group, it leaves much to be de-
sired. Deaux (2006) reviewed how the patterns of US immigra-
tion influence domestic policies to explain how combination of
three socio-political factors—policies, demography and social
representation—have continued to shape the trends and flow of
contemporary transnational migration and immigrant experi-
ences. In his view, United States government’s policies on im-
migration and the demographic realities of the country are two
elements interlocking to produce specific flow into the country
and immigrants’ experiences in the United States. The third fac-
tor, social representation is not as tangible as demographic data,
yet is, according to Deaux, even more critical in shaping immi-
grants’ experiential realities in their host society. Social repre-
sentation as the articulation of “attitudes and images that a
community holds about immigrationin general, as well as
about particular groups of immigrantsis a critical member of
the triad( p. 13). This becomes the case considering that often
policies are influenced by the subjective views of a country’s
authority rather than on objective derivatives of data analysis.
In the same vain the process of social representation and inter-
pretation of events, ideas and processes also influence a peo-
ple’s political actions. The primary thesis of his paper is that a
shift in public opinion in the US for instance, resulted in the
1986 promulgation of Immigration Reform control, as a pre-
cautionary deterrent measure to replace open door policies with
border surveillance and gate-keeping aimed at checking the
surge in illegal immigration and punishing those who are im-
plicated in the influx of illegal immigrants. This paper argues
however that Deaux subsumed the experiences of transnational
migrant youth in his analysis of the US national Immigration
Reform control of 1986, for we are learning nothing special
about how this restriction of immigrant flow influenced youth
migrants’ experiences in the country. Also his work did not
show the voices and opinions that were silenced even among
the US citizenry, for it was certainly the voices and opinions of
the dominant Euro-Americans individuals that are reified and
valorized as the voice of America. In other words it is the opin-
ion of this segment of Americans that determines who becomes
legal, or illegal and who must be repatriated or retained to be-
come American citizen—not the opinions of the indigenous
peoples of America, African Americans, Latin Americans and
other immigrant settlers—whose narratives must not be swept
under the carpet if the history of United States must be viewed
through a holistic spectacle.
In a comparative analysis of the efforts of immigration au-
thorities in the United States and Australia to effectively sustain
a balance between the continuous large-scale inflow of immi-
grants majority of whom were from developing countries, and
the task of immigrants’ economic and social integration Higley,
Nieuwenhysen and Neerup (2011) corroborate Deaux (2006)’s
thesis of the use of social representation by the citizenry to
construct images and identities of immigrants. Relevant to this
paper is the demonstration which, derives from their earlier
work, the Nation of Immigrants, that so long as positive econo-
mic conditions thrive, state authorities would have no difficul-
ties balancing the surge of immigration and the pressure such
influx poses on available socio-economic amenities and life
support systems, but this is not the case during economic reces-
sions. Sufficing to argue that immigrants are made scape-goat
of the destination countries economic woes. Nevertheless, Hig-
ley, Nieuwenhysen and Neerup only featured the experiential
realities of adult migrants with no details of how social repre-
sentation, immigration policies made by authorities at various
periods of economic shifts, and the economic condition influ-
ence the current outburst of transnational youth migrants. In the
Migration and remittances: Eastern Europe and the former
Soviet Union, Mansoor and Quillin (2007) analyzed the flow of
persons, capital and commodities from Eastern Europe and
former Soviet Union into Western Europe. This work docu-
ments the history and flow of migration and migrants remit-
tances since the dissolution of the former Soviet States, and
discusses the determinants of migration. The study also at-
tempts to tease out some tentative policy interventions that
might limit the negative effect of emigration and brain-drain
(outflow of individuals who constitute the workforce) in de-
veloping economies while enhancing the gains from migration
and remittances for countries affected by transnational migra-
tion and for migrants and their families. Migration thus remains
the crucial part of socio-political and economic shift process in
Eastern Europe and Central Asia (ECA) sequel to the dissolu-
tion of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republic. Interes-
tingly aging population and economic motivations, as is the
case with Europe and North America remain the most driving
force in labor migration in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
The initial migration was spurred by the emigration of former
citizens of Soviet states who suddenly became statelessto the
ethnic and traditional homelands. Also the creation of new bor-
ders, political conflict, and the removing of restrictions placed
on movement by the Soviet regime paved way for a larger and
second flow of migration necessitated by new economic op-
portunities. The drive for permanent migration and flow of un-
documented migrants is therefore informed by the structure of
immigration policies applicable to immigrants from ECA who
are migrating into Western Europe and other immigrant-recei-
ving countries in Commonwealth of Independent States.
