Transnational Migration, Return and Development in West Africa. Final Research Report.


This project aimed to explore the role of mobility abroad, development of transnational networks, and return migration, in enhancing progress towards the international development targets of poverty reduction and sustainable development. After an initial phase of consultation with key stakeholders, a questionnaire survey was conducted with a total of 604 ‘elite’ and less-skilled returnees from Europe and North America to Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, whilst in-depth interviews were conducted with Ghanaian and Ivorian migrants in London and Paris. The research framework, key research findings and policy recommendations were discussed at four workshops, held in Sussex, Abidjan and Accra.

Evidence was found of significant transfers of financial, human and social capital back to the two countries, and especially to Ghana. Key variables influencing these flows, and the propensity of returnees to invest in businesses include the skill level of migrants, the length of time they spend abroad, the work experience they gain and working conditions they experience, as well as the maintenance of contacts with friends and relatives back home. In contrast, age, sex, destination, marital status and the role played by the migrant’s family in migration decisions were not found to be significant factors.

Once they had returned, migrants faced a range of re-integration problems, although these did appear to have declined over time. However, they also reported making significant contributions to ‘development’ back home. Whilst elite returnees emphasised changes in the workplace and their influence in public life, less-skilled returnees were more likely to cite their contributions to change in the family.

Finally, evidence was found from existing datasets that there is also a ‘migration premium’ with respect to internal migration in Ghana, although internal migrants had not done as well as international returnees. However, this premium appeared to decline significantly in the 1990s, as non-migrants’ level of well-being rose.


Sussex Centre for Migration Research, University of Sussex, UK. 17 pp.

Transnational Migration, Return and Development in West Africa. Final Research Report.

Published 1 January 2003