From nation-building to entrepreneurship: the impact of élite return migrants in Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana



The issue of whether or not return migration produces any development impacts on the migrants' country of origin continues to raise the interest of policy-makers. Most empirical studies focus on the macro-level economic impacts of return. However, it has increasingly become apparent that socio-cultural and political impacts are important as well. Using both quantitative and qualitative data concerning highly-skilled élite migrants who have returned to Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana, and stressing instead the meso-level of analysis, this paper demonstrates that return migration has, on balance, fostered positive development effects in both the public and private sector. The effects do vary, mostly across generations of migrants and in relation to historical periods. Whereas earlier migrants' contributions tended to concern the realm of nation-building, more recent contributions are to be found in a more explicit economic context in the form of entrepreneurship. In particular, the paper illustrates the changes that return migrants have operated in the workplace and dwells upon some significant, concrete examples of innovative practice and productive investment. The policy implications of the main findings are discussed, and some recommendations for future research are formulated. Copyright © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.