Number of African Migrants Will Double by 2050 and Climate Change Will Make It Worse

The number of Africans leaving their home country to move to other parts of the globe is expected to more than double in upcoming years, with climate change acting as a main accelerator of this expected migration. Although an imminent mass exodus is not expected, new findings do show the real-life effects of changing weather patterns.

A European Commission report aimed to identify past and present migration patterns in Africa and use these models to predict how future migration may look. Results revealed that although the number of Africans leaving their country of birth for long periods of time or for good is currently about 1.4 million a year, by 2050 this number is expected to reach between 2.8 million to 3.5 million a year.

More than half of these future African migrants are expected to remain on the African continent, simply moving to African nations different than that of their birth. North African migrants are more likely than other Africans to leave the continent and head overseas. The remaining 40 percent of migrants will most likely move to Europe, but also North America and Western Asia. However, the report emphasized that the U.S. and Canada are not a main target destination for most African immigrants.

06_04_migrant Extreme weather changes may be a leading factor behind increased African migration. African immigrants sit at a center for migrants in Libya. Mahmud Turkia/AFP/Getty Images

According to the report, climate change is expected to accelerate this future migration. Climate change has long been recognized as a contributor to global migration. For example, climate change-driven droughts in Syria helped to push the social unrest that led to conflict in 2011, and continues to drive Syrian refugees to the U.S. and beyond, the US Climate and Health Alliance reported.  

In Africa, extended heat waves and increased temperatures, as well as more droughts, are expected to increase tensions in already fragile regions. This may drive Africans away from their birthplace. Climate change may also contribute to unrest and political violence in Africa, as individuals fight for control over scarce food, water, and fertile land. This would also contribute to African migration.

The US Climate and Health Alliance warned that climate change is not just affecting African migration—extreme weather has significantly reduced food availability in Central America, particularly in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. This continues to drive residents in search of more food stability.

In addition, unlike other parts of the globe, Africa has not experienced a significant decrease in the number of children born per woman. However, infant mortality has drastically decreased, the report revealed. As a result, Africa’s total population is expected to double from 1.2 billion inhabitants in 2017 to 2.5 billion in 2050.

The study also suggested that increased investment in Africa and improved living conditions for many Africans may increase their ability to move outside their birth countries. More than half of Africans who will leave their home country have completed higher education.

African immigration has slowly been increasing since the 1960s, with 8.1 million Africans living outside of their birth country in the early 1960s to almost 36.3 million doing so in 2017, Phys.Org reported.