Africa's Return Migrants

The New Developers?

Edited by Lisa Åkesson and Maria Eriksson Baaz


An important investigation into the actual practices of African return migrants, and their abilities – or otherwise – to act as the continent's 'new developers'.

Many African migrants residing abroad nurture a hope to one day return, at least temporarily, to their home country. In the wake of economic crises in the developed world, alongside rapid economic growth in parts of Africa, the impetus to ‘return’ is likely to increase. Such returnees are often portrayed as agents of development, bringing with them capital, knowledge and skills as well as connections and experience gained abroad. Yet, the reality is altogether more complex.

In this much-needed volume, based on extensive original fieldwork, the authors reveal that there is all too often a gaping divide between abstract policy assumptions and migrants’ actual practices. In contrast to the prevailing optimism of policies on migration and development, Africa’s Return Migrants demonstrates that the capital obtained abroad is not always advantageous and that it can even hamper successful entrepreneurship and other forms of economic, political and social engagement.

Author Bio

Lisa Åkesson is associate professor in social anthropology at the School of Global Studies, the University of Gothenburg, and senior researcher at the Nordic Africa Institute.

Maria Eriksson Baaz is associate professor at the School of Global Studies, the University of Gothenburg, and senior researcher at the Nordic Africa Institute. She is the co-author (with Maria Stern) of Sexual Violence as a Weapon of War? (Zed Books, 2013) and the author of The Paternalism of Partnership (Zed Books, 2005).

Table of Contents

  • 1. Introduction - Lisa Åkesson and Maria Eriksson Baaz
  • 2. Successive flops and occasional feats: development contributions and thorny social navigation among Congolese return migrants - Maria Eriksson Baaz
  • 3. Diaspora returnees to Somaliland: heroes of development or job-stealing scoundrels? - Laura Hammond
  • 4. Pushing development: a case study of highly skilled male return migration to Ghana - Nauja Kleist
  • 5. 'Come back, invest, and advance the country': policy myths and migrant realities of return and development in Senegal - Giulia Sinatti
  • 6. The role of social capital in post-conflict business development: perspectives from returning migrants in Burundi -Tove Heggli Sagmo
  • 7. Threatening mini-skirts: returnee South Sudanese adolescent girls and social change - Katarzyna Grabska
  • 8. Obstacles and openings: returnees and small-scale businesses in Cape Verde - Lisa Åkesson


'Can Africans who return from the diaspora play the role of development agents? Are they willing to? And would it be welcomed by the Africans who never left? The seven authors tackle such questions with a combination of ethnographic nuance and political critique. A refreshing contribution to debates on migration and development!'
Jørgen Carling, research professor, Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)

'Much recent policy discourse hails return migrants as "agents of development" while neglecting the experiences of those very migrants. This astute volume provides a powerful corrective, challenging received wisdom through empirically-rich case studies of return migrants and the challenges they face.'
Neil Carrier, African Studies Centre, University of Oxford

'This excellent book turns the spotlight on returnees in Africa, who - whether they are businessmen, development agents, or indeed children - have profound impacts on their home countries.'
Richard Black, SOAS, University of London

'These case studies from a wide range of African countries provide invaluable comparative evidence of the diverse experiences and complex meanings hidden behind the apparently simple idea of "return".'
Ben Page, Migration Research Unit, University College London

'This engaging and timely book provides an important intervention into debates about diaspora and development. A must-read for students of African development, migration and diaspora studies.'
Claire Mercer, London School of Economics and Political Science, and co-author of Development and the African Diaspora

'Policies seeking to court return migration, their reintegration, and their constructive engagement in the development of home communities will find the incisive research findings of this book highly pragmatic.'
Aderanti Adepoju, coordinator, Network of Migration Research on Africa


Publication Date: 15 July 2015
192 pages

Product ISBNs: Paperback: 9781783602339
Hardback: 9781783602346
eBook ePub: 9781783602360
eBook PDF: 9781783602353
eBook Kindle: 9781783602377

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