The pattern of migration in Europe and Central Asian region
is appreciable but distinctive. It is important to observe that in
addition to intra-regional migration happening within industrial
countries of ECA, the region is still responsible for sending out
a large proportion of immigrants of world migration. According
to Mansoor and Quillin (2007), migration patterns in the East-
ern European region is spelt out in two-pronged pattern—on
one end is the system that emerged among the countries of
Western, Central, and Eastern Europe and on the other, a sys-
tem of movement involving the countries of the Common-
wealth of the Independent States (CIS). It is important to high-
light the pattern indicating that as majority of migrants from
Central Asia travel to the industrialized CIS countries like Rus-
sia and Kazakhstan, some migrate further west in search of
more vibrant economic conditions of living, thus finding hope
in the flourishing economic atmosphere of Turkey and the Eu-
ropean Union countries. The differences in the patterns and
flow of migration throughout Eastern-Europe and Central Asia
therefore could be explained by a combination of economic and
social motivation factors. In fact, a number of generic motiva-
tors seemed to add force to the decisions to migrate. Among
these motivators is the disparity in the developing countries’
gross domestic product and per capita income which, as hinted
earlier in this literature, implies that the widening of the fiscal
gap in income between the industrialized and developing eco-
nomies in the ECA sub-region is a major barrier to surmount if
equilibrium must be struck in migration imbalances in the sub-
region. In the report on migration and remittances in Eastern
Europe and the former Soviet Union, it is argued that anticipa-
tion of better economic possibilities at home or abroad is also
an undeniable factor contributing to population movements.
These socio-economic considerations fall under the category of
push and pull migration inducing factors. It is observed among
other things that anticipation of higher level of income, greater
chances of finding employment and improved quality of life
abroad play a strong role in immigrant decision-making most of
the time, but the decision could also be influenced by a host of
other factors (Katsu, 2007; IOM, 2009; Shimeles, 2010; Soli-
mano, 2010). The saliency of economic needs as the major
factor of motivation in migration decision runs through most of
the works in the literature, but socio-political considerations
also featured in some African and Middle Eastern countries, as
well as in the ECA and the Commonwealth of Independent
countries in Europe. It is deducible at this juncture that all lite-
rature reviewed have in different perspectives theorized the
causes, trends and flow of migration through the lenses of adult
transnational migrant subjects. There has been no hint on what
inspires the youth to travel to settle in other countries as inde-
pendent migrants. Nor has there been disclosure on the flow
and trend of youth cross-border movement. But given youth’s
overwhelming participation in the 21st century cross-border
movement, there exists an urgent need for social science scho-
lars, and stake-holders in transnational migration and policy
formulation to begin to re-imagine the whole process of trans-
border movement in terms of the motives, trends and flow of
youth migration, because this phenomenon deserves more at-
tention than it receives at the moment.
Perspectives on Youth Migration: What Factors
Move Youth to Cross International Borders as
Independent Migrants?
In The worlds potential migrants: Who they are, where they
want to go, and why it matters Esipova, Ray, and Srinivasan,
(2010) observed through a survey on youth migration con-
ducted by Gallup from all the regions of the world that, “Fac-
tors that fuel the desire to leave ones country vary by country,
region, and human development level, but a common theme is
opportunitywhether it is the chance to reunite with family
members who are already abroad, to start a new business, to
feel free to express ones views without fear, or to live where
children are treated with respect” (p. 19). As earlier stressed,
the predominant emphasis is on migration and migrant deci-
sions and experiences of adults, while youth and children are
accounted for only as reuniting with family members who are
economically established abroad. This posture of reasoning
does not take into account the sheer size of youth migrants ad-
mitted to currently represent the largest segment of the 21st
century global migrant population. The most salient of the sur-
vey’s finding is the positive correlation between existence of
transnational social networks and the people’s desire to migrate.
