By Lamin Jaiteh
West Africa has experienced migration as a result of many factors, including population pressure and violence – communal, ethnic and criminal. Much of this movement can be classed as forced: in recent times it has been driven mainly by poverty, with people seeking better economic prospects elsewhere. Ongoing political strife and corruption have also played a big role in people choosing to leave.
It’s a story rooted in history that remains untold by the country’s journalists, particularly in its modern context, and not least because of the tough social, political and professional conditions in which media across the region are forced to work.
The countries of West Africa share historical migration characteristics. The slave trade, starting in the 16th century, had long-term impacts on Africa as a whole but was particularly devastating in West Africa – the main transit area.
The trade not only caused widespread death and human suffering, with Africans treated as a commodity, bought and sold and forcibly sent across the Atlantic to the Americas and the Caribbean, it drained West Africa of millions of its young. The development of economies was severely set back as the most productive segment of the population disappeared overseas.
In modern times, colonialism imposed arbitrarily drawn boundaries but these have done little to curtail patterns of migration which, to most inhabitants, have been a normal way of life for centuries. Communities have family and kinship ties across the region, borders are porous and often unsupervised The formation of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in 1975 was a bold attempt to stimulate and give form to the kind of borderless society that existed in pre-colonial times.
This article is taken from the Ethical Journalism Network's report 'Moving Stories - International Review of How Media Cover Migration'
About the author
Lamin Jaiteh has been a journalist and broadcaster for 17 years. He worked for Gambia Radio and TV Services from 1998-2006. He is now a freelance journalist,based in London, UK. He also produces a weekly TV programme-(InterfaceGambia TV) on BEN Television on SKY channel 182.
Read the other sections of the report here