How do we Reverse Brain Drain? | JamiiForums | The Home of Great Thinkers

Dismiss Notice
You are browsing this site as a guest. It takes 2 minutes to CREATE AN ACCOUNT and less than 1 minute to LOGIN

How do we Reverse Brain Drain?

Discussion in 'Habari na Hoja mchanganyiko' started by Kivuko, Nov 2, 2009.

  1. Kivuko

    Kivuko Member

    Nov 2, 2009
    Joined: Jul 12, 2009
    Messages: 66
    Likes Received: 1
    Trophy Points: 0
    H o w D o We R e v e rs e t h e
    Br a i n Dr a i n ?

    Thank you for the pleasant introduction as well as for inviting
    me to share my thoughts on turning “brain drain” into “brain
    For 10 million African-born emigrants, the word “home” is
    synonymous with the United States, Britain or other country
    outside of Africa.
    Personally, I have lived continuously in the United States for
    the past 30 years. My last visit to Africa was 17 years ago.
    On the day I left Nigeria, I felt sad because I was leaving my
    family behind. I believed I would return eight years later,
    probably marry an Igbo girl, and then spend the rest of my life in
    But 25 years ago, I fell in love with an American girl, married her
    three years later, and became eligible to sponsor a Green Card
    visa for my 35 closest relatives, including my parents and all my
    siblings, nieces and nephews.
    The story of how I brought 35 people to the United States
    exemplifies how 10 million skilled people have emigrated out of
    Africa during the past 30 years.
    We came to the United States on student visas and then
    changed our status to become permanent residents and then
    naturalized citizens. Our new citizenship status helped us
    sponsor relatives, and also inspired our friends to immigrate
    Ten million Africans now constitute an invisible nation that
    resides outside Africa. Although invisible, it is a nation as
    populous as Angola, Malawi, Zambia or Zimbabwe. If it were to
    be a nation with distinct borders, it would have an income roughly
    equivalent to Africa’s gross domestic product.
    Although the African Union does not recognize the African
    Diaspora as a nation, the International Monetary Fund (IMF)
    acknowledges its economic importance. The IMF estimates the
    African Diaspora now constitutes the biggest group of foreign
    investors in Africa.
    Take for example Western Union. It estimates that it is not
    atypical for an immigrant to wire $300 per month to relatives in
    Africa. If you assume that most Africans living outside Africa
    send money each month and you do the math, you will agree with
    the IMF that the African Diaspora is indeed the largest foreign
    investor in Africa.
    What few realize is that Africans who immigrate to the United
    States contribute 40 times more wealth to the American than to
    the African economy. According to the United Nations, an
    African professional working in the United States contributes
    about $150,000 per year to the U.S. economy.
    Again, if you do the math, you will realize that the African
    professional remitting $300 per month to Africa is contributing
    40 times more to the United States economy than to the
    African one.
    On a relative scale, that means for every $300 per month a
    professional African sends home, that person contributes
    $12,000 per month to the U.S. economy.
    Of course, the issue more important than facts and figures is
    eliminating poverty in Africa, not merely reducing it by sending
    money to relatives. Money alone cannot eliminate poverty in
    Africa, because even one million dollars is a number with no
    intrinsic value.
    Real wealth cannot be measured by money, yet we often
    confuse money with wealth. Under the status quo , Africa would
    still remain poor even if we were to send all the money in the
    world there.
    Ask someone who is ill what “wealth” means, and you will get a
    very different answer than from most other people.
    If you were HIV-positive, you would gladly exchange one million
    dollars to become HIV-negative.
    When you give your money to your doctor, that physician helps
    you convert your money into health - or rather, wealth .
    Money cannot teach your children. Teachers can. Money
    cannot bring electricity to your home. Engineers can. Money
    cannot cure sick people. Doctors can.
    Because it is only a nation’s human capital that can be
    converted into real wealth, that human capital is much more
    valuable than its financial capital.
    A few years ago, Zambia had 1,600 medical doctors. Today,
    Zambia has only 400 medical doctors. Kenya retains only 10%
    of the nurses and doctors trained there. A similar story is told
    from South Africa to Ghana.
    I also speak from my family experiences. After contributing 25
    years to Nigerian society as a nurse, my father retired on a $25-
    per-month pension.
    By comparison, my four sisters each earn $25 per hour as
    nurses in the United States. If my father had had the
    opportunity my sisters did, he certainly would have immigrated to
    the United States as a young nurse.