In other words, a potential youth migrant develops the desire to
travel and live oversea after listening to the experiences of fam-
ily members, friends or others who have traveled oversea. Thus
social network becomes a kind of boulder of confidence for the
potential youth migrant to explore the oversea option. While
Esipova, Ray, and Srinivasan, (2010) framed their survey
around discourses of push and pullexperiences that many
scholars have viewed to be very parochial in understanding the
complexity of 21st century migration (Sassen, 1988; Valiani,
2012; Appadurai, 1993), the findings, specifically with respect
to increasing migration of young adults is important to this
paper. For instance, the observation that quest for employment
opportunities oversea is a determinant factor only to the desires
of older adults to migrate is in sharp contrast to earlier findings
that generalized this factor as a key motive for migration. “In
Europe, the Middle East and North Africa region, and the
Americas, older, underemployed adult s aged 30 to 65 are more
likely to say they would like to migrate than those who are the
same age and are employed or not in the workforce. Millions of
young people worldwide would move away from their countries
permanently if they had the opportunity, regardless of whether
they have jobs at home. In most places, except the Middle East
and North Africa, Gallup finds adults younger than 30 who are
employed, underemployed, or not in the workforce are equally
likely to desire to migrate” (p. 18). It was also obvious from the
responses that like in many other works analyzed in this paper,
employment opportunity, improved income and standard of
living remained the fundamental push and pull factors under-
pinning Egyptian youth migration. The International Organiza-
tion for Migration in Egypt conducted a survey to understand
how Egyptian youth perceived the social, political and eco-
nomic future of their country and to what extent the turmoil,
reform and uncertainty might directly or indirectly influence
their decision to migrate. The responses were affirmation of
findings of previous surveys and the current distribution of
Egyptians working abroad (Pitea & Hussain, 2011). “Young
Egyptians are willing to migrate mainly to Arab countries es-
pecially Saudi Arabia (26%), UAE (23%) and Kuwait (11%),
followed by the United States (12%) and Italy (5%)” (p. 6). It is
interesting to notice that the current political crisis and the re-
sulting socio-economic uncertainty in Egypt do not have a sig-
nificant impact on their decision to migrate. Fifteen per cent of
respondents agreed that the current situation makes them want
to migrate, while forty one per cent confirmed that the current
crisis situation has minor influence on their decision to migrate.
An upwards of forty four per cent of respondents indicated they
had decided to migrate before January 25, 2011 crisis. The
findings of this survey challenge some of the earlier works
suggesting that crisis situations in developing economies fan
people’s desire to migrate. However this could be true of adult
migrants, but this paper is focusing on independent youth mi-
grants. While theorizing youth’s transnational migration may
require more than reviewing the influence of colonization on
the migrant subject, this work strongly recommend that appro-
priate rethinking of this trend would do well to accentuate the
role of colonization and the disruption of migrants subjects’ in-
digenous cultural environment in generating potential transna-
tional immigrants in the 21st century.
Through the Lenses of Anti-Colonial Theory and
African Indigenous World-View
This paper will make a quick reference to Frantz Fanon
(1963)’s analysis of colonialism and its impact on the psyche of
the colonized peoples to explore ways in which colonial en-
counter has helped to create migrant subjects and shaped the
current trends in flow of transnational migration. Fanon’s trea-
tise on anti-colonial discourse helps our understanding of colo-
nialism and imperial power relations, social movement and the
politics of social liberation (Sefa Dei, 2010). This segment of
the paper uses anti-colonial theoretical framework and African
indigenous worldviews to foreground youth’s experiences in
the 21st century migration. As analytical approaches anti-co-
lonial discourse and African indigenous worldviews challenge
all manifestations of hegemony and imposing structures, ideas
and practices of socio-economic, cultural and political domina-
In this paper I argue that contrary to the dominant (coloniz-
ers’) views, what colonization introduced to the colonized
peoples of Africa were first the Arabic, then Western cultures,
ways of knowing and world-views that were deliberately im-
posed to subvert the existing ontological and epistemological
apparatuses of development, and ways of knowledge creation
and transmission rooted in the indigenous peoples’ spirituality.
