Impact of COVID-19 on African Migration: Thoughts, Perspectives and Ways Out of the Blind Alley

Africa has not been spared from the economic and political consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Acting as a catalyst for decreased job opportunities at home and increased foreign-born unemployment rates in host economies, COVID-19 will most likely affect the overall economic conditions of migrants and reinforce the root causes of irregular mobility. On the political side, narratives that feed the fear of ‘outsiders’ can be easy to disseminate in times of crisis when the economy slows and inward-looking social and economic policies appear to be the safest. Escaping the blind alley will require coordinated policy approaches. First, immediate protection for migrants and asylum seekers at the closed borders of countries should be provided. Then long-term policies to tackle the social and economic vulnerabilities in these countries should be developed. Although it is still too early to assess the economic costs of the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Labour Organization expects a significant impact on the labour market across the world. ILO forecasts a 6.7% decline in working hours in the second quarter of 2020, which is equivalent to 195 million full-time workers. Although these forecasts are highly uncertain, they indicate a substantial loss of job opportunities, particularly in the manufacturing and services sectors. These effects will be seen in all countries regardless of their economic performance, and their consequences are likely to be more devastating for fragile developing and low-income countries. The latter are prone tounderemployment because an important share of informal working and self-employment has been directly hit by restrictions and social distancing imposed by the coronavirus pandemic.