    The “brain drain” explains, in part, why affluent Africans fly to
    London for their medical treatments.
    Furthermore, because a significant percentage of African
    doctors and nurses practice in U.S. hospitals, we can
    reasonably conclude that African medical schools are de facto
    serving the American people, not Africa.
    A recent World Bank survey shows that African universities
    are exporting a large percentage of their graduating manpower
    to the United States. In a given year, the World Bank
    estimates that 70,000 skilled Africans immigrate to Europe and
    the United States.
    While these 70,000 skilled Africans are fleeing the continent in
    search of employment and decent wages, 100,000 skilled
    expatriates who are paid wages higher than the prevailing rate in
    Europe are hired to replace them.
    In Nigeria, the petroleum industry hires about 1,000 skilled
    expatriates, even though we can find similar skills within the
    African Diaspora. Instead of developing its own manpower
    resources, Nigeria prefers to contract out its oil exploration
    despite the staggeringly high price of having to concede 40% of
    its profits to foreign oil companies.
    In a pre-independence day editorial, the Vanguard (Nigeria)
    queried: “Why would the optimism of 1960 give way to the
    despair of 2000?”
    My answer is this: Nigeria achieved political independence in
    1960, but by the year 2000 had not yet achieved technological
    During colonial rule, Nigeria retained only 50% of the profits
    from oil derived from its own territory. Four decades after this
    colonial rule ended, the New York Times (December 22, 2002)
    wrote that “40 percent of the oil revenue goes to Chevron,
    [and] 60 percent to the [Nigerian] government.”
    As a point of comparison, the United States would never
    permit a Nigerian oil company to retain 40% of the profits from a
    Texas oilfield.
    Our African homelands have paid an extraordinary price for
    their lack of domestic technological knowledge.
    Because of that lack of knowledge, since it gained
    independence in 1960, Nigeria has relinquished 40% of its
    oilfields and $200 billion to American and European
    Because of that lack of knowledge, Nigeria exports crude
    petroleum, only to import refined petroleum.
    Because of that lack of knowledge, Africa exports raw steel,
    only to import cars that are essentially steel products.
    Knowledge is the engine that drives economic growth, and
    Africa cannot eliminate poverty without first increasing and
    nurturing its intellectual capital.
    Reversing the “brain drain” will increase Africa’s intellectual
    capital while also increasing its wealth in many, many different
    Can the “brain drain” be reversed? My answer is: yes. But in
    order for it to happen, we must try something different.
    At this point, I want to inject a new idea into this dialogue. For
    my idea to work, it requires that we tap the talents and skills of
    the African Diaspora. It requires that we create one million
    high-tech jobs in Africa. It requires that we move one million
    high-tech jobs from the United States to Africa.
    I know you are wondering: How can we move one million jobs
    from the United States to Africa?
    It can be done. In fact, by the year 2015 the U.S. Department
    of Labor expects to lose an estimated 3.3 million call center jobs
    to developing nations.
    In this area, what we as Africans need to do is develop a
    strategic plan – one that will persuade multinational companies
    that it will be more profitable to move their call centers to nations
    in Africa instead of India.
    These high-tech jobs include those in call centers, customer
    service and help desks – all of which are suitable for unemployed
    university graduates.
    The reason these jobs could now emerge in Africa is that
    recent technological advances such as the Internet and mobile
    telephones now make it practical, cheaper and otherwise
    advantageous to move these services to developing nations,
    where lower wages prevail.
    If Africa succeeds in capturing one million of these high-tech
    jobs, they could provide more revenues than all the African
    oilfields. These “greener pastures” would lure back talent and,
    in turn, create a reverse “brain drain.”
    Again, we have a rare and unique window of opportunity to
    convert projected American job losses into Africa’s job gain,
    and thus change the “brain drain” to “brain gain.”
    However, aggressive action must be taken before this window of
    opportunity closes. India is a formidable competitor.
    Therefore, we need to determine the cost savings realized by
    outsourcing call center jobs to Africa instead of India. That
    cost saving will be used as a selling point to corporations
    interested in outsourcing jobs.
    A typical call center employee might be a housewife using a
    laptop computer and a cell phone to work from her home. As
    night settles and her children go to bed, she could place a phone
