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Can economic growth lead Ethiopia out of illegal migration fever?

ADDIS ABABA: In the latest struggle with its illegal migration problem, Ethiopia is urging undocumented nationals residing in Saudi Arabia to take advantage of the three-month amnesty, which came into force on March 29.

While an estimated 400,000 Ethiopians are presently undocumented by the Middle Eastern country, only close to 50,000 of them have shown interest to return to their home country so far, according to the figure from the Ethiopian Government Communication Affairs Office. Amid a spate of incidents on illegal migration, including the recent arrest of 40 Ethiopians in Kenya’s Nairobi for being in the country illegally, the Ethiopian government has been advised to push further in the fight against migration.

The search for employment opportunities are commonly cited by analysts and organizations, including the International Organization for Migration (IOM), as a major push behind the internal and cross-border migration in Ethiopia. Building on decade-long double-digit growth catalyzed by enormous government spending on infrastructure, the size of the Ethiopian economy will reach 69.2 billion US dollars, according to projections the International Monetary Fund (IMF) made for 2016. In 2015, its GDP stood at 61.6 billion dollars.

Leading by China, the foreign investment trend in the East African country is an important contributing factor behind Ethiopia’s fast economic growth, complementary to the government’s huge investment. According to Abraham Tekeste, Ethiopia’s Minister of Finance and Economic Cooperation, the country’s per capita income has increased to 794 dollars from 396 dollars six years ago, while domestic saving capability also registered remarkable increase during its 2016/2017 budget year by 22.4 percent from 17.2 percent six years ago.

Despite the economic boom, however, Ethiopians are still fleeing their home country in search for better opportunities abroad, mainly to the Middle East and Europe via illegal and, at the same time, dangerous routes. According to IOM, diverse migration dynamics and challenges have been unfolding in East African country. IOM, after recognizing the challenge of youth unemployment both in the rural and urban areas, indicated that migration patterns and dynamics affecting Ethiopia have significant socio-economic and political implications for the country. Other than the Ethiopian government, many are weighing on economic solutions to tackle the growing influx of Ethiopians, including the European Union (EU).

The EU, concerned about the growing number of Ethiopians taking the dangerous Mediterranean migration route to Europe, has recently launched he Stemming Irregular Migration in Northern and Central Ethiopia (SINCE) program. The 48-month intervention mainly aimed at reducing irregular migration by creating employment opportunities in Ethiopia’s five major migration-prone regions including the capital Addis Ababa. The positive merit of remittance to the Ethiopian economy is, however, indicated as a major challenge to the Ethiopian government and its partners in cooling the migration fever.

Dubbed as the back-bone of the Ethiopian economy, remittance has earned close to 4 billion dollars to Ethiopia during the first ten months of the 2015/16 fiscal year, exceeding the income gained from the export sector in the same year. Thus, ending migration could potentially denote minimizing the rate of inward remittance from nationals abroad. The question now is whether economic solutions can serve as a way out to Ethiopia’s migration scenario that mainly attribute to the growing demographic pressure that the country has to live with.

Source: Xinhua

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