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Cloud on the Horizon: African Migration, Transnationalism, and Social Osmosis

This paper argues that the factors that induce transcontinental and intercontinental African migration are complex and cannot be reduced to simplistic generalizations. It states that Africa’s transcontinental and transnational migratory phenomena from the medieval period to the post-modern era were a two-way street. While Africans migrated abroad, the continent has also continuously served as a magnet for migrants from other continents. Thus, despite the exaggerated portrayal of African migration to Europe and North America, the available data sources show that transcontinental and transnational African migration is microscopic compared to the global migratory trend.

Cloud on the Horizon African Migration Transnationalism and Social Osmosis
A man studies images of slavery in the Cape Coast Castle, Ghana, which bears mute testimony to centuries of tears, sweat, and torture as a result of the Swedish and British colonialism. ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP / Getty Images
 

 

Introduction1

This paper argues that intercontinental and transnational African migration, especially in the modern era is minuscule relative to global migratory trends. It states that Africa’s transcontinental and transnational migratory phenomena from the medieval period to the post-modern era were a two-way street. While Africans migrated to other continents, the continent has also continuously served as a magnet for migrants since 146 BC when the Greeks and Romans invaded and annexed the territory that is part of modern Tunisia. In fact, between the 15th and 19th centuries, Africa became the site of one of the largest involuntary migrations in history. This event happened during the Atlantic Slave Trade which involved the forced transportation and transplantation of Africans to Europe and the Americas. In other words, the phenomenon of involuntary and voluntary migration has always been part of the fabric of Africa’s historical development and political trajectory.2

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