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Wednesday, 17 October, 2001, 19:57 GMT 20:57 UK
Brain drain costs Africa billions
School students in the playground
Schools are lacking experienced African teachers
A new report says Africa has lost a third of its skilled professionals in recent decades and it is costing the continent $4b dollars a year to replace them with expatriates from the West.

The report, by the Pollution Research Group at Natal University in South Africa, says the trend, known as brain-drain, has strangled growth on the continent.

It says it has also nurtured poverty and delayed economic development.

The report was presented to an African preparatory conference for next year's World Summit on Sustainable Development.

President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa
South African President Thabo Mbeki has called for a reversal of the brain drain

According to the report, Africa lost an estimated 60,000 middle- and high-level managers between 1985 and 1990, and about 23,000 qualified academic professionals emigrate each year in search of better working conditions.

But some professionals suggested that political persecution was often a factor driving the best brains away.

Expatriate replacements for the departing Africans, the report said, are very often more expensive than African professionals.

This situation makes sustainable economic and environmental development even harder.

Britain accused of poaching

Nearly 40 African ministers are attending the conference in Nairobi which is intended to shape Africa's agenda for the summit.

The Natal University report is the latest contribution to the African brain drain debate.

Last year President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa called for a reversal of the situation that regularly see scientists and engineers emigrate to the west.

South Africa's Education Minister Kadar Asmal early this year also accused British recruitment agencies of "raiding" the country of teachers it could afford to loose.

A United Nations conference was also held in Ethiopia last year to consider the issue.

Experts there had called for the improvement in working conditions and more value given to their work.

See also:

22 Feb 00 | Africa
UN tackles African brain drain
13 Feb 01 | Africa
Eritrean brain drain row
16 Feb 01 | Africa
UK 'behind SA brain drain'
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