£1.4 million award to explore migrant decision making in West Africa

Senegal farmer tending his crop

Significant funding of over £1.4 million has been awarded to the International Development Department at University of Birmingham for research on migration decision-making and development in West Africa.

Funded by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the MIGCHOICE research project will investigate the connection between development interventions and migration in and from three countries in West Africa: Senegal, The Gambia and Guinea. The project will explore how interventions in areas such as agriculture, youth employment and training influence individual and household decisions around migration. It will use a novel combination of ethnography, discourse analysis and computer modelling, and involves co-creation of research to influence development practice.

The research project will be delivered by a consortium of universities in West Africa, the UK and other European countries and include the following work strands:

  • Development of an Agent based model, led by Professor David Hudson at the University of Birmingham, Dr Miranda Simon, University of Essex and Dr Cassilde Schwartz, Royal Holloway University London.
  • Ethnographic research in Senegal, led by Professor Pap Sahko, Université Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar and Professor Bruno Riccio, University of Bologna;
  • Ethnographic research in Guinea, led by Dr Ester Botta and Dr Abdoulaye Wotom Sompare from the Université de Kankan and Dr Michelle Engeler, University of Basel;
  • Ethnographic research in The Gambia, led by Professor Alice Bellagamba from the University of Milan-Bicocca and Dr Ebrima Ceesay;
  • Research on the history and development of policy on migration led by Dr Christina Oelgemöller from Loughborough University, supported by Dr Audrey Lenoel, Collège de France;

Professor Richard Black, Principal Investigator of the project and Head of the College of Social Sciences at the University of Birmingham commented:

“Over recent years, European governments have spent huge sums across West Africa in the expectation that this will reduce levels of migration to Europe, despite a lack of research evidence on whether such spending is effective, or indeed how such interventions are understood locally.  This new project aims to engage with this area of policy-making, and help to ensure that development aid widens people’s options, enabling them to make their own choices, regardless of whether or where they migrate.”

Dr Christina Oelgemöller, Co-Investigator of the project and Lecturer in International Relations at Loughborough University said:

"Most migration in Africa is regional or to other destinations within the continent. As ECOWAS marks the 40th year of its agreements on freedom of movement, this project will explore whether development actors need a new discourse around mobility in the continent, one better informed by the choices that people actually make."

Notes to editors:

For more information or interviews, please contact: Hasan Salim Patel, Communications Manager (Arts, Law and Social Sciences) on +44 (0) 121 415 8134 or contact the press office out of hours on +44 (0) 7789 921 165.

The University of Birmingham is ranked among the world’s top 100 institutions, its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers and teachers and more than 6,500 international students from over 150 countries.