It therefore becomes necessary to disturb and interrogate the
causes, trends and flow of African youth migration to Europe
using African indigenous worldviews because, first these youth
are sons and daughters of Africa, so, narratives on their lived
experiences will best be relayed around their peculiar philoso-
phy and knowledge base, and second, Western ways of know-
ing came with a hegemonic philosophy that continuously fail to
acknowledge the humanity of African peoples located in their
past history and civilization (Lebakeng, 2010), so it is impera-
tive that deconstruction of dominant worldviews becomes part
of this paper. Using anti-colonial theoretical lenses, this study
draws from Frantz Fanon’s analysis of colonialism and its im-
pact on the psyche of the colonized peoples to point to ways in
which colonization and neo-colonial socio-political structures
have continued to influence migration of young adults from
developing countries of the South to the industrialized North.
Interrogating the processes of 21st century youth migration us-
ing indigenous world views might provide an insight into the
insidious and pernicious impact of colonialism on the psyche of
individuals at societal level, an attempt that will potentially bud
opportunities towards decolonization of the minds of colonized
subjects (Wa Thiong’O, 1986; Memmi, 2004).
Subversion of Indigenous Education as It Affects
Transnational Youth Migration
A review of scholarly contributions and discourses on indi-
genous education reveals the massive disruptions and suppres-
sion induced on indigenous peoples’ cultural heritages by colo-
nization. This paper is arguing that such insidious, pernicious
and pervasive manipulation has helped in no small measure to
shape cultural perceptions of majority of the new generation
young Africans, and wet their appetite for the colonizers’ world
and world-views. African indigenous education is integrative;
job oriented education with emphasis on social responsibility,
political participation as well as spiritual and moral values. It
implies that children and adults learn while engaging in com-
munal social and economic activities; through ceremonies ri-
tuals, recitation and demonstrations. It also shows that practical
economic activities such as farming, fishing, weaving, cooking,
carving, and knitting were interlaced with recreational subjects
such as dancing, wrestling, acrobatic display and racing. While
intellectual exercises included studies of local histories, legends,
the environment (including local flora and fauna), poetry, prov-
erbs, mazes and riddles and storytelling. This integrated model
that combined physical education with character-building and
manual with intellectual activities is not rigidly hierarchized
and compartmentalized like the Western model (Fafunwa,
1974). Children are taught life-survival skills such as patience,
resilience, agility and resourcefulness; and tested appropriately
and one graduated into higher ranking age grades or social cat-
egories that serve as different levels of knowledge acquisition.
His illustration on indigenous education does not just situate
Africa as comprising different indigenous societies and cultures
with similar educational aims, but shows variation in the modes
and method of transmission. Outstanding in Fafunwa work is
the argument referring to Western writers who condemn Indi-
genous African education as punitive and barbaric, as products
of ignorance and lack of understanding of the process of infor-
mal education. Fafunwa’s observation is re-echoed in Lebakeng
(2010) and Sefa Dei (2010), on the urgent need for decoloniza-
tion exercise that would center African indigenous world views
in both educational and developmental projects of the continent.
