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Wednesday, 24 July, 2002, 15:22 GMT 16:22 UK
South Africa hit by 'brain-drain'
Thousands of skilled young South Africans are continuing to emigrate in search of a better life, draining the country of much-needed economic resources.

Up to 100,000 people are believed to have left South Africa over the last three years, and 70% of skilled South Africans still in the country say they are considering emigrating, despite government calls for them to stay and help their country.

Surgeons
Many professionals have left for better paid jobs
Most give fear of crime as the reason behind their decision to go, but the Aids epidemic and unemployment are also cited in a recent study carried out by the University of South Africa (Unisa).

South Africa is only one of the many countries in Africa affected by brain drain, which has deprived the continent of a third of its skilled professionals in recent decades, strangling growth.

Haemorrhage

In 1999, Unisa says, 39,000 South Africans left the country to join the 1.6m already living abroad.

Officially, 10,262 people emigrated in the first 10 months of last year, according to the South African government's data agency, Statistics South Africa.


If South Africa is to enjoy widespread, long-term economic growth, it has to open its doors to foreign skills

Greg Mills, Institute of International Affairs

But the real figure is probably much higher: independent researchers say three times as many as the official 9,908, left in 2000, the London-based Financial Times reports.

Most of these people leave for other English-speaking countries: Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the US and the United Kingdom are favourite destinations.

They are professionals with skills in great demand in the West, such as engineering, medicine, accounting and banking.

The majority - 60% - say they left because of the high level of crime in South Africa.

Murder rates are 10 times higher than in the United States.

The Aids epidemic is also cited as a reason to leave: one in nine people is infected with HIV in South Africa. More than 150 children are born HIV-positive in the country every day.

Rising unemployment - at 30% a year ago - corruption and declining standards in healthcare and education also play a part.

Political factor

But the end of apartheid, with the election of Nelson Mandela as president in 1994, also contributed to the phenomenon.

Some whites fear the "uncertainties of majority rule" and the government's policy of affirmative action favouring black South Africans.

Many have also seized opportunities thrown up since South Africa's economic isolation ended eight years ago.

But the loss of each skilled professional costs up to 10 unskilled jobs, according to the Unisa study.

President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa
Mbeki wants to reverse the brain-drain

The South African Government, however, has been slow to react to the emigration trend, which undermines its efforts to create new jobs.

Officially, only 3,053 people moved to South Africa in the first 10 months of last year.

However, unskilled people from neighbouring countries such as Zimbabwe and Mozambique are desperate to find work in South Africa.

Thousands are sent back each year by the authorities.

The government would prefer local companies to train blacks to fill the gap left by emigrating professionals, the Financial Times says, than encourage the immigration of foreigners.

But the South African Institute of International Affairs told the newspaper that this is the wrong attitude.

"If South Africa is to enjoy widespread, long-term economic growth, it has to open its doors to foreign skills," its director, Greg Mills, said.


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17 Oct 01 | Africa
22 Feb 00 | Africa
27 May 99 | South Africa elections
16 Feb 01 | Africa
13 Feb 01 | Africa
02 Feb 01 | Education
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