African Ambassadors and Experts Discuss Labour Migration to Middle East and Gulf Countries

Addis Ababa - Data shows that due to cultural, religious and historical links the Middle East and Gulf Cooperation Countries (GCC) is the second largest destination for African migrant workers, after intra-continental labour mobility, with an estimated 3 million Africans currently living there.

Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, South Africa and Uganda account for the highest number of African migrant workers in that region. 

As a result, an increasing number of African countries are negotiating bilateral labour agreements with Middle East counterparts such as Jordan, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, mainly for the provision of domestic workers.

However, unlike countries in Asia, Africa still does not have a dedicated multilateral forum for dialogue with the Middle East to facilitate smooth cooperation on labour migration between the two blocks.

Experts and ambassadors of African countries supplying labour migrants to the Middle East and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), therefore, met in Ethiopia this week (29 October 2019) to explore avenues for cooperating with these destination countries. 

This week’s meeting was held ahead of an Africa-Middle East Dialogue, taking place in February 2020.  

It follows recommendations made by labour migration governance stakeholders for the continent to initiate multilateral negotiations that will enhance protection for the growing number of African migrant workers in the Middle East.  

In her remarks, the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs for Ethiopia, Dr. Ergogie Tesfaye, said, “As the primary duty bearers for the protection of the rights of migrant workers, the onus is on governments to take leadership and ownership of the engagement process with key receiving countries of our labour migrants”. 

African Union Commission (AUC) Director for Social Affairs, Ms. Mariama Cisse emphasised the need for Africa to learn from existing multilateral processes like the Colombo Process and the Abu Dhabi Dialogue, which have helped to improve the situation of Asian migrant workers in the Gulf countries.  

To help put this into perspective, H.E. Ambassador Mr. Sumith Dassanayake of Sri Lanka, the previous chair of the Colombo Process, shared experiences on managing labour migration from Sri Lanka to the Middle East and GCC region.  

Ms. Silvia Cormaci of the International Labour Organization (ILO) said current estimates place African migrants in the Middle East and GCC at three million, which underlined the need for a joint voice to address challenges, and to enhance cooperation mechanisms between countries of origin and destination.  

Also speaking during the meeting, UN Migration shared its experience in establishing Inter State Consultation Mechanisms on Migration (ISCMs) with the Chief of Mission of IOM Ethiopia, Ms. Maureen Achieng, noting that the Middle East was the second largest region of destination for African migrant workers leaving the continent.  

She said beyond existing bilateral agreements a more integrated approach, such as an inter-regional mechanism, was needed to help African governments to engage Middle East countries to establish pathways for regular migration, to protect migrant workers and their families, and to allow the dignified return and reintegration of migrants who decide to return to their home countries.

 Additionally, H.E. Mr. Fafre Camara, the Ambassador of Mali and Chair of the Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC) on Multilateral Cooperation at the African Union also added voice on the need to collectively address the multitude of issues that African migrant workers face within and beyond the continent.

The meeting was organized by the AU-ILO-IOM-ECA Joint Labour Migration Governance Programme for Regional Development and Integration in Africa, also known as the JLMP.

JLMP was adopted in January 2015 by Heads of State and Government in Africa to contribute to improved labour migration governance to achieve safe, orderly and regular migration in Africa.

For more information, contact the IOM JLMP Team at IOM Ethiopia, Email:   


Experts and officials at the African Union meeting to discuss African migrant workers in the Middle East and GCC