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The political economy consequences of international migration for origin countries. Senegalese and Malian case studies – POLECOMI

The political economy consequences of international migration for origin countries. Senegalese and Malian

Are migrants major actors of the African political life?

A better understanding of the relationships between migration and the political economy of Senegal and Mali

Most of the analyses investigating the relationship between migration and development have focused on the financial returns of migration for origin countries. In addition to their economic impact migrants can also have a political influence on their country of origin, both at the local and national levels. The “social remittances” - that is the ideas, know-how, practices, and skills that are transferred by migrants from host to sending communities - are considered by some authors as potentially having greater and longer run impacts on origin countries. However, there are still few studies on the impact of social remittances on African countries even though most African countries are still fragile democracies and have a long lasting history of migration both within and outside Africa. The question we ask is whether migration is favorable to the consolidation of democratic political institutions in Africa. More specifically, we examine whether migrants adopt new political attitudes while in migration and transfer these new norms to their family back home. We also examine how the migration experience of political leaders shapes their actions.

This research project is multidisciplinary by nature. We use economics empirical methodology as well as sociology and political science more qualitative approaches. An originality of our project is to combine both quantitative and qualitative approaches. We took advantage of the Senegalese and Malian elections to survey migrants in various destination countries. More precisely, during the 2012 presidential and legislative elections in Senegal we surveyed Senegalese voters in France, USA, and Senegal. We followed the same protocol during the 2013 Malian presidential election and surveyed Malian voters in France, Côte d’Ivoire, and Mali. These multi-sited surveys are used to study the interest for politics and political involvement of migrants, depending on their destination country and compared to non-migrants.
To understand the role played by return migrants, we also added modules to a nationally representative survey conducted in 2011, 2013 and 2016 in Mali. We added questions on the migration experience of individuals and on their political participation and behavior in order to better understand the potential transfer of political norms from return migrants to their family.
Finally, we also collected original data on Malian migrants’ hometown associations registered in France and examined how these associations alter the provision of local public goods in Malian localities.

We find that migrants adopt new political norms when in migration, and bring them back home. The way migrants and return migrants’ political behavior is altered and transferred to their community of origin depends the characteristics of their destination country. We also find that the financial support of migrants to their locality of origin through hometown associations improved the provision in local public goods in these localities.

In the next two years, we will continue this investigation using data collected in Mali in 2016 on the transfer of social norms on female circumcision and on the role of women in Malian society.
The work to date provide a new perspective on the role of host country migration policies in the North and the role of intra-African migration. The consolidation of democratic institutions in Ivory Coast, Africa's main host countries of Sub-Saharan migrants, and an improvement in the political integration of its migrants could exercise an important leverage political stabilization in the subregion.

The team produced a total of 9 scientific articles, 1 book chapter, 4 articles for a general audience, and 5 working papers. Using the collected data, we also intend to produce 2 additional scientific articles as well as to publish a collective book on migration and democracy in Africa. This book will be a synthesis of part of the work of the POLECOMI team, but will also include chapters written by other authors working on similar questions on African countries others than Senegal and Mali.

The POLECOMI project is a research project coordinated by Sandrine Mesplé-Somps and Lisa Chauvet (UMR DIAL, IRD, Université Paris-Dauphine). Flore Gubert and Marion Mercier are members to this project. Two other research centers are also associated to the project, the CMH (Ilka Vari-Lavoisier) and the IRIS (Jean-Philippe Dedieu). The project started in December 2011 and lasted 54 months. It benefitted from financial support of the ANR of 163 800 € out of the total 231 000 €.

The objective of the POLECOMI project is to understand the political economy implications of migration and collective remittances for origin countries, tacking Mali and Senegal as case studies.
There is an abundant literature on the economic impact of both migration and migrants’ remittances for origin countries. However, little attention has been given to their political consequences with the exception of some studies on the Dominican Republic, Mexico and India. The literature addressing this question in African countries, and more specifically in Mali and Senegal, is virtually non-existent. Yet these two countries provide fruitful laboratories for examining the links between migration and home politics. Indeed, both have been strongly involved in long-distance migration to Western democracies for several decades and migrants originating from these two countries are traditionally strongly involved in the provision of local public goods in their localities of origin. Moreover, both countries are young and still fragile democracies whose political and economic institutions are consolidating.
The project is composed of four parts. We will first explore transnational political relations spanning France, Italy, Senegal and Mali from a historical and sociological perspective. We will also take profit of the next Malian and Senegalese presidential elections in 2012 to study the electoral campaign of the candidates of the main Malian and Senegalese political parties and their local branches in France and Italy.
Second, we will analyze migrants’ political and associative activities of migrants and explore whether they contribute to the diffusion of democratic norms. Using existing surveys, we will provide quantitative evidence of the political involvement of Malian and Senegalese migrants in both their destination and origin countries. These statistical analyses will be complemented by a qualitative study based on interviews of Malian and Senegalese migrants involved in HTAs. Pushing further the idea that migration to democratic countries may modify the migrants’ attitude towards democracy, we will also investigate to what extent migrants contribute to the diffusion of democratic norms from the country they reside in, using a randomized experiment during the forthcoming 2012 Malian Presidential elections.
Third, we will explore the interactions between migration and homeland politics. We will investigate empirically whether collective remittances sent by migrants to finance the provision of local public goods in their origin villages are influenced by political factors in Mali and Senegal. We will then compare the type and number of public goods provided in municipalities that benefit and do not benefit from collective remittances, and the way they are allocated across villages within municipalities.
Finally, we will look at the composition of the local political elite and at the ways migration challenges the social and political orders in young democracies such as Mali and Senegal.
Given the questions at hand, this research project is highly multidisciplinary in nature, and calls for qualitative and quantitative studies led by economists, political scientists and sociologists. Our research design is thus based on a mixed-method approach grounded in fieldwork that combines comparative case studies of Malian and Senegalese Home Town Associations (HTAs) across France and Italy and their matched counterpart localities in Mali and Senegal, and more quantitative evidence using large scale representative surveys collected at the community and individual levels in Mali. This mixed-method approach is made possible by the fruitful collaboration that DIAL's researchers have established with sociologists and political scientists located in France and in Italy, and with the Malian Statistical Institute (INSTAT).

Project coordinator


The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.



Help of the ANR 260,946 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: - 36 Months

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