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Keywords:

  • transnational migration;
  • return migration;
  • remittances;
  • development;
  • West Africa

Abstract

This introductory paper sets the scene for the special issue on transnational migration, return and development in West Africa. It first briefly describes the research programme that gave rise to the papers presented here. Then it sets out the basic parameters of the debate on the relationship between migration, return and development in the West African context, highlighting the crucial role of remittances and the neglected topic of return migration. Although officially recorded remittance flows are not as high in West Africa as they are in some other parts of the world, nevertheless they are seen as a critical input to the development process. Moreover, much remittance income escapes formal banking channels and so is unrecorded. The relevance of the West African case also rests on the high levels of educated, skilled migration from the region, and the potential that such migrants could have for development if they could be persuaded either to return or to invest in development-related initiatives from abroad. The final section of the paper introduces the papers which make up the theme issue. Copyright © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.