Return migration, entrepreneurship and development: Contrasting the economic growth perspective of Senegal’s diaspora policy through a migrant-centred approach

Giulia Sinatti*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

In recent years, the prominence of ‘migration’ as a policy domain in many African countries has shifted from labour-export policies to so-called ‘diaspora policies’. In these policies, migration is emphasised as a key instrument to stimulate development, particularly through return to the homeland and migrant entrepreneurship. Despite much attention accorded to migrants’ agency and affiliated cultural aspects in the ‘migration and development nexus’ debate, practices of return migration policy suffer from an inconsistency problem. The intention to promote national development is restricted by conceptual boundaries that define ‘return migration’ as a uni-directional flow from countries of immigration to countries of origin, and that reduce ‘development’ to its economic dimension. Acknowledging that migration and development have been long recognised in the scholarly literature as multi-faceted phenomena, this article exposes this inconsistency problem through ethnographic research among return businessmen in Senegal, whose experiences are advocated in diaspora policy as ideal returnees. I show how their practices are rooted in transnational relationships with the former country of immigration and, by implication, are built on bi-directional rather than uni-directional flows. Their motivations to return and invest depend on the sustainability of such relationships. I further illustrate that, by cultivating transnational linkages, initiating innovation and setting new examples, return businessmen bring implications for development well beyond economic growth as the core interest of diaspora policy. I conclude that the framing of development as a goal of diaspora policy in economic terms neglects what return migrants themselves value as important development objectives and outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)609-623
Number of pages15
JournalAfrican Studies
Volume78
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Keywords

  • capabilities
  • diaspora policies
  • migrant perspectives
  • return migration
  • social remittances
  • diaspora
  • Human Development

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