    call to Los Angeles, which is 10 hours behind her time zone.
    An American answers her call and she says, “Good morning,
    this is Zakiya.” Using a standard, rehearsed script, she tries to
    sell an American product.
    Now that USA-to-Africa telephone calls are as low as 6 cents
    per minute, it is economically feasible for a telephone sales
    person to reside in Anglophone Africa while virtually employed
    in the United States, and – this is important - paying income
    taxes only to her country in Africa.
    I will give one more example of how thousands of call center jobs
    can be created in Africa.
    It is well known that U.S. companies often give up on collecting
    outstanding account balances of less than $50 each. The
    reason is that it often costs $60 in American labor to recover
    that $50.
    By comparison, I believe it would cost only $10 in African labor
    (including the 6 cents per minute phone call) to collect an
    outstanding balance of $50.
    Earlier, the organizers of this Pan African Conference gave me
    a note containing eleven questions.
    The first was: Do skilled Africans have the moral obligation to
    remain and work in Africa?
    I believe those with skills should be encouraged and rewarded to
    stay, work, and raise their families in Africa. When that happens,
    a large middle class will be created, thereby reducing the
    conditions that give rise to civil war and corruption. Then, a true
    revitalization and renaissance will occur.
    The second question was: Should skilled African emigrants be
    compelled to return to Africa?
    I believe controlling emigration will be very difficult. Instead, I
    recommend the United Nations impose a “brain gain tax” upon
    those nations benefiting from the “brain drain.”
    Each year, the United States creates a brain drain by issuing
    135,000 H1-B visas to “outstanding researchers” and persons
    with “extraordinary ability.”
    The U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS), working in tangent
    with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), could
    be required to credit one month’s salary, each year, to the
    country of birth of each immigrant.
    Already, the IRS allows U.S. taxpayers to make voluntary
    contributions to election funds. Similarly, it could allow
    immigrants to voluntarily pay taxes to their country of birth,
    instead of to the United States.
    The third question was: Why don’t we encourage unemployed
    Africans to seek employment abroad?
    Put differently, if all the nurses and doctors in Africa were to
    win the U.S. visa lottery, who will operate our hospitals?
    If we encourage 8 million talented Africans to emigrate, what will
    we encourage their remaining 800 million brothers and sisters to
    The fourth question was: Should we blame the African
    Diaspora for Africa’s problems?
    Yes, the Diaspora should be blamed in part, because the
    absence it’s created has diminished the continent’s intellectual
    capital and thus created the vacuum enabling dictators and
    corruption to flourish.
    The likes of Idi Amin, Jean-Bedel Bokassa and Mobutu
    Sese Seko would not be able to declare themselves presidentfor-
    life of nations who have a large, educated middle class.
    The fifth question was: Should we not blame Africa’s leaders
    for siphoning money from Africa’s treasuries?
    It becomes a vicious circle: the flight of intellectual capital
    increases the flight of financial capital which in turn increases
    again the flight of intellectual capital.
    Leadership is a collective process, and “brain drain” reduces the
    collective brainpower needed to fight corruption and
    For example, the leadership of the Central Bank of Nigeria did
    not call a news conference after Sani Abacha stole $3 billion
    dollars from it.
    The bank’s Governor-General did not go on a hunger strike.
    He did not report the robbery to the police. He did not file a
    Had they the intellectual manpower to counter corruption, the
    results would have been very different.
    The sixth question was: Is it possible to achieve an African
    Because by definition, a renaissance is the revival and flowering
    of the arts, literature and sciences, it must be preceded by a
    growth in the continent’s intellectual capital, or the collective
    knowledge of the people.
    The best African musicians live in France. The top African
    writers live in the United States or Britain. The soccer
    superstars live in Europe. It will be impossible to achieve a
    renaissance without the contributions of the talented.
    The seventh question was: For how long has the “brain drain”
    problem existed?
    A common misconception is that the African “brain drain”
    started 40 years ago.
    In reality, it actually began ten times that long. Four hundred
    years ago, most people of African descent lived in Africa.
    Today, one in five of African descent live in the Americas.
    Therefore, measured in numbers, the largest “brain drain”
    resulted from the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
