Migration dynamics, entrepreneurship, and African development: Lessons from Malawi

Kevin J.A. Thomas, Christopher Inkpen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Using data from Malawi, this study situates the discourse on migration, entrepreneurship, and development within the context of Africa's social realities. It examines self-employment differences among three groups of migrants and corresponding group differences in agricultural and non-agricultural self-employment. International migrants are found to be more engaged in self-employment than internal migrants. However, our results suggest that previous findings on the development-related contributions of returning migrants from the West need to be appropriately contextualized. When returnees from the West invest in self-employment, they typically shy away from Africa's largest economic sector - agriculture. In contrast, levels of self-employment, especially in agricultural self-employment, are highest among returning migrants and immigrants from other African countries, especially from those nearby. We also underscore the gendered dimensions of migrants' contribution to African development by demonstrating that female migrants are more likely to be self-employed in agriculture than male migrants. Furthermore, as human-capital increases, migrants are more likely to concentrate their self-employment activities in non-agricultural activities and not in the agricultural sector. The study concludes using these findings to discuss key implications for policy and future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)844-873
Number of pages30
JournalInternational Migration Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Demography
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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