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Top 5 reasons why South Africans want to move abroad

South Africa’s massive immigration problem


More than a third of Africans have considered emigrating, including about half of young adults and highly educated citizens, according to new Afrobarometer findings from across the continent.

The findings are based on recent public-opinion surveys in 34 African countries, with the report showing that the most popular destination among potential emigrants is neither Europe nor North America but another African country and that potential emigrants are overwhelmingly motivated by a hunger for jobs and economic opportunity.

The report found that Southern Africans are most likely to want to stay within the region (51%) or on the continent (7%), although there is wide variation across individual countries.

More than eight in 10 potential migrants in Lesotho (84%) and eSwatini (83%), and more than two-thirds in Malawi (71%) and Zimbabwe (67%), prefer to remain within the Southern Africa region.

In contrast, for residents of South Africa – the primary destination country within the region – who are considering migration, they are far more likely to be looking outside the continent (69% say Europe, North America, or some other non-African destination), as are potential emigrants in Mauritius (87%) and Madagascar (76%).

Reasons for leaving

Potential emigrants themselves confirm the common notion that it’s the search for greener pastures that motivates most of those who want to move abroad. On average across 34 countries, three-fourths of potential emigrants say the most important reason they would consider leaving is to search for work (44%) or to escape poverty or economic hardship (29%).

Another 4% would leave in search of better business prospects, and 2% each would go elsewhere in search of more democracy or protection of their political and religious freedoms, or to seek personal security (i.e. avoid crime or civil conflict).

Pursuing their education abroad draws 6%, while 5% cite the lure of travel, tourism, or adventure, and 3% would go to either join family members already living outside the country or to accompany family members who are leaving (for unspecified reasons).

The top five reasons South Africans gave for wanting to emigrate include:

  • Finding work – 40%
  • Poverty/hardship – 17%
  • Peace/security – 8%
  • Travel/tourism – 7%
  • Business prospects – 6%


Read: How many South Africans are planning to leave the country for good





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