    Contrary to what people believed, Africa experienced a brain
    gain during the first half of the 20th century. Schools, hospitals
    and banks were built by the British colonialists. These
    institutions were the visible manifestations of brain gain.
    At the end of colonial rule, skilled Europeans fled the
    continent. Skilled Africans started fleeing the continent in the
    1970s, 80s, and 90s. The result was the widespread rise of
    despotic rulers.
    The eighth question was: Is "brain drain" a form of modern
    By the end of the 21st century, people will have different
    sensibilities and will describe it as modern day slavery.
    In the 19th century, which was an Agricultural Age, the U.S.
    economy needed strong hands to pick cotton, and the young
    and sturdy were forced into slavery.
    In the 21st century, which is an Information Age, the U.S.
    economy needs persons with “extraordinary ability” and the best
    and brightest are lured with Green Card visas. Africans who
    are illiterate or HIV-positive are automatically denied American
    The ninth question was: Do you believe that the “brain drain”
    can be reversed?
    As I stated earlier, “brain drain” is a complex and
    multidimensional problem that can be reversed into “brain gain.”
    India is now reversing its “brain drain,” and turning it into “brain
    gain;” I believe Africa can do the same. But unless we reverse it,
    the dream of an African renaissance will remain an elusive one.
    The tenth question was: Can we blame globalization as a cause
    of brain drain?
    Globalization began 400 years ago with the trans-Atlantic slave
    trade that brought the ancestors of 200 million Africans now
    living in the Americas. It has accelerated because the Internet
    and cell phone now enable you to communicate instantaneously
    with any person on the globe.
    Overall, globalization is a force that is denationalizing the wealth
    of developing nations. Economists have confirmed that the rich
    nations are getting richer while the poor ones are getting poorer.
    We also know that the globalization process is increasing the
    foreign debts of developing nations, accelerating the flight of
    financial and intellectual capital to western nations.
    The economics of offshoring will force multinational
    corporations to outsource to developing nations where lower
    wages prevail.
    To remain competitive and profitable, companies will be forced
    to reduce costs by hiring five-dollars-an-hour computer
    programmers living in Third World countries and lay off
    expensive American programmers that demand $50 an hour.
    In the long term, offshoring will reverse the flight of financial and
    intellectual capital from western nations to the Third World.
    The eleventh question was: Why have I lived in the United
    States for 30 continuous years?
    Africa has bitten at my soul since I left. My roots are still in
    Africa. My house is filled with Africana - food, paintings, music,
    and clothes - to remind me of Africa.
    I long to visit the motherland, but I must confess that when
    Africa called me to return home, I couldn’t answer that call.
    The reason is that I work on creating new knowledge that could
    be used to redesign supercomputers. The most powerful
    supercomputers cost $120 million each and Nigeria could not
    afford to buy one for me. I created the knowledge that the
    power of thousands of processors can be harnessed; this
    knowledge, in turn, inspired the reinvention of vector
    supercomputers into massively parallel supercomputers.
    New knowledge must precede new technological products and
    the supercomputer of today will become the personal computer
    of tomorrow.
    And so to answer your question: even though I reside in the
    U.S. the knowledge that I created is now materializing into
    better personal computers purchased by Africans.
    Finally, millions of high-tech jobs can be performed from Africa,
    but may instead be lost to India. We must identify the millions of
    jobs that will be more profitable when transferred from the
    United States to Africa.
    Doing so will enable us to create a brain drain from the United
    States and convert it to a brain gain for Africa.
    Thank you again.

    Emeagwali helped give birth to the supercomputer - the technology that spawned the
    Internet. He won the 1989 Gordon Bell Prize, which has been dubbed the “Nobel Prize of
    Supercomputing.” [Visit for complete biography]
  2. Katoma

    Katoma Senior Member

    Nov 2, 2009
    Joined: Mar 11, 2008
    Messages: 135
    Likes Received: 0
    Trophy Points: 0
    mimi Tanzania sidhani kama nitarudi kesho wala keshokutwa. PhD yangu ya multilayer extreme optics sidhani kama ninaweza apply Tanzania kwa mazingira ya sasa. ni bora nibaki huku kwa WaSwidi niendeleze libeneke.
  3. Nzokanhyilu

    Nzokanhyilu JF-Expert Member

    Nov 2, 2009
    Joined: Feb 19, 2007
    Messages: 1,087
    Likes Received: 20
    Trophy Points: 0
    Emeagwali hahaa. Nyani Ngabu's best friend hiii hiii.