Discussion Paper
No. 2018-82 | 2018.12.03
Claas Schneiderheinze, Eva Dick, Matthias Luecke, Afaf Rahim, Benjamin Schraven and Matteo Villa
Regional integration and migration between low-and-middle-income countries: regional initiatives need to be strengthened
(Published in Global Solutions Paper)


Regional migration within Africa and other developing regions is vital for the economic development of countries of origin and destination and for the welfare of migrants and their families (as recognized by the Sustainable Development Goal 10.7). Going forward, regional migration will be a crucial tool for countries of origin and destination to adapt to demographic trends and environmental changes. Although regional organizations have invested increasing efforts in the promotion of orderly, safe and regular migration, they have received scant acknowledgment in international policies and processes. Yet, they are the most important and most promising entities to promote more liberal migration regimes. The international community, and G20 countries in particular, should support capacity building for these regional organizations and involve them fully in relevant policy dialogues.

JEL Classification:

F22, F55, O19

Cite As

Claas Schneiderheinze, Eva Dick, Matthias Luecke, Afaf Rahim, Benjamin Schraven, and Matteo Villa (2018). Regional integration and migration between low-and-middle-income countries: regional initiatives need to be strengthened. Economics Discussion Papers, No 2018-82, Kiel Institute for the World Economy. http://www.economics-ejournal.org/economics/discussionpapers/2018-82

Comments and Questions

Kirsten Schüttler, The World Bank - Referee report
January 24, 2019 - 13:26
The paper covers a very relevant and timely topic. Regional Economic Communities (RECs) have an important role to play in migration governance and will be crucial for the implementation of the Global Compact on Migration. I hope that my comments and suggestions will help further strengthen the paper. The paper presents a number of interesting arguments. It would gain from elaborating some of them further and providing additional evidence. Some examples: The paper states several times that regional organizations are increasingly focusing on promoting orderly, safe, and regular migration, but provides no evidence for this increase. The paper states that the contribution of RECs to orderly, safe, and regular migration is not sufficiently acknowledged at present (abstract, p. 2), but does not explain who does not acknowledge their contribution. The authors make the important point that external actors are pushing RECs in Africa away from free movement through their focus on irregular migration but could spell out further how this focus on irregular migration actually impacts on free mobility within the region (through the reintroduction of border controls, etc.) and provide examples where this is happening. The paper compares migration to trade but does unfortunately not elaborate further what is meant by “complementary competition” (p. 5) and how this could play out in the area of migration compared to trade. The authors provide a simple regression model of bilateral migration flows, which seems to suggest a significant positive impact of some RECs on regional migration but could elaborate further on these results. The paper states that African countries belong to multiple RECs which tends to limit their efficiency and effectiveness but does not explain why this is the case. The paper would gain from clarifying its geographical focus from the beginning. The paper starts with what is called a global look at regional migration governance but is de facto already quite Africa focused. Some details are provided on Latin America/MERCOSUR, but other regions and organizations (like ASEAN) are only mentioned, if at all. It could be useful to start with a clear focus on Africa from the beginning, including a description and comparison of all RECs in Africa, and then only compare with selected RECs from other regions (including the EU). The paper provides a number of useful policy recommendations for G20 countries. One of them calls for capacity building for RECs. In the past, RECs have already received support and capacity building from donors. It would be useful to describe if and where this support has been successful, and if there are any lessons learned. The paper would gain from including recommendations also for RECs and their member countries. It is unclear why recommendations are limited to G20 countries. The authors make several points throughout the paper that could very well serve as the basis for such recommendations for RECs and their member states. Some additional minor comments: • There seems to be a contradiction between the introduction, which sees a role for RECs in addressing challenges associated only with forced and/or irregular migration, and section 2 which focuses only on challenges regarding legal regional migration. • In box 1, last paragraph: It would be easier to follow if the authors compared the percentage of African countries for which Africans need visas with the percentage of African countries for which North Americans need visas.