Due to various reasons, the rate of rural-urban migration is increasing in Ethiopia. It has also been causing various social, economic and political problems and becoming yet another hurdle in the country’s endeavor of achieving sustainable economic development.
In fact, as indicated in a study on rural-urban migration in Oromia state, presented during the recent Oromia Cities Forum in Jimma town, the rapid rural urban migration has been greatly contributing to the rise of social, economic and political problems in Ethiopia.
Degefa Tolosa is assistant professor of national development studies at Addis Ababa University. As to him, migration is a situation where people change their residence permanently. And among the major types of migration, rural-urban migration is mostly common in Ethiopia.
In general, this migration trend is the result of push factors, (those that force individuals to move voluntarily, because the individuals risk something if they stay) and pull factors (those factors in the destination country that attract the individuals or groups to leave their home.)
Whatever the factors may be in Ethiopian case, the migrants would have significant amount of impact on their places of origin and destination and currently some 17 percent of Ethiopia’s 100 million population do not reside in their places of birth.
As to Dr. Degefa, the successes of the migrants depend on the social, economic and infrastructural situations of the places of destinations as these are the factors that determine whether job opportunities and social and economic services are available for the migrants or not.
But in developing countries like Ethiopia, cities are not in the position to handle such influxes. Thus, rural-urban migration is causing an immense pressure on cities while leaving the migrants in great trouble. While the people migrate to cities because of shortage of goods and services that are basic for living as well as lower level of income and poor capacity to withstand disaster in rural areas, the country’s urban centers face similar problems. Hence, it is inevitable that this kind of migration would result in social, political and economic problems in urban areas.
Obviously, in countries like Ethiopia, urban areas have not yet developed properly to manage the increasing rural-urban migration. Migrants are not certain of what is going to happen to them once they reach their urban destinations and most often than not they face so many new difficulties.
Besides, the arrival of migrants would also have severe effect on urban residents as it causes strain and increases the demand for social and economic services. In fact, the supply of basic social services in urban areas is low at the first place.
The negative impact of this migration trend would be reviewed from two perspectives in relation to places of origin and destination of the migration. The major problems that the places of origin face include separation from family and lose of productive labor force.
On the other hand, the first challen- ge on the places of destination is the rise in joblessness or unemployment. The second is that such an influx would put an immense amount of pressure on the delivery of social and economic services to residents and the new migrants. In general, the problems range from housing, health, education, and job opportunities that pressurize the lives of both residents and migrants.
Once the urban destination areas are incapable of providing these social and economic services, residents would tend to engage in illegal practices for living which will eventually create long term security challenges. Besides failing to get what they expected and putting themselves under huge psychological pressure, most migrants are exposed to a lot of risky activities including those which expose them to HIV AIDS.
According to the study, recently, some 1.6 million Ethiopians were displaced from their residence because of recent conflicts in different parts of the country. In addition, the urban population of the country is increasing at the rate of four percent annually. With this trend, both the urban population and urban areas are rapidly increasing and expanding respectively. Yet, in their current status, the urban areas are incapable of handling this influx and delivering the necessary social, economic and infrastructural services to their growing residents.
Hence, the country’s more than ever increasing rural-urban migration calls for timely social, economic and political solutions. Particularly, in order to prevent the will to migrate among the youth in search of jobs and better live, it is imperative to come up with policies and strategies that integrate the development of rural and urban areas. It is also vital to come up with political solutions for political causes of migration. Otherwise, the current pace of rural-urban migration would have immense consequences both urban and rural areas in terms of lose of productive labor force, shortage of social and economic services, lawlessness and severe political crisis.
BY ABIY HAILU