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The Climate Change and Migration in Africa Series

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The Climate Change and Migration in Africa Series

01 Jun 2020

5min min read
  • Climatic changes
  • Migration
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he Climate Change and Migration in Africa series seeks to shed light on these interconnected issues and contribute to a growing body of policy work to enable civil society and governments to navigate these challenges and prevent a human crisis across the continent: The World Bank has estimated that climate change could cause more than 86 million people to migrate within Africa by 2050 alone. This series comprised engagements with experts on the issue of climate-change induced migration in Africa and a policy briefs competition among academics, researchers and civil society from all corners of the continent.


Part I: Experts detail the key issues

To kick off the series, we engaged with experts from around the continent working on climate change and migration on a daily basis. Activists, policy makers, academics and consultants spoke to us about the issues closest to their hearts.

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In our inaugural engagement, we interviewed Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, an environmental activist from Chad and co-chair of the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change, the indigenous peoples’ caucus to the UN. She detailed how climate change has impacted her Mbororo pastoralist community around Lake Chad. She also reflected on the value add of indigenous communities in global climate talks given their traditional knowledge systems.

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Victor Nyamori, an international migration practitioner and refugee rights lawyer, wrote to us about his experiences with climate refugees in East Africa over the past decade following his first exposure to such issues at the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. He reflects on how the legal protection of these migrants has progressed but argues that more needs to be done, as the region is headed for a climate crisis.

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In our third engagement, we heard from Nhial Tiitmamer, Director of the Environmental and Natural Resources Programme at the Sudd Institute. Nhial detailed for us how an increase in flooding has resulted in migration and the potential for conflict in South Sudan. By comparing the two different migratory approaches of Sudanese Arab communities and Dinka pastoralist communities, he identifies conflict resolution strategies that can be taken forward.

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Dr Katharine Vincent, Director of Kulima Integrated Development Solutions, a climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction consultancy, provides insight into climate change-induced migration in Southern Africa and how the region lags behind its counterparts across the continent when it comes to the protection of climate migrants. The region's attitude towards migrants in general feeds into this.


Part II: Policy Briefs Competition

We invited African scholars and researchers to participate in a policy briefs research competition focused on climate change and migration in Africa to propose new ways in which civil society, national, regional or international actors could respond to and collaborate on these interconnected challenges. Over 80 submissions were received, before being narrowed down to the following final papers.

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Oluwole Olutola, a postdoctoral research fellow within the South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI), delves into how the AU and UN can jointly respond to the challenges of climate change and human mobility in Africa. He argues that the organisations have struggled to achieve this coherence to date, despite cooperation on other issues, including Agenda 2063 and the UN SDGs.

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Adebusuyi Isaac Adeniran, a senior lecturer at Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria and a research consultant with the UNODC, looks at how climate change has exacerbated conflict between land-owning farmers and Fulani herders in Nigeria, and proposes conflict resolution solutions. Over the long-term he calls for the Nigerian government to replicate the Gansu-modelled water conservation project in Kano.

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Jacqueline Owigo, a PhD candidate at the US International University – Africa, and Omar Yusuf, an independent researcher based in Mogadishu, Somalia, investigate the effects of climate change on the conditions of return for rejected asylum seekers, deportees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) to Somalia. They offer up solutions from a recent pilot study in Kismayo.

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Romola Adeola examines the dimensions of climate-induced internal displacement and the protection of IDPs as envisioned in the AU Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons, otherwise known at the Kampala Convention. She is from the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria and the Global Engagement Network on Internal Displacement in Africa at the University of London.

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Caitlin Blaser Mapitsa, a senior lecturer in Monitoring and Evaluation at the Wits School of Governance, studies how the strategy of multi-locality puts the burden of climate adaptation on already vulnerable peri-urban residents. She argues that this threatens to reverse the progress made by South Africa’s expansion of social services and safety nets in rural communities.

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Bertha Chiroro, a project coordinator for GenderCC-Southern Africa, advocates for communicating climate change impacts in a way that considers the well-being of communities by linking climate change to poverty and a human rights-based, gender-responsive migration policy in SADC. She notes that local government engagement is critical in the regional forum in order to accommodate a migration–development nexus.

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Alex Farley-Kiwanuka and Sadam Yiga Farley-Kiwanuka, researchers working on migration and climate change interventions and policy, look at the need for better data collection around the role of climate change as a driver of rural–urban migration in Uganda, particularly to Kampala. The paper also looks at the risks and vulnerabilities of migrants coming to the city.

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Lazarus Chapungu, a research chair and lecturer of Geography and Environmental Science at Great Zimbabwe University, presents cyclone disaster management strategies for effective relief and recovery in affected communities, using Cyclone Idai in southern Africa as a case study. He calls for local communities to be integrated into pre-disaster planning for local communities to be fortified against extreme weather.

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Fredu Nega Tegebu, a senior research fellow at the Horn Economic and Social Policy Research Institute in Ethiopia, takes a long-term perspective on human and socioeconomic development to reduce the number of distressed individuals forced to move as a result of climate change in the region.



(Main image: A woman from the remote Turkana tribe in Northern Kenya walks along a dry riverbed near Kanukurdio on 9 November 2009 near Lodwar, Kenya. Over 23 million people across East Africa are facing a critical shortage of water and food, a situation made worse by climate change - Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

The opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of SAIIA or CIGI.