Brain Drain – Is it Really Bad for Africa’s Development?
‘Brain Drain’ is defined, in simple terms, as the migration of skilled or talented people from one country to another one – or from one continent to another continent! Thus, Brain Drain is the capacity for one country [the host country] to attract the best searchers, scientists, professors, etc. from other countries, through a legal process. The host country selects, during this process, the most qualified people in sectors where there is shortage of experienced or well-trained people. These countries see this type of immigration as an accelerator of their development.
Highly qualified professionals from Africa who decided to come back home after studying and working abroad are sometimes tempted to move back to a foreign country! Why do some of the best African scientists, for instance, leave Africa? In general, they do so because they are underpaid, not valued and frustrated that they can’t always work in state of the art laboratories or research and development centers, among others. They survive in an environment that contradicts their skills and limits their actions as well as their thinking process. They are, sometimes, wrongly designated as ‘incompetent’ because the tools or equipment that they use belong to the twentieth or nineteenth century! This is generally the case for Doctors in the healthcare system. They believe that their role for the betterment of society is not taken seriously in their home country.
Brain Drain is not limited to African professionals. Indeed, African students who legally leave their country of origin to study abroad – mainly in developed or industrialized nations – can be tempted, especially the most talented ones, not to come back home. Although they don’t have work experience yet, they have diplomas obtained from the host countries’ universities or schools. As a result, they get hired by the host countries’ companies or even set up their own business in these countries. They become part of the labor force of the host countries – or economic agents who create economic value in these countries [thus, not in Africa].
Their children are disconnected from their parents’ continent and are not necessarily tempted to work in Africa.
Unless they are not married, professionals who migrate to the host country of their choice do so with their family. As for students, they generally get married in the host country once they have completed their studies and have found a job. Thus, the children of professional migrants, as well as those of former students, do integrate the educational system of the host country. Some of these children will even acquire the citizenship of the host country. Consequently, not only their parents are not physically working in Africa to develop the continent directly, but even worse, their children are disconnected from their parents’ continent and are not necessarily tempted to work in Africa.
The African continent already lost its labor force during slavery; and this labor force contributed significantly to the economic development of the United States, Europe, etc. This was ‘Forced and Inhumane Migration’. Today, the situation is different because the host countries are not forcing talented Africans to leave Africa. This is ‘Voluntary Migration’. Now, how many of these talents have, for instance, developed inventions or innovations that are patented under the name of the companies for which they work in Europe, Asia, the Americas, etc.? In other words, even if their names appear in the patent, they do not own it. Thus the invention belongs to the organization that hired them. They will, therefore, never be able to share it with Africa. As a result, and without always knowing, African countries may import equipment or tools that were actually conceived, in the first place, by Cameroonians, Nigerians, South-Africans, Ethiopians or Congolese who work and live abroad. To avoid this endless and negative loop, African leaders must take on their responsibilities so that African talents can innovate and invent made in Africa equipment to help the continent take off industrially and economically.
All the members of the diaspora are not pedantic and do not believe that they are better than those who were trained in Africa and are currently working in Africa.
The African diaspora is willing to contribute to the economic development of the continent, provided African leaders listen to their proposals and ideas. All the members of the diaspora are not pedantic and do not believe that they are better than those who were trained in Africa and are currently working in Africa. They know that complementarity is the best solution towards industrialization, among others. But for that junction to happen, there must be a bridge. And this bridge is also called “leadership“.
To make a long story short, experienced and talented Africans must be valued at home so that they are not tempted to leave Africa. We need them in Africa! African students who study abroad must be incited to come back home. Better than that, it is high time for Africa to have numerous universities that can rival those of developed countries so that the workforce is educated in Africa in order to serve Africa. This is one of the surest ways to economic, technological and industrial development of the African continent.
By Rudy L. Massamba