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The Return of Malawian Labour from South Africa and Zimbabwe


This article examines an unusual phenomenon in the context of modern African labour migration. It explains how Malawi, which had long been a significant source of migrant workers for its neighbours, managed to withdraw over one-half of its international labour force from abroad in the first six years of the 1970s, and to integrate these individuals into the domestic economy within a very short period of time. Traumatic movements of large numbers of migrant workers have been all too common in contemporary Africa, usually manifested as expulsions from host countries during periods of economic stress. A recent notable example was the exodus of about a million foreign workers from Nigeria in the course of one month in 1983. What is unusual about the reduction in international labour migration from Malawi is that it was induced mainly by economic opportunities rather than by coercion.

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Jonathan G. Kydd and Robert E. Christiansen , ‘Structural Change in Malawi since Independence: consequences of a development strategy based on large scale agriculture’, in World Development (Oxford), 10, 5, 1982, pp. 355–75.

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The Journal of Modern African Studies
  • ISSN: 0022-278X
  • EISSN: 1469-7777
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-modern-african-studies
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