Sefa Dei’s (2009)’s appeal is on democratization of knowledge
production and inclusion of the other ways of knowing. He
contests any manifestation of hegemony and oppression in the
educational policy formulation and implementation with partic-
ular reference to Africa. His is an all encompassing proposition
considering the present pluralistic and multi-culturally globa-
lized societies, meaning that irrespective of location, it would
amount to erroneous construction for any cultural group to
impose their belief systems or ways of knowing on others or
assume and claim superiority of their educational policies and
practices on others. The West (Europe) has peddled globaliza-
tion as the panacea to all problems of social, economic, and
educational factors tailored to engender modernization and
sustainable development. Since then, most elites of the devel-
oping nations Nigeria inclusive, having acquired Western edu-
cation, tend to digest it hook, nail, and sinker. Thus equipped
with pervasive and pernicious doctrine of global education
(devoid of any consideration of its relevance to their local en-
vironment, the indigenous youth became themselves agents for
destroying their own cultural heritages and indigenous ways of
knowing. This posture renders them irrelevant to their local
environment and converts them to potential migrants. It is vital
to stress that there is always a connection between the struc-
tures, practices and contents of education prevalent in a given
society and the overall developmental progress made by the
products of this system. Often, certain forms of education are
not universally applicable but environment-specific. These
forms of education are cultural in nature and emanate from a
people’s epistemic realities as they relate with their geo-spiri-
tual environment. For instance while Nigerians’ idea of devel-
opment embedded in indigenous African conception of devel-
opment tends to emphasize the articulation and interconnectiv-
ity of material well-being, philosophical, environmental, spiri-
tual and technological advancement, the West for instance fo-
cuses on material well-being at the expense of the holistic ap-
proach to social well-being. The conservative, Western notion
of development remains the external control and the re-colo -
nizing of indigenous communities into the wider “global cul-
tures of globalization, trade liberalization and ever-spreading
democracy” (Lauer, 2007 cited in Sefa Dei 2011). On the other
hand Abudu (1996) argues that neo-colonial ideologies have
reified global trade practices that perpetuate the conditions of
Africa’s “dependency on foreign aid and its economic incapac-
ity”. Therefore re-colonization is produced and reproduced by
forces of globalization and contemporary geo-politics of global
power structures. This paper insists that the imposition of for-
eign ideas of education and development on the developing
countries of the South through subtle economic manipulations
must be resisted if any meaningful impact must be made in
addressing youth migration through environmentally and cul-
turally relevant development efforts.
Sefa Dei (2011) in his indigenous philosophies and critical
education wonders if indeed contemporary African academia
would ever shed the slough of its colonial past which raises
concerns as to whether or not the focus should be on thrusting
aside the existing systemthat is replete with structures and
patterns of foreign hegemonies—and replacing it altogether
with new philosophical thoughts and indigenous knowledge re-
presentations. This becomes imperative as the past continues to
accord currency and validation to, and therefore is a representa-
tion of the essentialized (Western) ways of knowledge produc-
tion, legitimization and dissemination. Dei insists that as a body
of thought, indigenous knowledge is set in opposition to the
dominant ways of knowing, because it reveals itself “through
resistance as counter-hegemonic and as tangential to conven-
tional knowledge systems” (p. 2). Lending his voice to the call
for reinvention of indigenous philosophies of education Dei
opts for the counter-narrative that sees indigenous knowledge
as the body of indigenous social thoughts embedded with criti-
cal oppositional and resisting knowledge. In this way, he posits
philosophy as “a body of knowledge central to the epistemo-
logical framework, one that accords discursive authority, pow-
er and privilege onto the pedagogue” (p. 2). It is important
however to observe that Dei does not call for abrogation of
Western philosophy per se, but is challenging “the position-
ing/authenticity of the episteme, which reveals itself through a
particular historic primacy that at the same time forms colonial
relations with theOthereddiscursive episteme” (p. 2). In
other words philosophy should not be solely about what Europe
does but must also incorporate the philosophical articulations
on education of other peoples from distinct geo-cultural loca-
tions. In a similar scholarly contribution Wane (2011) examines
the epistemological underpinnings and contributions of African
indigenous healing practices to contemporary healthcare know-
ledge and practice in Kenya. This was aimed at drawing atten-
tion to African philosophical principles underlying the belief
systems, values, signs and practices—constructed around the
burgeoning realities of multiple ways of knowing—and embed-
