Migrancy in Burkina Faso

When the civil war broke out in Côte d’Ivoire in 2002, nearly 3.5 million migrant workers from Burkina Faso lived in the country. Almost one million of them fled back home to escape the conflict. Jesper Bjarnesen has recently joined the NAI urban cluster and had previously written a thesis on the Burkinabe returnees.

He notes that the adult returnees had the knowledge about traditions and society necessary for them to reintegrate into their old country. Their children, however, had no memories of Burkina Faso and were often regarded as arrogant big city kids who did not fit in. After some time had elapsed, however, the situation had changed. The youngsters who had grown up in Côte d’Ivoire had learned an international form of French and to live in a cosmopolitan society. Many of them ended up in the broadcasting industry or as supporters of politicians in need of a committed youth following.
- What initially was a disadvantage, the young people turned into an advantage, and thus found their place in the society. The adults, however, wish to return to Côte d’Ivoire and finish what was interrupted by the war. They would rather return permanently to Burkina Faso as successful migrant workers than as refugees, says Jesper Bjarnesen.

Burkinabe migrant labour in Côte d’Ivoire has a long history, beginning in colonial era with the forcible recruitment of workers for the cocoa plantations. Today, Burkinabe families often invest their savings in sending a family member to seek a fortune in the neighbouring country. Remittances by migrant workers form a significant part of Burkina Faso’s economy.

At NAI, Jesper Bjarnesen will research the role of the city as a base for recruitment in West Africa. During the civil war in Côte d’Ivoire, rebel groups often recruited soldiers in the cities of Burkina Faso. Nowadays, young men are recruited to Mali and other conflicts in the region.  They are rarely motivated by ideology, and more often by the lack of options for making a living.
- Not only soldiers are recruited, says Jesper Bjarnesen.
- Companies also tend to seek workers in the cities of Burkina Faso. Consequently, young men from rural areas come to cities to be recruited. There is constant mobility among the people of Burkina Faso. In Europe, migration often is about going to a particular place for specific reasons. In Burkina Faso and elsewhere in West Africa, your destination depends on where you have family or other networks, Jesper Bjarnesen adds.

To the top