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April 8, 2010 |  8 comments |  Print  Your Opinion  

G. Pascal Zachary

Topic How to Clog the Brain Drain

G. Pascal Zachary: To stimulate growth and development in Africa, governments and international organizations to reverse the negative consequences of the “brain drain.” Aid donors should tap into the underutilized knowledge of Africans living outside of Africa when trying to craft aid plans.

However much contested, financial and technical aid to Africa is inevitable. The important questions are over who supplies aid, who receives it, and what outcomes are achieved and for the benefit of whom in Africa. My critique of aid to Africa is not that aid isn't effective, because sometimes it is (I'm especially impressed with the Millennium Village program, the malaria initiatives by the Gates foundation and some small-farmer assistance programs in East and West Africa funded by the Agency for International Development and often implemented by Chemonix, a development contractor). Much foreign aid to Africa does reinforce pathologies, fails even in narrow technical terms and sustains corruption, sometimes directly as in the case of the new World Food Program scandal in Somalia and the primary education scandal in Kenya. But to admit aid failures in Africa isn't the same as concluding that aid fails Africa.

What can be done? Most importantly, donors can begin to taking into account the most important socio-economic trend in Africa: inequality and the growing division (one might even say "chasm") between the rich and poor within African societies. A recognition of this stubborn and deepening division, which distorts civil society in every African country, does not mean donors should only direct their aid at the poor. Rather donors should craft programs in Africa that account for the co-evolution of rich and poor, especially in African cities, where a vibrant private sector is both deepening inequality and yet fueling opportunities for ordinary people.

In the past two decades, Africa has seen a mass migration of its newly skilled and educated labor to North Africa, Western Europe, and North America. Professionals and academics are leaving the political and social instability in many African countries for better personal circumstances. This "brain drain" is handicapping African societies who can benefit from the skills, resources, and vision of those who have succeeded elsewhere. As Former South African President Thabo Mbeki has noted, "I dream of the day when they will return to add to the African pool of brain power, to enquire into and find solutions to Africa's problems and challenges, to open the African door to the world of knowledge, to elevate Africa's place within the universe of research the information of new knowledge, education and information."

Mbeki's dream can become a reality if more aid, whether in the form of charitable donations, technical expertise or private-sector investment, should come from Africans living outside of Africa. These Africans have skills, resources, ambition, vision and youth. Yet Diaspora Africans, despite their great successes in Britain, America, Canada and even France, are not taken seriously as potential partners by bilateral and multilateral donor organizations. And Diaspora Africans, understandably, are often limited in their outlook by their own ethnic, religious and national backgrounds. The situation is dynamic, however.

As Africans in the Diaspora gain more confidence in their ability to make a difference in their home countries, international donors will begin to adjust their views. The momentum behind the Diaspora is likely to grow because of the inevitable growth in European and American demand for African talent. Critical labor shortages in Europe will drive African migration; in the U.S., where today more than 1 million black African-born people live, "chain" migration will propel more Africans to leave their homes for the U.S.

G. Pascal Zachary is the author of The Diversity Advantage: Multicultural Identity in the New World Economy and Married to Africa. He has written for The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and Foreign Policy.

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Edgar  Orejel de la Trinidad

April 8, 2010

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I fully agree that reversing the "brain drain" is an important element in sustainable development for Africa (and other impoverished regions/nations around the world). Unfortunately, this is probably one among hundreds of "necessaries" to secure a positive trajectory on growth. There needs to be a role for state building (infrastructure, legal system/s, rule of law, security) as well. Otherwise, you will continue to see the "brain drain".
 
Unregistered User

April 11, 2010

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As stated by the author in the last part, the immigration policy of the receiving countries is crucial as well: though african professionals probably benefit from work experience in industrialized countries, these should promote policies that encourage temporary immigration and don't held up the return of the people to their countries of origin.
 
Benjamin  Waldron

April 12, 2010

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I agree that encouraging investment from diaspora africans has an important role to play, but I am having trouble seeing the link between diaspora investment and "clogging the brain drain," and keeping talented africans from leaving their home countries. perhaps you could elaborate a bit more on this point?

You seem to be suggesting that the establishment of credible partnerships with diaspora africans will keep more africans from leaving, is this a correct understanding?
 
Unregistered User

April 14, 2010

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Brain "circulation" is critical to sustaining communities of talent and expertise, especially in African cities. The outflow of talent from Africa is inevitable; what's contingent the extent to which talented people of African origin, living in North America and Europe, invest their time, talents and money back into Africa. This "virtuous circle" can both energize and make more relevant traditional foreign assistance as well as provide a stronger foundation for some talented, educated people in Africa to remain at home. The problem of brain drain, at least in African context, cannot be viewed in binary terms. In the years ahead, continued out-migration and the retention of educated people will co-evolve.
 