ded in social phenomena such as intuitions, dreams, visions,
proverbs oral narratives, songs, fables, myths, superstitions, and
praxis in African spirituality. Her work is relevant in this paper
because it both highlights the need for recognition of indigen-
ous and challenges the dominant colonial oppressive know-
ledge systems and neo-colonial ideologies that privileges Wes-
tern thoughts on education, health and healing and repudiates as
primitive any frame of knowledge not located within the para-
meters of Cartesian or behaviorist terms. Wane’s work becomes
increasingly relevant to this paper in its reaffirmation of the
argument that the failure of Western educational systems (struc-
tures) and environments to validate non-Western ways of know-
ing is unfortunate colonial scheme. It argues that Western dis-
course on knowledge production has served to justify and legi-
timize neo-colonial vestiges in the contemporary educational
systems in all its manifestations. No doubt, the crop of Africans,
largely the youth, nurtured solely on the colonialists’ education
have little or no relevance, and therefore are incapacitated to
make any meaningful contribution to the development of their
indigenous societies. Wane advocates for all knowledge bases
to be open to academic and intellectual contestation as a meas-
ure toward advancing solid knowledge base critical for to uni-
versal growth and human development and based on this rea-
soning, posits the urgent “need for centering African research
on African indigenous systems of thought as a way of privileg-
ing and documenting that which has been decentered in the
Western discourse” (Wane, 2011: p. 283). However, as a way
of reclaiming African “indigenous knowledges as alternative
frameworks of historically denied values and worldviews
(Wane, 2011: p. 283), it is still expedient to highlight the need
to also contest non-Western hegemonic knowledge bases that
also imposed their civilizations on indigenous African ways of
knowing. For instance the Arab colonization and cultural sub-
jugation had happened earlier before Western incursions on
Africa. And at present, some Arab cultures are wrongly sub-
sumed under African indigenous heritages. Also Asian coun-
tries in another wave of capitalist expansion, are buying over
lands and doubling as largest foreign investors in the continent,
this paper argues that academic discourses had better taken a
proactive step to contest the future economic and socio-cultural
implications of this development on African indigenous sys-
There is urgent need for a shift towards locally planned and
executed educational programs and policies that are based on
the people’s socio-cultural, environmental and experiential rea-
lities. For whatever the foreign imposed basic education priori-
ties, it remains indisputable that the outcome would be nothing
short of equipping Africans to be Europeans in Africa. These
set of acculturated indigenous peoples are more likely to be
potential migrants than those who would find their niche in the
society. With the colonizer’s ideologies, practices, and frames
of reference, the grants and aids meted out to developmental
education must be initiated from the recipients’ local, experien-
tial and environmental perspective, and foreign ideals of de-
velopment must not be imposed on a people in the name of aids
or grants. If therefore wrong educational doctrine is absolved at
this point, it would be ideally difficult and realistically counter-
productive to relearn later at a higher academic plane. This
might account for why most products of the existing Arabic and
Western school systems in Nigeria are hardly ever equipped to
counter challenges emanating from their cultural, political and
economic environments. Thus unable to fit into their socio-
cultural and economic environment, and anticipating to find
niches for themselves in the Middle-East and Europe-having
been equipped with Euro-Arabic education—these youth seek
the slightest opportunity to migrate. It is a historical verity that
Islamic education was not formally established in Nigeria until
the fourteenth century, but indigenous education was, and pers-
ists even today. This paper is therefore not arguing for a com-
plete discountenance of Arabic cum Western educational poli-
cies and structures but insists that until these structures and sys-
tems established and sustained through colonization and neo-
liberal projects begin to articulate and incorporate the indigen-
ous Nigerian ways of knowing and knowledge dissemination
which are both culturally and environmentally relevant, no sig-
nificant success will be recorded in effectively reducing youth
emigration from the country.
Colonization, Unequal Yoking in Unending Scheme:
Do Neo-Colonial Projects in Countrie s of Origin Turn
People (Specifically, Youth) into Migrant Subjects?
Anti-colonial framework is applied in this segment of the
paper to first articulate the psycho-social damage caused by co-
lonization on the minds of the colonized peoples, and draw its
connection to youth migration. Second, to challenge imposed
structures of foreign socio-political subjugation, and economic
and cultural domination that hitherto perpetuate amputation of
the colonized persons from themselves, their environment and
culture while predisposing them to accept the colonizers ways
of knowing as the only valid and legitimate way of knowing.
