Ghana and Ethiopia maximize benefits of migration to support sustainable development

IOM Office UN (NY)
6 min readFeb 9, 2021
Project Closure Meeting with Government Stakeholders and Development Partners in Ghana © Naomi Harris /IOM 2020

Global conversations on Africa and migration in the past years were often centered around curbing migration flows and addressing irregular migration. However, a closer look of the multi-dimensional reality of flows from and within Africa constitutes a different landscape: crucial, but overlooked, is the huge developmental impact gained from migration.

Ghana and Ethiopia are two countries with dynamic and complex migration patterns as well as specific historical contexts. World Bank data shows that in 2019, Ghana received 3.5 billion USD, about 5% of its GDP, in terms of remittances by its emigrants — often the most direct and well-known link between migration and development. Ethiopia received over 530,000 USD. Labour migration emerged as one of the major features of Ethiopian international migration, with oil-rich Gulf countries and South Africa as main destinations, which created economic opportunities for many Ethiopians.

The diverse contributions by immigrants to the economy of both countries are also immense, ranging from skill transfer in labour markets to public finance. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), in Ghana, the contribution of immigrants to the government’s fiscal balance exceeds the contribution of the native-born population.

It is clear that now more relevant than ever, with migration enshrined in the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals, policy responses, including national planning processes, must be better used to harness the potential developmental benefits of migration.

Members of the Inter-agency Technical Working Group in Ghana at the project launch. Lou Danzhu, Chief of Political Section of the Chinese Embassy in Ghana, pledged the support of People’s Republic of China towards the attainment of the SDGs and emphasized the importance of migration for development. ©Eric Akomanyi/IOM 2018

In 2018, IOM, the UN Migration Agency jointly launched in Ghana and Ethiopia a two-year project Integrating migration into national development plans: towards policy coherence and achievement of the SDGs. The project was funded by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) through the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Sub-Fund of the UN Peace and Development Fund, of which the People’s Republic of China is a major contributor. The project was designed to strengthen government and partner capacities in migration governance, enhance coherence on migration and development policies, and foster dialogues to share experiences in national and global fora.

It was also designed to address the challenges associated with today’s migration, and supports both government’s efforts by addressing key themes included in the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) officially adopted in the same year.

Members of the sub-committee of the Inter-agency Working Group in Ghana discussing methodology to conduct an assessment of the national development plans. © Eric Akomanyi /IOM 2018

The first priority was to ensure the policy direction for the governments on migration management, such as designated national migration coordination authorities, and incorporating migration into national development plans. Before the project kicked off, there had been ad-hoc coordination efforts on related matters such as diaspora engagement and trafficking in persons, but no structure existed to specifically address migration and development.

Under the project, both countries established a functioning structure to address policy and implementation aspects of migration and development. It is noteworthy that in Ghana, the project facilitated the completion of the audit of the Medium-Term National Development Policy Framework 2018–2021 (MTNDPF). A comprehensive standard operating procedure (SOP) and checklist to guide planning officials to include migration systematically in national development plans was developed, and the documents formed the basis for a toolkit for planning officers during the next planning cycle 2022–2025.

Another positive result is that Ghana moved one step closer to the establishment of the Ghana National Commission on Migration (GNCM) which will be in charge of advising the government on issues related to migration as well as of coordinating the implementation of the 2016 National Migration Policy. Two study missions were successfully carried out to Nigeria and Kenya to enhance stakeholders’ understanding of good practices in the creation and operationalization of a national migration management mechanism.

A second priority was to ensure that there strong inter and intra governmental coordination mechanisms were put in place, to ensure that the national governments took a ‘whole-of-government’ approach to migration management. Before the launch of the project, no sustainable consultation mechanisms on the SDGs and migration and development policy coherence (i.e. Inter-agency working group focusing on data collection and assessment) were in place.

Thanks to the project, national Technical Working Groups (TWGs) were created in both countries to monitor and track progress on migration-related SDG indicators. Five regular meetings of the TWGs conducted during the project period enhanced the government’s understanding of migration-related SDGs as well as further strengthened overall performance and coordination capacity.

A study was also carried out in the framework of the project to assess efforts by the Government of Ethiopia to mainstream migration into development plans, policies and strategies of Ethiopia, which identified recommendations that will support policy-making processes. The various consultations on the assessment, led by the National Anti-trafficking and Smuggling Taskforce Secretariat, enabled the creation of a viable platform among key stakeholders to enhance understanding of the overall migration mainstreaming efforts as well as the relevance of migration for the achievement of all SDGs.

A third priority was to support both governments to deliver on their commitments outlined in their national action plans on migration and development. In both Ghana and Ethiopia, two practical initiatives proposed in a national action plan have been implemented and evaluated. For instance, the project in Ethiopia focused on the effort of ensuring well-regulated overseas employment services for Ethiopian migrants. It made significant contributions towards the government’s efforts to facilitate regular overseas employment, as well as supported the establishment of a Migration Resource Center (MRC) on sustainable compilation, analysis and dissemination of migration data to support an evidence-based policymaking process. IOM also contributed to enhancing the skills trainings offered to potential Ethiopian labour migrants by providing materials to targeted Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions.

Members of the IOM migration youth club discuss the role of the youth in addressing irregular migration and contributing to achieving the SDGs © Janelle Blakley/IOM 2019

The project successfully came to a close in 2020. It was a culmination of all the hard work that was done to equip governments and partners with the tools needed to support policy formulation and inter-agency coordination. It built up deep commitment of authorities through 12 capacity building and sensitization workshops/activities reaching over 300 government actors and other stakeholders in both countries. It developed emerging national structures which will have long lasting impact. It made significant contributions to the governments’ efforts to incorporate migration into their respective annual action plans of districts and sectors, and it also enabled a diverse range of government stakeholders to engage with one another on national migration and development issues for the first time.

“Mainstreaming migration into national development plans is a brilliant way of tackling our development challenges…it is obvious that no one single sector can handle the issues of migration alone and we must join efforts and resources to be able to attain the desired results” — Ms. Victoria Natsu, Acting Executive Secretary, Human Trafficking Secretariat, Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection of Ghana noted after participating in the launching workshop.

In December 2020, at the Workshop on the 5th Anniversary of the United Nations Peace and Development Trust Fund, this project was also featured as one of the success stories of the Fund.

5th Anniversary of the United Nations Peace and Development Trust Fund. Video: Chinese Mission to the UN

At a time that the COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting the attainment of the 2030 Agenda which creates a greater risk for the most vulnerable to be left further behind, it’s clear that effective governance must include comprehensive strategies to better manage migration, assist people on the move, and strengthen cross-border cooperation in a safe and inclusive way.

Looking ahead, the efforts made by both countries through this project have contributed to these goals. The project served as a solid base for improving the well-being of migrants in Ghana and Ethiopia, empowered the governments to address their vulnerabilities while acknowledging them as solutions and co-developers in uncertain times, and was timely in building structures which have the potential to mitigate future socio-economic impact of COVID-19 on our societies.

The article was written by Xin Guo, Migration Policy Officer of IOM Office to the United Nations

For more information on the project, please contact

Benedetta Mangialardo, Email: and

Eric Akomanyi, Email:



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