Causes of migration in Egypt more than just economic factors, says first paper in new series

News Release

July 25, 2011

Waterloo, Canada – July 25 – Migration in Egypt is more than a reaction to economic hardships; it is often caused by environmental degradation, says a new paper issued by the Africa Initiative.

Associate academic officer at the United Nations University’s Institute for Environment and Human Security, Tamer Afifi, argues that current literature pays little attention to the environmental drivers of migration, such as desertification. Researchers, therefore, need to more closely examine how environmental pressure can affect potential migrants and governments need to find ways to address such situations.

According to Afifi, “environmental issues were pinpointed to be a common root cause for migration, especially in the case of people migrating from rural areas.” Based on two-months of field research conducted in 2007, he explains that, “72 percent of the migrants interviewed indicated that environmental problems had affected their decision to move.”

As part of the new Africa Initiative Discussion Papers series aimed at addressing substantive issues in the areas of conflict resolution, energy, food security, health, migration, and climate change in Africa, Stealth Environmental Influences on Economic Migration in Egypt can be accessed on the Africa Portal.

The findings are significant and counterintuitive. Previous studies all point to economic factors as drivers of migration in Egypt. Afifi’s research, however, shows that environmental factors are actually the hidden cause of these movements.

“Original, field-based and policy relevant studies such as Afifi’s are what readers of the Discussion Papers series will get,” says Thomas Tieku, lead researcher for the Africa Initiative and series editor. “As the first of many papers in the coming months, the series is an excellent platform for African-based and Canadian-based researchers to construct their own knowledge.” 

Written by experienced African and Canadian researchers, the papers have gone through a grant review process, or in select cases are commissioned by the Africa Initiative’s research program. An international editorial panel, consisting of experts from the African Academy of Sciences, Harvard University, Oxfam America, the Balsillie School of International Affairs and the University of Nairobi, among others, reviews the papers issued through this series. The second discussion paper that will be issued by the Africa Initiative uses empirical evidence from the East Africa Highlands to examine the relationships between global warming and malaria.  It will be released on August 22, 2011 .

The Africa Initiative is a multi-year, donor-supported program jointly undertaken by CIGI in cooperation with Makerere University. It aims to contribute to the deepening of Africa’s capacity and knowledge. To access this Africa Initiative Discussion Paper, please visit: For more information on future papers, please contact [email protected].


Kevin Dias, Communications Specialist, CIGI

Tel: 519.885.2444, ext. 238, Email: [email protected]

The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) is an independent, nonpartisan think tank on international governance. Led by experienced practitioners and distinguished academics, CIGI supports research, forms networks, advances policy debate and generates ideas for multilateral governance improvements. Conducting an active agenda of research, events and publications, CIGI’s interdisciplinary work includes collaboration with policy, business and academic communities around the world. CIGI was founded in 2001 by Jim Balsillie, co-CEO of RIM (Research In Motion), and collaborates with and gratefully acknowledges support from a number of strategic partners, in particular the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario. For more information, please visit


The opinions expressed in this article/multimedia are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of CIGI or its Board of Directors.