Using African indigenous worldviews on the other hand both
serves to contest imposed systems of knowing and foreign cul-
tural hegemonies that continues to deny African humanity and
philosophies. In this paper, African indigenous worldviews will
also help to situate the migrant experiences of African youth as
children of African ancestry. I have to stress again in this work
that many contemporary young Africans are unfortunate stran-
gers to their indigenous ways of knowing, and have ignorantly
come to incontestable belief that the current colonial systems of
education, cultural practices, religion and spirituality, values
systems, norms and mores of the societies in which they were
born, were indeed indigenous to them, simply because they
were born into such material environment. Suppression of
African indigenous ways of knowing and the cultural heritages
by the valorization and imposition of the colonizers knowledge
systems and ideologies has left many Africans strangers in their
motherland. Colonization brought about major severance (that
Frantz Fanon termed amputation) of the colonized peoples first,
from themselves, and then from their environment, culture and
knowledge base. Thus alienated from their languages (Wa
Thiong’O, 1986), knowledge of their past, and their environ-
ment (Sefa Dei, 2011; Lebakeng, 2010), and having lost touch
with their identity and humanity, devoid of liberty and freedom
as human beings (Fanon, 1967), and completely oblivious of
the basis of their humanity, that is, spirituality (Sefa Dei, 2011;
Wane, 2007), the colonizers’ imposed ways of knowing became
reified, essentialized and taken up as the way of salvation from
the supposedly “primitive” entrapment the colonized knew
before the dawn of Arab and European redemption reached
them. After the partitioning, and subsequent colonization of
Africa by Europe for instance, the West realized that the task
was not just to rid the continent of its epistemological and on-
tological bases and cultural heritages but to also contest the
legacies of earlier Arab colonization and cultural vitiation. In
his Black skin, White masks, Frantz Fanon (1957) depicts his
view on human nature which must not be encased or subjugated
for it is human destiny to be free. The annexation of Africa,
imposition of foreign rule and cultural suppression coupled
with ruthless brutality meted out on the colonized bodies, was
in Fanon’s view a measure of “violence” that left significant
damage on the psyche of the colonized; depriving them of their
freedom, and liberty. Oppression occurred through alienation of
the colonized subjects from the two aspect of being human; the
force of violence leaves the African (Black) bodies with psy-
chological trauma. According to Fanon, violence must answer
to violence and since colonization is in itself violence, to regain
their freedom and liberty, the colonized must use violence in
two fronts: physically free themselves and their territories from
external control of the colonizer, and perform the psychological
cleansing to free the consciousness of the colonized indigenous
peoples from alienation caused by colonization. To Fanon each
of these tasks might require violence for “decolonization is
always a violent phenomenon” (p. 99). It is the view of this
paper that colonization is a hydra-headed monster that contin-
ues to thrive with any of the multiple heads if one is decapitated.
Decolonization must not just assume “violence dimensions” but
must be flexible and easily adaptive to combat all of its manife-
stations. For instance, African countries including Nigeria have
gained political independence from the colonizers, but our aca-
demic policies, curriculum, and praxis have remained the relics
of the colonizers’ tools; and so are most constitutional refer-
ences. This paper is therefore under pressure to ask, “why cant
independent African countries re-invent their indigenous socio-
political, economic and cultural systems that would be suitable,
adaptable and more germane to their environments?” Econom-
ically, our countries are still unequally yoked with the coloniz-
ers economic systems and processes. This later entanglement is
worst than physical colonization because it is so subtle that
globalization has defied definition in any known language. It is
in this unhealthy political, economic and socio-cultural environ-
ment that African youth (and by extension youth of other pre-
viously colonized, developing countries) are born and raised.
