L’économie informelle en Afrique face à la crise de la COVID-19

I have the pleasure to announce a new book by S-SAM grantee Simon Barussaud and Fréderic Lapeyre looking at the informal economy in Africa and Covid-19. While the news in Western Europe and North America may be full of vaccinations and worries about overloading hospitals, it’s easy to forget that for many there’s a different reality characterized by getting by economically. This is especially true for everyone in the informal economy. In this new book (in French), the impact of protection measures in Africa on individuals in the informal economy is examined.

Barussaud, Simon, and Frédéric Lapeyre. 2022. L’économie informelle en Afrique face à la crise de la COVID-19. Louvain-la-Neuve: Éditions Academia.

Invented, invited and instrumentalised spaces: conceptualising non-state actor engagement in regional migration governance in West Africa

I’m happy to announce a new publication by Amanda Bisong, with whom I had the pleasure to collaborate as part of the Swiss Subsaharan Africa Migration Network.

The article looks at how non-state actors are involved in regional migration policy processes in ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African States). Different types of actors are differentiated: NGO, civil society organizations, academia, and the media, which reminds me very much of the work we do on the politicization of migration elsewhere. Amanda Bisong uses interviews in conjunction with survey results and an extensive analysis of policy documents to demonstrate how spaces are constructed and instrumentalized by different actors. Overall, non-state actors reinforce regional policies and help circumvent restrictive national agendas with innovative regional approaches.

Bisong, Amanda. 2021. “Invented, Invited and Instrumentalised Spaces: Conceptualising Non-State Actor Engagement in Regional Migration Governance in West Africa.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 0(0):1–19. doi: 10.1080/1369183X.2021.1972570.

New Publication: Decision-Making Under Uncertainty

I’m happy to announce a new publication, coming out of the Swiss Subsaharan African Migration Network. My direct contribution to this thematic issue was the introduction, where I examine common strands of the articles in the issue. As hinted at in the title, the focus is on decision-making under uncertainty — and migration decisions are the example to explore these issues.

When I write about ‘migrants’ here, let’s be clear that there is enormous heterogeneity in this ‘group’: different motivations, different aspirations, different capabilities, and different strategies to deal with the uncertainty inherent in migration decisions.

We do not observe naïve and gullible migrants ignorant of the risks and dangers of irregular migration, nor do we find masses of ‘victims’ tricked by fraudsters and smugglers. Instead, we observe individuals with aspirations, navigating a world characterized by limitations and boundaries. Information is patchy, but this has as much to do with the changing circumstances and opportunities—each risky to some extent. Under these circumstances, migrants show great flexibility to reach their goals, drawing on heuristics and narratives as is common in decision-making under limited information.


When thinking about migration decisions, it’s better to think about a chain of linked decisions — a chain where circumstances can and do change. In these circumstances, occasionally we also observe what I called “migration velleity” rather than ambition.

Ruedin, Didier. 2021. ‘Decision-Making Under Uncertainty: African Migrants in the Spotlight’. Social Inclusion 9 (1): 182–186. https://doi.org/10.17645/si.v9i1.4076. Open Access.

Call for Papers — Decision-Making under Uncertainty: African Migrants in the Spotlight

In the context of the Swiss-Subsaharan African Migration Network (S-SAM), we’re now looking for paper contributions for a thematic issue at the open access journal Social Inclusion. Feel free to contact me for information.

Submission of Abstracts: 1-15 May 2020
Submission of Full Papers: 15-30 September 2020
Publication of the Issue: March 2021

Information: The objective of this thematic issue is to better understand how migrants decide whether to migrate and where to migrate to by considering the limited information available to them. Existing work is informed by two distinct literatures. Migration studies developed two-step models distinguishing ambitions to migrate from the capability to migrate, while contributions in economics and psychology have sharpened our understanding that we often make decisions without perfect information.

Without communication between literatures, however, we do not understand well why immigrants try to reach countries in the Global North despite seemingly impossible odds. The articles should use mostly qualitative and mixed methods to study migration decisions in countries of origin and transit, to better understand how imperfect and contradictory information affects decisions. They highlight the role of narratives and expectations, and how human biases and bounded rationality matter for ambitions to migrate, and what migrants do to maximize the capability to migrate.

Articles will focus on the initial decision to leave countries of origin—why individuals take considerable risks and often take on debt in their endeavour to reach countries in the Global North, risks that seem disproportional to the likely gains, as most immigrants never reach their destination, and many are unable to fulfil their expectations. Articles will also focus on what happens during the journey where formal and informal migration may be mixed. They explore how different narratives influence the migration journey as individuals learn more about the risks and likely outcomes. Articles focusing on student migrants in particular, a migration channel experiencing a recent surge without much attention in academia, are especially welcome. With the increasingly difficult routes across the Mediterranean, some individuals formally sign up for studies in countries such as Northern Cyprus as an intermediate destination.

Instructions for Authors: Authors interested in submitting a paper for this issue are asked to consult the journal’s instructions for authors and send their abstracts in a Word file (about 250 words, with a tentative title and reference to the thematic issue) by email to the Editorial Office (si@cogitatiopress.com). When submitting their abstracts, authors are also asked to confirm that they are aware that Social Inclusion is an open access journal with a publishing fee if the article is accepted for publication after peer-review (corresponding authors affiliated with our institutional members do not incur this fee).

Open Access:  The journal has an article publication fee to cover its costs and guarantee that the article can be accessed free of charge by any reader, anywhere in the world, regardless of affiliation. We defend that authors should not have to personally pay this fee and advise them to check with their institutions if funds are available to cover open access publication fees. Institutions can also join Cogitatio’s Membership Program at a very affordable rate and enable all affiliated authors to publish without incurring any fees. Further information about the journal’s open access charges and institutional members can be found here.

A gem from the spam folder

I got this today…

Cooperating with 6 other guest editors […] the Lead Guest Editor, has proposed a special issue titled Society, Culture and Politics in Contemporary Africa

wow,  I count 7 editors in total, that must be a big special issue…

gather together researchers in order to spread their academic experience and research findings on all topics in relation to Africa

I see, all topics in relation to Africa. Now I wonder whether they can manage with 7 editors, I mean all topics in relation to Africa.

Unfortunately, this is followed by this table:

Topics of interest include, but are not limited to:
  1. Socioeconomic dynamics
  2. Culture
  1. Social mobility
  2. Tradition
  1. Politics
  2. Society

That’s a real shame, not all topics after all. Now I’m not so sure anymore, I mean they do narrow it down quite a bit (there’s hope, though, that desperate “not limited to”).

Image credit: CC-BY-NC AJC1