Africa is so big that Europe, the US, India and China could comfortably fit inside its landmass. It is home to huge amounts of the world’s mineral resources. And by 2050, one in four humans on earth will be African, the UN predicts.

Despite all this, many Africans want to leave their country of birth. And more than one-third of Africans have thought about emigrating, according to new research conducted by Afrobarometer.

The vast majority are thinking about moving to another African country rather than travelling to North America or Europe.

So what’s behind their decisions? Here are five key facts about African migration:


1. Work is the top motivating factor

Most Africans who want to leave their homes are motivated by seeking work or higher pay in another country. Economic hardship and the desire to escape poverty are also big factors.

But while many survey respondents express a desire to leave, far fewer have a firm plan. Just 9% have taken concrete steps, such as obtaining a visa for their destination country.

Image: Afrobarometer

2. The desire to leave is strongest in the young and educated

Africa’s young adults are most likely to want to settle in a new country. More than 40% of people between the ages of 18 and 25 have considered emigrating, but the desire to leave decreases steadily as people age. Education is also an influence, with around half of people that have completed post-secondary education saying they’ve considered leaving at least “a little bit”.

Among the poor, emigration is viewed as a means of escaping poverty, while wealthier people viewed a move as an opportunity to improve their knowledge, seek adventure or take up a business opportunity.


3. Most Africans prefer to stay close to home

The largest group of potential emigrants seek a fresh start nearer home. Almost one-third of respondents want to move to another country within Africa, and the largest group prefer destinations in the same region as their home country.

Outside of Africa, the most popular destinations were Europe and North America.

Image: Afrobarometer

4. International migration from sub-Saharan Africa has soared

Countries in this region dominate the global migration list, with eight of the top 10 fastest-growing migrant populations since 2010.

Conflict in South Sudan has driven the growth rate for citizens leaving their homeland to 334% over the period – only Syria has seen a higher increase.

Image: Pew Research Center