Africa may be a developing continent but it has some of the best brains in the world. Every year, young Africans leave the shores of the continent. Sometimes, the aim is to acquire knowledge in a bid to advance their career. Sadly, they are often lured by better opportunities in their host countries and never return. Thus, Africa continues to suffer brain drain.
African scientists are highly talented but often work in appalling conditions. In some African countries, scientists are either underpaid or owed months of salaries. Therefore, it is not surprising that they are willing to leave the shores of the continent at the promise of better working conditions and pay. The story of Serufusa Sekidde, a former neurosurgeon at Mulago National Referral Hospital is an example of what scientists go through.
The population of Africans abroad
It is estimated that there are over 10 million Africans abroad as of 2004. That figure has grown to about 210 million in 2020. If this was a nation, it would be as populous as Nigeria. These figures show the severity of brain drain in just over a decade. According to the IMF, African Diaspora constitutes the largest group of foreign investors in Africa. However, that figure is small compared to the contribution of African Diaspora to the economy of their host nations.
What many don’t realize is that Africans in the United State contribute forty times more wealth to the American economy than Africa. According to the United Nations, an African professional working in the United States contributes over $150,000 annually to the U.S. economy. Inasmuch as it may seem Africa also gains from brain drain in the form of foreign investment from the African diaspora, the ultimate gainers are the westerners.
Can brain drain be reversed?
Perhaps, it is still possible to reverse this trend. However, the approach must be different. According to Philip Emeagwali, “Real wealth cannot be measured by money. Unfortunately, we often confuse money with wealth’. With this mindset, Africa will remain poor even if all the money in the world is sent to the continent.
Africa needs to place more emphasis on growing citizens with skills rather than acquiring money. According to Emeagwali, “Money cannot teach your children. Teachers can. Money cannot bring electricity to your home. Engineers can. Money cannot cure sick people. Doctors can.” It is only a nation’s human capital that can bring about real wealth.
The quest to reversing brain drain should start with improving infrastructure. Africans should not beg for basic amenities in 2020. The onus of this lies in getting a visionary leader. Africans will always be freer in Africa than anywhere else in the world. If the environment is made conducive, a large number of African diasporas will gladly return home.