Youth's Independent Migration from Rural Burkina Faso to Ouagadougou

Researcher: Dorte Thorsen

The project started in 2005 and was completed in 2008

This research project addressed rural-urban livelihood linkages from the perspective of young migrants in the age group 14-24 years by following youngsters who travel from remote rural villages in south-eastern Burkina Faso to the capital in search of wage labour. The study explored how they position themselves and create particular identities in the junction between rural and urban social settings, where they seek to bridge their own ideas about being migrants, their families’ and friends’ expectations of them and being perceived as ignorant and ill-educated by better-off urban dwellers. The project aimed to understand better the complexities in rural youth’s livelihood practices and their choices of certain options over others.

Project description
The project focused on youth migrants in Ouagadougou and, in particular, on their life situations and experiences of adapting to life away from the security and constraints of large rural households. Previous research on children’s migration from south-eastern Burkina Faso, which I undertook at University of Sussex in 2004-05, unpacked the incentives for young people to migrate and the intergenerational negotiations that went on both before and during their migration. Furthermore, this research offered insights into common work trajectories of young rural migrants and potential problems related to their work.

Based on these findings, the current research explored how youth migrants create their own social networks to provide information and security in the urban setting and how they deal with problems experienced at work as well as in other spheres of life. Moreover, the research sought to locate feasible measures to solve those problems in cooperation with the young migrants and relevant youth and labour organisations. A complementary aim of the research was to address the broader questions of how the complex aspects of young migrants’ everyday working lives match their perceptions of what social positions they can generate and occupy in the city and back home, and their creation of particular identities immediately and in the long term.

Research- and policy-wise, it was interesting to look into young migrants’ livelihoods and work experiences in great detail because it affects their future choices of whether to remain in the city, return to their place of origin or try their chances in other places, e.g. in Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Gabon or Italy.

Study area
Although the research took place in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, where all ethnic groups in the country meet, I focused on youth migrants from the Bisa region in south-eastern Burkina Faso because I have carried out research in this region since 1997. My familiarity with this region and many people’s familiarity with me or with people in the village where I lived in 2001-02 facilitate the contact and cooperation with young migrants and make them more inclined to narrate their stories, grievances and delights to me. Moreover, the in-depth knowledge of the rural social worlds helped understanding youth migrants’ circumstances, preferences and choices.

Publications list (pdf)

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