Eighty-five percent of Black African migrants to France come from a single ethnic group in a single region of West Africa. The Soninke have the oldest tradition of labor migration within Africa and were also probably the first itinerant traders of West Africa. Many continue today.
The first major study of the Soninke labor migration within Africa and to France, Willing Migrants is based upon a critical analysis of French postcolonial and colonial records and interviews with Soninke migrants. Francois Manchuelle shows that these migrations were driven by a search for improved economic option and that these labor movements have a great deal in common with European and American migrations.
This empirical evidence runs sharply contrary to the theoretical arguments common to the Africanist literature that have stressed the role of the colonial state in forcing migration through coercive violence and taxation. Manchuelle covers a broad historical period as he emphasizes the internal dynamics of the labor migration process. A vital link between African studies and the study of labor migrations around the world, Willing Migrants marks a major advance in Africanist labor migration literature and should generate new inquiries and wide-ranging debate.