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Europe and the spectre of sub-Saharan migration

Population and Societies

558, September 2018

Sub-Saharan Africa is projected to represent 22% of the world’s population in 2050, versus 14% today. The number of migrants originally from this region should therefore increase. But by how much and toward which destinations? François Héran situates African migration in a global context of diasporas. He shows that the scenario for 2050, in which sub-Saharan migrants make up 25% of Europe’s population, does not stand up to scrutiny. The most realistic figure is five times less.

Does Europe need to prepare for a coming “surge” of sub-Saharan migrants? This prediction is based on a model of communicating vessels that fails to take into account three fundamental observations:

1) compared to people in other regions, sub-Saharan Africans are less prone to migrate, due to poverty;

2) when they do emigrate, 70% move to another sub-Saharan country;

3) according to UN demographic growth projections, while sub-Saharan African migrants will have a growing place in societies of the North, they will remain a small minority: around 4% of the population in 2050 – far below the 25% that some have claimed.

Directeur de recherche et directeur de l'Ined de 1999 à 2009). François Héran est actuellement professeur au Collège de France sur la chaire « Migrations et sociétés » et dirige l’Institut Convergences Migrations.

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