Excessive rural-urban migration; a set-back to national development


Migration has been part of human life from time immemorial, and the factors which fuels it has been numerous. For instance some migration is voluntary and sometimes people are forced to move.

The main reason for voluntary migration is increased economic opportunities. The International Organization for Migration for instance estimates that there are currently 214 million migrants worldwide.

In and of itself, migration is not a negative phenomenon due to the fact that it is part of human nature to pursue a better life wherever it can be found. In fact the Oxford dictionary defines migration as the movement of people to a new area or country in order to find work or better living conditions.

Evidence abounds about the advantages of migration. For example, the International Organization for Migration estimates that migrants sent home $414 billion in remittances in 2009 alone. This is definitely good, as it improves the living conditions of the recipients who are mainly family members left back home. In Ghana, some returnee migrants have come to set up businesses that have employed people.

These notwithstanding, there are downsides to migration when it becomes excessive especially with those described as in-migrants otherwise known as rural-urban migration. In Ghana’s case one can situate it in the context of excessive migration.

In 1991/92 for instance, 54 percent of Ghana’s population were migrants (that is, either in-migrants or return-migrants), whereas the migrant share of the population in 1998/99 was 50 percent, according to the Ghana Living Standards Survey 1991/92 and 1998/99.

This excessive rural to urban migration phenomenon has led to negative impacts on the country’s overall development as it has led to the growth of slums, unemployment and over-dependency to mention but a few.

The costs associated with rural-urban migration often outweigh the benefits, leading to excessive urbanization.

One of the causes of excessive migration is inequitable development. Ghana’s 1992 Constitution for example, calls for equitable development across the country as captured in its directive principles of state policy article.

However, in reality this does not happen. It is the urban centres that have the best of everything. These include schools, colleges and universities, health facilities, road networks, potable water, electricity, hotels, stadia, housing and jobs, to name but a few. These have tends out to act as very strong pull factors, drawing rural dwellers to urban centres in excessive numbers.

It is mainly the youth in rural areas that go searching for opportunities in urban areas. This group of people is mainly made up of those who have had some education but are frustrated by the unavailability of jobs.

They are usually educated in urban centres where the best schools are located. This exposes them to electricity, potable water good road networks, good communication systems and other things that make life worth living.

Once they get used to this life, living in the rural areas does not appeal to them any longer they leave to find jobs that can help them fit into city life. Once they gain grounds in urban centres, they serve as a base for their siblings and other family members to join them further worsening the situation.

Excessive rural-urban migration in Ghana has also led to an ageing and generally less productive population in rural areas. This ageing population is far less dynamic and imaginative than the youth thus affecting the development of the rural areas.

Unlike the youth, the aging population are also the type that are unable to exert pressure on local and central government to give them their fair share of the national cake by way of development and gradually they lose grounds to more vocal urban parts of the country.

Excessive rural-urban migration in some cases rather creates developmental challenges even in the urban areas. In Ghana, the capital, Accra has the highest population of rural-urban migrants from all parts of the country. It is also home to Nima, one of the densely populated areas which serve as dwelling place for 60% of the migrants in Accra. Other squatting areas of the migrants include the central and Abgogbloshie markets.

The situation has resulted in hugely unplanned settlements in the centre of the city with its attendant environmental challenges as they generate so much filth. The inaccessible houses are a problem for the utility companies to access and effectively capture and bill them.

In case of fire outbreaks, fire tenders are unable to access most of these locations due to their unplanned outlays. Their very nature and location has made it a safe haven for criminals who harass residents almost on daily bases. If migrating from where they came from were not so excessive, these unplanned settlements which should have been allowed in the first place might not have sprung up.

Revenue that is supposed to be used for development across the country is then used to address some of the above challenges. A substantial part is used to equip the security agencies, especially the police at the expense of investing these funds in education, provision of portable drinking water, building good road networks among others across most rural areas.


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