Malika  Pulatova

May 5, 2010

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Zachary’s article raises the sensitive question of the immigration of qualified individuals from African countries to the West and the impact on development. This, to be sure, is not a question specific to sub-Saharan Africa. In fact, it appears that plenty of developing countries suffer from the immigration of trained and promising minds to the U.S. and Europe. The causes of the immigration, as the article mentioned, pertain to the search for personal stability and prosperity. However, this does not help the development efforts, on the one hand, and does not give a good indication of the direction in which these efforts are going, on the other hand.

It is perhaps appropriate to rethink the whole development strategies in Africa. It appears that the central notion in the Western approach to sub-Saharan Africa revolves around the reduction of the levels of poverty and the provision of necessary needs of the populations. However, this immigration phenomenon does not seem to be solely caused by economic reasons. Those minds of Africa leave in search for justice, dignity and an opportunity to shine. It is not simply the amount of aid that Africa receives that affects development, it is the support of social justice, fighting corruption and authoritarianism and enhancing the struggle for democracy.

Tags: | brain drain |
 
Unregistered User

May 28, 2010

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The lack of accountability, good governance and policies that are incremental to reduce and eridacate poverty do not exist in most African countries. Most policies tend to be short sighted and brutal to those who want progressive development and hence the brain drain. This has to change and clever leaders can use aid to the adavantage of the poor if this was their priority and self gain. Especially in building infrastructure e.d roads, transport networks, health and education systems, sanitation, housing etc.
The problem we have in Africa is that the majority of peopel are rural populations who don't contribute to the formal financial or economic sector.

The role of NGOs to enable these people has failled because if they are empowered and have the means of production and the finance to better themselves, then all NGOs would cease to exist. A presence in Africa or any developing country is at the interest of the NGOs and not for the poor people or eradicated poverty, for they know if the poor's status quo changes, then they will cease to function and enjoy their expat lifestyles.
 
Unregistered User

July 6, 2010

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I agree that the "brain drain" problem is an important issue and we all have to think about it. Most developing countries suffer because of that and it effects the sustainable development. However, we should not forget other elements that prevent Africa from achieving positive results.

Problems of NGO – conflicts between NGOs. They can’t come together; instead they compete with each other. There is no coordination, and there are fights for political reasons.
NGO becomes a business.

Also, donors have to trust to local community, it is important build capacity. Local groups – know culture, how to interact with local people.

The process itself has problems. By 1993 there were an estimated 28,900 international NGOs worldwide, with approximately 20,000 of these in Third World countries. The problem is not that developed world is unwilling to help poor. The problem is in the process. Today the biggest issue that when individuals, NGOs, governments donate money it does not go toward its intended purpose. As long as there are issues like corruption, conflicts, and bad governance, money will not make any difference. Just to donate money is not enough; money has to be monitored so that it goes to those individuals who need it most.

 
Member deleted

July 6, 2010

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The world population has been estimated to be around 7 billion people and if a 5% fraction of these people may be qualified to be termed as as possessing “good brains”, there must be around 350 million brains in the world.

It can be easily guessed that the developed countries can employ only a very small part of this huge masses of people and the remaining much greater part ends up staying where they were whether they choose so or not.

In other words the term “brain drain” seems to have been fallaciously formulated to make the developed countries feeling guilty for reasons not clear to me so far.

On the other hand the strategical scholastic or technical expertise needed as an input for development can be acquired easier in developed countries and such professionals having the required skills can often be hired on a short or long term bases by those who need them to accomplish their investments.

My views regarding brain drain may be summed up as such that there is no need to “clog up brain drain” especially in a world where humanity has been seemingly moving in the direction of regionalization, etc.

Moreover the ruling class in the developing countries often insist on employing their own nationals with high qualifications with the hope that they can buy their services at a much less cost. I have observed many times that such foxy approach to bargain for high quality services repeatedly have ended up in disappointment.

It is one of the hard realities of the commercial world that you get what you pay for and trying to accomplish things otherwise is just a waste of precious time slowing the development of relatively poor countries.

I am therefore inclined to advise humbly that the qualified professionals should be paid the wages that they deserve in the world market without hesitation to speed up the development of the developing countries.

I also feel sure this is the most effective approach to clog the brain drain.
 

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