Trans-Saharan labour emigration from Niger: Local governance as mediator of its underlying causes and consequences

This report reviews the existing literature of trans-Saharan labour emigration from Niger both conducted by Nigeriens but also by other West Africans, given Niger’s importance as a country of transit. The literature on labour emigration from the Sahelian region, as in other parts of the world, is dominated by studies that emphasise particular causes (drought, poverty, climate change) and focus on particular consequences (economic impact, labour scarcity, cultural diffusion etc). Such framings work to ignore the important role played by customary and formal authorities through their important roles in mediating conflict management, resource access, and government services. 

This review rejects singular causes and consequences and instead reviews what is known about emigration’s history and the social complexity surrounding it. After outlining the historic role of labour emigration to the south as well as what is known about its causes and consequences, the review turns to existing information about the demography, management, migrant experience, and consequences of trans-Saharan emigration. By treating labour emigration and human mobility as historic phenomena while engaging with the social complexity surrounding its causes and consequences, we hope to reveal the potential roles played by governance in emigration’s causation and consequence at multiple scales. Such roles will only be fully addressed by empirical research focused on the potential connections raised in this review.