As offspring of the colonized Africans they are reliving the
pains of colonization because the initial trauma and amputation
was not healed. African epistemologies, cultural heritages and
ways of knowing are not reinvented and reinstated. Instead the
colonized (leaders) have in Memmi (1991)’s view become co-
lonizers of their fellows. The youth thus see Western and Arab-
ic education and culture as prerequisites for gaining entry into
their former colonizers’ countries, and migration as a way out
of the sorry state they have to leave behind for a supposedly
“greener pasture” oversea. In other words, the problem of mi-
gration must not be blamed entirely on neo-colonial policies of
the West, for African (specifically, Nigerian) leaders are com-
plicit to the problem youth migration is likely to cause in the
future development of the country, and African continent at
large. Abebe Shimeles (2010) which examines the migration
trends, patterns and determinants in Africa, affirms that the
bulk of African emigrants have not only lost their ties altogeth-
er with their countries of origin. Thanks essentially to the per-
petuation of neo-colonial projects in almost all the facets of the
continent’s fifty two countries who albeit have gained political
independence from the colonizers, are still largely ideologically,
philosophically and economically in the yoke of Arabic, and
Western colonization even as the new dawn of Asian invasion
apprehends the dusks of the past. One of his salient arguments
relevant to this paper is Abebe Shimeles’ skillful connection of
past colonization to the patterns and flow of the present migra-
tion in and out of Africa. Unfortunately, Shimeles willfully
ignores a reappraisal of how this unequal-yoking with the for-
mer colonizers has continued to perpetuate underdevelopment
in African continent (Rodney, 1973; Senghor, 2 001; Fano n, 1963;
Mbembe, 2001). His argument that the “Post independence
Africa maintained close economic, poli tical, cultural and lin-
guistic relationships with former colonizers that continue to
this day. Particularly France, Belgium and the United Kingdom
cultivated special relationships with their former colonies in
Africa that included privileges for travel, study and business
opportunities” (p. 3), obscures the subtle imbalance in power
dynamics of the so called relationship and how the cultural and
economic repression the West engages (see Adepoju, 1993) as
strategies have continued to engender resource-dr ai n i n t he c on -
tinent through subtle pillaging of the continent’s abundant hu-
man and natural resources, symbolized in the unending emigra-
tion of skilled Africans youth to the industrialized West.
Given the urgent and critical need for data on the trend and
experiences of youth currently involved in transnational migra-
tion, the thought patterns and available literature on the pheno-
menon appear to have left substantial lacunae in guiding our
understanding of the problem by deferring the answers to some
of the vital questions on the 21st century youth migration. The
questions are: what motivates the youth to migrate and how
have their migratory experiences been shaped by the prevalent
neocolonial projects and the existing transnational migration
policies? Despite increasing cases of youth migration all over
the world, their movements are still accounted for as part of fa-
mily reunion. Emphasis in few of the literature is directing our
gaze to a rather dangerous and surprising realitythat movement
of young adults across international boundaries as independent
migrants is intensifying (Wong, 2009; IOM, 2009; European
Youth Centre of the Council of Europe, 2010). There is also
apparent lack of consensus on the factors influencing people’s
decision to migrate (Chua, 2003; Sassen, 1988; Adepoju, 1993;
European Youth Centre, 2010; IOM, 2009). The diversity of
views expressed by the various studies on motives of transna-
tional migration will neither congeal to reliable data for serious
policy decisions, nor will the paucity of information on the
trends flow and patterns of youth migration. Granted, people
from different regions of the world might have peculiar motives
for migrating to settle oversea, and most of the works reviewed
hid their shortcomings under the cover of inadequate data, spe-
cifically, as it affected migration from developing countries. As
plausible as this claim may sound, the reality is that the world is
facing a crisis of enormous dimension, if nothing is immedia-
tely done to address the increasing flow of young adults from
developing South to the industrialized North. Both the sending
and receiving nations will be adversely affected one way or the
other (developmentally and logistically), and it is only through
adopting empirically sound thought-posture on the matter that
policy-enhancing infor mation on youth migration woul d emerge.
Throughout this paper, significant attempt is made to accentu-
ate the often overlooked outcome of transnational migration
which, to the sending and receiving nations, has both positive
and negative reflexes, but could be more of a positive outcome
if youth migration is properly managed by all the stake-holders.
More so, the existing few literature on youth migration simply
discussed the generic and fundamental issues of human rights
protection and labor market prospects for migrant youth, thus
placing the priorities of youth migrants at par with their adults’
counterpart. My view however is that some kind of distinction
would naturally exist between the inspirations and motives of
transnational migrant youth and their adult counterparts, no
matter how insignificant and such underpinnings could be a
pointer to the information on patterns of the rising trend, and
flow of youth transnational migration.
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