The Journal of Modern African Studies


The Return of Malawian Labour from South Africa and Zimbabwe

Robert E. Christiansen and Jonathan G. Kydd*

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.


* Robert E. Christiansen, currently Visiting Senior Research Fellow, University of Malawi, is on leave from Colby College, Waterville, Maine. Jonathan G. Kydd is Senior Lecturer in Economics at Chancellor College, University of Malawi, and will shortly join Wye College, University of London.