As journalists, you will often encounter stories taking place in unknown environments, in culturally unfamiliar or geographically distant contexts. In these cases, it is often useful to use an analytical tool to grasp the topic in a structured way. One useful approach is the concept of nonuniform modernization.
As journalists, you will often encounter stories taking place in unknown environments, in culturally unfamiliar or geographically distant contexts. In these cases, it is often useful to use some analytical tool to grasp the topic in a structured way.
One way to do this is to use the concept of nonuniform modernization. This framework does not originate from journalistic practice, but it is easily adaptable to journalists’ needs, whether you are working from behind a desk or in the field. It can help you to grasp the story in a more conceptual and analytical way without losing sight of the human dimensions of your story.
Imagine you want to discuss human mobility within and out of West Africa: for example, from Senegal. How to grasp the topic analytically and conceptually? The issues can be broadly divided into three distinct, but closely interrelated parts – sociodemographic, economic and political modernization. Ideally, they should be in alignment. This may sound a bit academic, but in fact it is quite a simple idea.
We can imagine the growth of education as a result of sociodemographic modernization; an increase in the quantity and quality of employment (more and better paid jobs with higher added value) as a result of economic modernization; and with political modernization, a growth of opportunities in the ability of people to take part in public governance.
But let’s come back to Senegal. This country has gone through a significant increase in educational levels since 2000, especially among the younger generations. With increased education, career ambitions naturally rise: people who have received a better education then want to get better paid work. However, crippled economic modernization is unable to keep pace with these aspirations. Some people resolve this through internal mobility from the countryside to large towns and in particular the Dakar area, others decide to move to other countries in the West African Union while a smaller proportion decide to take their chances and go to Europe.
Another perspective is related to stagnating political institutions. People with higher levels of education are naturally more empowered and willing to take part in public governance. But in cases of political stagnation, their hopes of greater civic participation remain unfulfilled.
This kind of discrepancy can lead to social tensions with a range of consequences, from deciding to leave the country to political dissent, even civil war. There are some vivid examples of this in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa, but the same logic can easily be adapted to examples around the world.
And what else besides the potential decision to migrate to Europe connects Senegal with the EU? While the EU is quite active in offering and organizing vocational education in Senegal, the follow-up is missing. Young people who have gone through this enhanced education system now have higher career aspirations thanks to European money, but Europe does not then enable them to fulfil them.
On top of these trends may be factors that aren’t immediately apparent to you. Senegal is affected by climate change in a number of ways, for instance. Rising sea levels and coastal erosion are leading to the displacement of fisher communities, while desertification inland and in neighbouring states is disrupting the migration patterns of pastoralist communities. These factors may also contribute to the decisions being taken by young Senegalese to migrate.