Effect of Brain Drain or Skilled Labor Migration on Economic Development
This paper reviews the problem of brain drain or skill migration from developing countries mostly to industrialized countries. Some case studies are presented to illustrate some of the major problems facing Africans today in not being able to utilize optimally the human as well as material resources endowed to us by Almighty God to enable us to render our expertise for the development of our continent Africa. This proposal includes the setting up of an International Academy of African Academics and Professionals in Diaspora (IAAPD). It is envisaged that IAAPD will have a Talent Bank which will be a database on African Academics and Professionals living and working inside African countries as well as outside with detailed information about the experts, their areas of expertise and products developed etc. Furthermore, professional resource centres which will be land-based as well as cyberspace or virtual based will be set up made up with published information ( journals, technical reports) and specialized research equipment/facilities available in African countries where African Academics and Professionals can have access to for their use as well as for developing upcoming African Academics and Professionals. It is envisaged that African countries will create an enabling environment through entry visas and professional short visit regulations for African academics and professionals to use their Sabbaticals, annual vacations, study/research leave, professional short visits etc. academic/ professional staff exchange to go to other African countries to render their service.
The brain drain or skilled labour migration is not a recent phenomenon, but over the last few years, it has caused much concern. Brain drain or skilled labour migration according to the United Nations definition is defined as a one-way movement of highly skilled people from developing countries to the developed countries that only benefits the industrialized countries.
Brain Drain or Migration of skilled labour
Every member of society is entitled to benefit from a common resource to the extent of his need, so long as he does not violate, infringe, or obstruct ‘the equal rights of other members. The user is also held accountable; in return for profiting from a renewable natural resource, he is obliged to maintain its value. If he causes its destruction, impairment, or degradation, he is held liable to the extent of repairing the damage, for he has violated the rights of every member of society.
To the extent that a common resource is not sufficiently abundant for everyone to use it freely without impinging on one another’s rights, the dire rights of usufruct should be allocated according to the following considerations:
Some case stories on brain drains or skilled labour migration
(ICT). A number of developed countries have liberalized their policies for the admission of highly skilled professionals.
While it is obviously not possible to prevent people from migrating to developed countries for better prospects in this era of globalization and democratic governance, the adverse impact of such movements on development and poverty in developing countries and policy options to mitigate such impacts merit serious attention
Brian Drain from Arab Nations
A report by the Arab League estimated that losses to the Arab nations as a result of the migration of Arab intellectuals to Western nations amounted to about $ 200 billion, noting that the Western states are the greatest beneficiary through hosting 450,000 Arabs with higher scientific qualifications. The report warned that the migration of Arab intellectuals and scientists is, but a new catastrophe which threatens the future of the Arab nations in the area of technological and scientific competition with Israel.
The report added that Israeli has won in the competition for scientific struggle with the Arab states by attracting European scientists of Jewish extraction and settling them inside Israel at a time when the number of Arab scientists emigrants increased to foreign states. So far the Arab nations have failed to benefit from restoring back their scientists or make use of them. It is worth noting that scientific investment in the Arab nations is low, and the tools of cooperation such as advanced communication and collaboration infrastructure are not advanced or even available in some states. Also, it is worth noting that the general environment prevailing in many Arab states is not attractive to those intellectuals who seek an open and transparent environment that provides for tangible and intangible issues such as free speech(“www.arabicnews.com/ansub/Daily/Day/010227/2001022720.html”)
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Brain drain from Africa reportedly costs $4 billion a year
Africa, which has serious shortages of manpower, has been the worst hit. It is said to have lost more than 60,000 professionals (doctors, university lecturers, engineers, surveyors, etc) between 1985 and 1990 and to have been losing an average of 20,000 annually ever since.
Every year, thousands of qualified doctors, lawyers, architects and other professionals leave Africa for the west. They are tempted by significantly higher wages and brighter prospects. There are more than 21,000 Nigerian doctors practising in the United States alone. Meanwhile, Nigeria’s own health system suffers a cruel lack of medical practitioners. Sixty per cent of all Ghanaian doctors trained locally in the 1980s has left the country, according to the UNDP’s 1992 Human Development report. In Sudan, 17% of doctors in the UK are made up of more than four thousand specialist doctors and dentists, whilst 20% of university lecturers, 30% of engineers and 45% of surveyors have gone to work abroad. In Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa, for example, the flight of doctors has been so overwhelming that they have had to recruit hundreds of Cuban doctors to fill the gap.
