The first of eight, the “From the South” mini-series hopes to present the economic and political conditions in the home countries of Morocco’s most populous migrant communities: Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Guinea, Mali, Nigeria, Niger, and the DRC.
The concept of “push and pull” in migration studies is the basis for understanding why people move. This concept directly applies to Senegalese migration to Morocco. “Push” factors refer to the political, economic, and social (or other) conditions in a person’s home country that makes securing their livelihood difficult, if not impossible. “Pull” factors refer to the factors that another region maintains, which motivate a person to try and live in, work with, or access those resources.
For Morocco, the “pull” factor for many sub-Saharan migrant communities is the prospect of migration to a southern European border. For others, it is the opportunity to pursue higher education, meet with friends and family, engage in tourism, or find gainful employment. While many individuals return to Senegal, many stay and find themselves among the thousands of individuals who end up living, working, and creating their families in Morocco.
One of the most represented nationalities of sub-Saharan migrants in Morocco is Senegalese.
Snippet of Senegal
Senegal is bordered by Mauritania, Mali, Guinea, and Guinea-Bissau, and encompasses the Gambia. It is a country of 15 million people, 95% of whom adhere to Islam.
Education in Senegal is free and compulsory until the age of 16. In 2018, official statistics revealed that more than 80% of children were enrolled in primary education. More than 60% of Senegal’s population is under the age of 25, which translates to a massive student demographic.
Despite these high levels of education, over half of the population lives under the poverty line. This financial situation is attributed to many factors, including the facts that the country accumulates more than 65% of its GDP in debt related to Eurobonds, and that the unemployment rate is around 19% (though current estimates fail to include statistics on informal work and are thus an inaccurate account of actual employment).
Making a Living
Employment conditions in Senegal are one of the highest contributors to the waves of migration from the country. In 2018, the living wage was $154 per month, with a personal income tax of over 40%.
Within this economy, a majority of Senegal’s working-class find employment in informal or rural markets. Although there is a sizable percentage of workers within mining, construction, and fisheries, 70% of the population in Senegal works within the agricultural sector. This massive portion of the population only contributes 12% to 16% of the GDP. This means that the other 30% of the population— which includes business people, factory laborers, and international industrialists —contributes to 84% to 88% of the GDP.
Because the youth population is so large, job competition among both rural and urban economies is fierce. Many people find it difficult to find employment and are left with limited options to sustain and support themselves and their families.
Even with a college degree, Aly Tandian, a Senegalese journalist, writes that “a good education no longer guarantees a stable job with an income high enough to support a decent life.” It is the lack of opportunities for all people that contributes to economic frustration throughout the country.
Compounding this factor are the difficulties of breaking the barrier between rural and urban employment. With such a wide gap between the wealthy and the poor—between the agricultural sectors and the business groups—it is almost impossible to secure a comfortable income.
Because of these factors, in addition to many others, many people choose to search for employment outside of Senegal.
Going to School, Work, and Other Places
Traveling occurs for many reasons, including emigration in search of a job, to meet with family or friends, and to pursue scholarships at one of Morocco’s many universities.
In this latter example, Senegalese nationals have visa-free travel to Morocco because of their economic and political ties with Morocco. While the African Exchange program was originally a UNESCO project aimed at promoting pan-African exchange, King Mohammed VI has maintained the continuous flow of Senegalese students to Morocco.
For those traveling for different reasons, such as pursuing work in Morocco’s informal sector or hoping to transit through the country to reach Europe, the journey may be remarkably different. For many unofficial entries to Morocco, it may be possible to pay between €200 and €250 ($225 to $280) to travel out of the country and enter Morocco through the southern border of Western Sahara, before going north to various cities.
While on this journey, informal, or unregularized, migrants may face numerous difficulties, including the intense elements of Morocco’s southern climate, the exploitation of their labor or bodies by traffickers, and the dangers of running into security personnel.
Regardless, every migration story is different and no two people will ever have the same motivations for leaving home or the same experiences traveling from Senegal to Morocco.
From the South
The purpose of this article is to shed light on some relatively common experiences for migrants from all over Africa, in addition to providing a brief background on some of the circumstances that different people may have experienced.
I hope that, by reading this extremely brief overview, other people may be able to throw away their one-sided or “single-storied” understanding of migration in Morocco.
Everyone has different experiences, but lumping people together in the title of “migrant” often erases the complex journeys and the different “push” and “pulls” factors that make up a person’s travel from Senegal to Morocco.