Migration is shaping Africa and the world and it is doing so very distinctly. It is estimated that about one million Africans migrated to Europe over the decade to 2017. Some experts in development economics believe that more people will be able to move as Africa grows richer and migration might probably increase.
The continued movement of Africans across the globe, and Africa in particular, has implications for planning and strategy for African airports – traveller personas are likely to tilt more towards young, professional and globally thinking individuals with families. Airports are gateways into a nation and the airport experience can set the tone for how the migrant sees the country. This is important on the strength of the current thinking that migration does not lead to “brain drain” or “brain gain”, instead it is circular, with people moving, learning new skills and then moving again. So migrants at airports should be treated with respect, dignity, and in full compliance with international human rights standards.
Three types of migration have been recognized within Africa, namely: To the West, within Africa and from countryside to the city. The Pew Research Centre in 2017, asked people in several African countries if they would move to another country if they could. They discovered that about 75 percent from Nigeria and Ghana said they would. And more than half of Kenyans and South Africans surveyed also said they would.
Migration also grows trade and investment. Many people would still like to eat the type of food they grew up with. With their movement to other nations, they create a market for food items to be imported from their home country. This does not only apply to food, but also to music and video productions. Those who live in the cities have remained a ready market for farmers in the rural areas and this has helped raise the income of rural dwellers, especially those who can move these food items to the city markets where they are in demand. Moving people and goods is one logistic challenge that creates opportunities for airports and airlines.
Some of the things airports should have in mind are that everyone irrespective of race, nationality, ethnicity, gender, religion or any other should be allowed the same rights and opportunities. Migrants on arrival at airports should be able to access clear and transparent information. Information should be made out in multiple languages, with provision for interpretation and translation services for effective facilitation.
Reduce delays, treat the migrants with respect, dignity and courtesy all through their engagement with personnel at the airport, protect their privacy and confidentiality during interviews or when checking their documents and also help them access legal services and immigration advisors who will help explain to them their rights and obligations.
Just as some African nations do for people on religious pilgrimage, airports should make sure migrants have access to basic facilities such as clean restrooms, drinking water, and places where they can rest too. Keep in close watch children, the elderly and persons with reduced mobility as they are vulnerable. Where their stays at the airport may be prolonged, it is important to monitor their health as well as give them access to medical assistance and health services that may be necessary. While doing the above, collaboration with relevant government and non-government as well as international agencies that specialise in migration and refugee support will go a long way in ensuring that the experience of migrants are positive at the airport.
The concerted efforts towards the Single African Air Transport Market will lead to increased connectivity among African countries such that traffic intra-Africa is projected to increase by 51 percent from 31.2 million to 47.1 million, say some experts. This will result in an added 15.9 million passenger trips that were not able to take place due to cost, flight availability and service convenience. African airports have work cut out for them as the travel demand and migration increase.