The Kenya Medical Association (KMA) has said that only 600 doctors work in public hospitals out of more than 5000 registered doctors in the country. The rest either work abroad or in the private sector. The trends have been blamed for poor health services in Kenya, which has been ravaged by high rates of HIV infection and other communicable diseases. The chairman of the KMA, James Nyikal, urged the government to improve doctors’ salaries.
Most Kenyan doctors dissatisfied with wages in Kenya move to the UK, Botswana, or South Africa. Opposition Member of Parliament, Paul Muite, has said that the UK recruits the most Kenyan medical personnel (The Lancet, 2001).
Although it is difficult to calculate the cost of an expatriate professional in terms of the nutrition, health care and education provided by households and the State, it is clear developing countries are losing colossal amounts of investment annually to the developed countries.
Based on UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, Africa is losing as much as the US $4 billion a year through top professionals seeking better jobs abroad, according to research by a senior economist at Addis Ababa University.
Most adversely affected countries by the brain drain
Nigeria has more than 1,000,000 immigrants in the United States alone. In the United States, sixty-four per cent of foreign-born Nigerians aged 25 and older have at least a bachelor’s degree. Forty-three (43) per cent of foreign-born Africans living in the United
States have at least a bachelor’s degree. Nigerians and Africans are the most educated ethnic groups in the United States. The UN Development Programme (UNDP) notes that in Africa, the loss of medical doctors has been the most striking. At least 60 per cent of doctors trained in Ghana during the 1980s has left the country.
The phenomenon “is putting a huge strain on the continent,” notes IOM Deputy Director-General Ndioro Ndiaye. To fill the gap created by the skills shortage, African countries spend an estimated $4 billion annually to employ about 100,000 non-African expatriates.
“It is high time programmes and policies are put in place to reverse the devastating effects of the brain drain,” she says. The wars in Ethiopia, Sudan, Angola and Zaire contributed to the brain drain problem.
HOW CAN THE BRAIN DRAIN BE REVERSED?
This brain drain can be reversed by setting a system and strategic short plan and long technological one. By recruiting and retaining them. Provision of recruitment incentives such as relocation expenses, loans for housing and for starting businesses, and salary supplements for the first few years.
For thousands of Africans living overseas and seeking ways to contribute to the development of the continent, initiatives aimed at staunching the outflow of professional expertise are offering new possibilities. Now, more than ever before, there exists “a major opportunity to transform the historical brain drain … into a new African ‘brain trust’,” notes Mr John Sarpong of the Digital Diaspora Network Africa. He was among 130 heads of technology firms, non-profit organizations and UN agencies who launched the network in July 2002 as part of a resurgence of initiatives to reverse the loss of professional skills from Africa. Among those being targeted are scientists, medical doctors, engineers, university lecturers, economists, information technologists and other highly skilled people in short supply on the continent.
With the absence of formal structures, African Diaspora groups have generally relied on ad-hoc, disparate and small-scale programmes to assist in the development of the continent. Despite this, many have been able to help build schools, hospitals and roads, run training programmes, supply books and computers to deprived schools and establish scholarships to assist students.
Africa (RANDFORUM) has been exploring ways to repatriate African professionals and intellectuals, as requested in 1999 by the Presidential Forum on the Management of Science and Technology in Africa, a grouping of African heads of state. That year, a task force led by a former Zambian president, Mr Kenneth Kaunda, recommended that RANDFORUM and its sister organization, the African Foundation for Research and Development, identify overseas-based Africans interested in returning home to offer their skills. Another RANDFORUM project aims to relocate professionals from “distressed countries” — those that are faltering economically or politically, such as Liberia or Somalia — to where they can be productive. Rather than confine professionals and intellectuals from such countries to refugee camps, they are utilized elsewhere and returned once the situation in their countries normalizes.
