On International Migrants Day let’s remember what’s driving so many people to migrate

On International Migrants Day let's remember what's driving so many people to migrate

“In Nigeria there is nothing, we have nothing. There is no money, there is no food, there is nothing. Even work. Even if you finish university, there is no work.”

Alima, 23, interviewed at a migrant detention facility in Misrata, Libya

If you arrived in a slum and had no work or money, a family to support but not enough to eat, would you stay put? Or carry on moving?

Earlier this year the European Union published a report which finds that lack of access to modern energy is one of the root causes of “irregular” economic migration to Europe.

This is not surprising. Without electricity, people can’t stay healthy or improve their lives. In rural areas electricity is needed to power crop irrigation systems. In cities and towns, it’s essential for job-creating businesses. In hospitals it can mean the difference between life or death.

Yet with 1.2 billion people still without access to power, millions are now on the move – ready to risk everything in search of a better life. This is putting huge pressure on the transit countries on the route into Europe, fueling tension and instability.

In a recent speech to the G7, the head of the African Development Bank Akinwumi Adesina compared the young people drawn to undertake the dangerous journey to Europe like moths drawn to a flame:

“Even insects migrate from where it is dark to where there is light. No wonder Africa’s youth – our assets – take huge risks migrating to Europe, looking for a better life. The future of Africa’s youth does not lie in migration to Europe; it should not be at the bottom of the Mediterranean; it lies in a prosperous Africa. We must create greater economic opportunities for our youth right at home in Africa.”

But we know what the solution is. The EU report points to evidence from Latin America, showing that when rural areas received electricity, internal migration slowed and even began to reverse. With affordable, reliable power, the world’s poorest countries can offer their citizens a better life, without forcing them to leave or fight to find it.