The South African Network of Skills Abroad (SANSA) is another example of efforts at reversing the brain drain. Through its website, it invites professional South Africans to sign up. It reports that at least 22,000 graduates from five major South African universities resident abroad remain in touch with the universities. SANSA estimates that about 60 per cent of the country’s expatriate graduates are located in six countries, with Australia, the UK and the US accounting for more than half of them. Looking at the nature of their skills, the group estimates that about 30 per cent of the University of Cape
Town’s contactable doctoral graduates are living overseas. They comprise significant proportions of the university’s graduates in medicine, commerce, education and engineering, all areas in which South Africa has an acute shortage of skills.
The New Partnership calls for the establishment of a reliable, continental database to determine the magnitude of the problem and promote collaboration between Africans abroad and those at home. An important NEPAD priority is to develop Africa’s human resources and reverse the brain drain. Under NEPAD, African leaders explicitly call for the creation of the “necessary political, social and economic conditions that would serve as incentives to curb the brain drain….”
SOME STRATEGIES FOR SOLVING THE PROBLEM OF DRAIN ACROSS AFRICAN COUNTRIES
In order to create the enabling environment for African Academicians and Professionals, who will provide solutions to African countries in all fields of human endeavour like technology, science, law, and commerce, as well as short to meet the challenges posed by globalization being imposed on the continent in particular and mankind, in general, some strategies are proposed to achieve these objectives.
a) Talent Bank which will contain information about African Academics and Professionals, their location, area of expertise etc.
b) Concise date curriculum vitae of African Academicians and Professionals available online with access based on permission being granted by the website manager or system administrator in consultation with the Academician or Professional.
c) Information about facilities e.g. research institutes/centres, specialized institutions like specialist hospitals, technology parks etc in African countries which can be made available for use by other African Academicians and Professionals.
2) Through cooperation and networking among African nations, there will be the urgent need to create an enabling environment for easy mobility of Academicians and Professionals from one nation to another to render their services to one another for the benefit and development of Africa. These objectives can be achieved through some of the following actions:
i) Introduction of a common K-passport in all African countries which will have inbuilt facilities like relaxed work permit, entry visa, and other immigration requirements for African Academicians and Professionals. This will encourage Brain Gain from the present Brain Drain.
ii) Relaxed entry visa, work permit etc. for ease of mobility of African Academics and Professionals. The possibility of granting short term passports to nations they will be going to render their services should also be looked into.
iii) Encouragement of migration of African Academics and Professionals to get long term temporary residency as well as a permanent residency in other African nations whose proximity will enable them to render more effective service/ expertise to the continent
iv) African Academics and Professionals in Diaspora should be encouraged to go for their sabbaticals, study/research leave, professional short visits, annual vacations etc. There should be programs like academic staff/professional exchanges, external examiners, postgraduate training, receiving African students in their laboratories etc.
v) There should be accessible across all African nations for the use of their pooled resources like research institutes/centres, specialized institutions like specialist hospitals, technology parks, data banks, library resources etc.
vi) Provision of a competitive salary and fringe benefits.
vii) Consultancy and applied research and technology development/transfer in public research institutes.
viii) Participating in training or research via the network and initiating research and commercialization of products.
ix) Facilitating business contacts.
x) Encourage Academics and Professionals to author books based on Islamic principles which will imply a paradigm shift, and publication of scholarly, professional, and application-oriented papers in journals.
In conclusion, even though the brain drain is not a recent phenomenon, it has caused serious developmental problems in African countries over the last few years. The African continent is losing more skilled people every year. A project like IAAPD can be invaluable in recapturing some of the lost skills. However, we realize that the success of IAAPD depends on amongst other factors, the willingness and commitment of the expatriates, getting trusted relationships with political leaders etc. It is also important to go beyond just setting up the network, but ensuring that it is self-sustainable.
2 Haque and Galor, 1995.
3 Haque, N.U. and Kim, S.-J., 1995. “Human capital flight”: impact of migration on income and growth. IMF Staff Papers 42 3, pp. 577–607).
4 Lucas, R.E., 1988. On the mechanics of economic development. Journal of Monetary Economics 22 3, pp. 3–42.).
5 Samuel Siringi The Lancet, Volume 358, Issue 9278, 28 July 2001, Page 307.
6 World Bank, 1995.World Development Report 1995. Oxford University Press, New York.).
7 “”www.arabicnews.com/ansub/Daily/ Day/010227/2001022720.html””