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Last Updated: Friday, 19 March, 2004, 15:09 GMT
Why is Africa losing its best brains?
Graduation ceremony for black students in US
African students prefer foreign universities

Thousands of Africa's professionals and students are leaving the continent for better prospects in Europe, USA or India.

For instance, it is estimated that more than 10,000 South Africans for instance left the country for America and Europe in the last year alone.

A majority of professionals who leave the continent include lecturers, nurses, doctors are leaving for greener pastures away from home. Most of them are reluctant to go back home, they would rather seek jobs abroad.

According to statistics, the so-called brain drain costs the continent an estimated 4 billion dollars per year - in what has been pronounced as a slow death for Africa.

The BBC's Africa Live programme asks: Why is the continent losing hundreds of its best brains to the west?

If you're an an African working, lecturing or studying in the West, what's your story?

Join the BBC's Africa Live debate Wednesday 24 March at 1630 & 1830GMT.

Use the form to send us your comments, some of which will be published below.

If you would like to take part in the discussion, e-mail us with your telephone number, which will not be published.


Your comments:

The solution to Africa's problems including brain drain, according to Ghana's first president Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, is that Africa needs a new type of citizen, a dedicated, modest, honest and informed man. A man who submerges himself in service to the nation and mankind. A man who abhors greed and detests vanity. A new type of man whose humility is his strength and whose integrity is his greatness.
Ernest Barnor, Uk

As an engineer, I do enjoy the infinitely superior renumeration package but home is where the heart is and mine is with my country. If the day ever comes when the leaders honestly commit to do what they were elected for, then I just might decide to take a major pay cut and come join in the effort.
Tony Waithaka, USA/KENYA

Intellect is scarce, and scarcity gives rise to markets. Therefore, there exists a market for intelligent people. Africa's corrupt economic culture drives away intellectual talent. There is no need to try and stop the brain drain - it can't be stopped -- because African culture is not going to change.
Jeff, Dallas, USA

I'm a university student at University Groningen University, The Netherlands. I think African elite should put behind their the-so-called degrees and work with local people for the economy. For the time being degrees for most Africans is a waste!! We need more working people than those who want big offices, white-collar jobs, etc. Come on guys, take action, stop calling yourselves 'educated'.
Wabike, Tanzania

There are a number of pull and push factors that facilitate the flow of best brains out of Africa. According to Prof.James Buchan, a well known researcher on international migration of highly qualified personel, some of the pushing factors include poor working conditions, limited career opportunities, limited educational opportunities and low pay and economic instability.The pooling factors include higher pay, better working conditions,career opportunities, so on and so forth. Today there are much more Ethiopian doctors in Europe and North America than in the country. This will eventually blur the development vision of poor donor countries including Ethiopia.
Dr.Kedir M H, Ethiopia

This is a complex question and I don't think that the BBC Africa Live will get a solution; when you are doing a budget in your home, you are the one who know what is good or bad for you and your families. In Africa, some families send their children to study overseas especially Europe and US because education in the West has more value than Africa. There is a lady here in US who used to be my neighbour when I was in Kenya.She is a nurse then she got a chance of coming to US in 1998,she now makes a lot of money and sends it back home.With that money she uses to send home,her husband has bought two petrol stations,one in Nairobi and another one outside Nairobi town. This is what she told me,"Look! I worked for 10 years as a nurse in Kenya and I did not do anything with that money for all those years. "Working in US as a nurse has changed my life, I am educating my children back home and do many other things which will!"
Peter Tuach, Minnesota,USA

In religious terms: a miracle is the only thing that can currently stop Africa's brain drain. It is utter nonsense to assume that it is possible to stop the flow that is at the very basis of human nature: to strive for better: Unless one reverts globalization, imposes rigorous restrictions on immigration, and suppresses civil liberties. To stop the brain drain Africa must evolve to compete at the same level as the rest of the world for the 'best humans'.
Mateus Webba da Silva, Earthling

Just a thought... Look at Botswana. It has almost no brain drain at all, actually it has one of the highest rates of returns of overseas students in the world. If Botswana could do it with sound macroeconomic management, a just economical system and respect for human rights, then why can't the rest of Africa follow suit?
Rybb, Zambia/Poland

Our countries are willing to hire expatriates and pay them lots of money but they will not pay us studying abroad and willing to come back home the same amount of money. What do these expatriates have that I don't have? I have more because I have worked in Africa before. I want to go home but am I willing to go and earn $400 a month with my three degrees when I can earn ten times that in the US doing menial jobs? See how much they pay professors in Kenya - $300 a month! when they can earn more than 20 times that abroad. If African countries have money to pay expatriates, they should have enough to pay good salaries to fellow Africans.
Wanja Njuguna, US

I see no reason why brain drain should stop. It is a natural fact of life, in the long term people who achieve a lot away from Africa will be motivated to return to invest in their countries. The mistake people make is to seek government employment as a condition of their return, instead of becoming self employed
K. Djan, UK

Through Bretton Woods institutions. They have dictated damaging conditionalities to the Africas' governance and it's high time they should dictate minimal wage to be observed by corporations and goverments atleast to improve the welfare states of these nations.
Victor Ruttoh, Kenyan in UK

This is just another example of free market economics. Companies seek workers in India and China because they cost less, whereas people from 3rd world countries seek work here because they can earn more. It is as simple as that.
Graeme Phillips, Berlin, Germany (normally UK)

I was in Cameroon recently to survey what I can do if I had to return there. I concluded it was not worth it going to Europe to study. I have made up my mind to go back and help my country. I may not used the knowledge acquired at the university but what I learn from the society would adapted to generate revenue in cameroon.
Efuange Khumbah, Cameroon/Germany

We will go home when our continent eventually cries out to us to come home. It could be in my generation or in a 100 years time but the day will come. Presently most of our leaders are scared of Western educated well meaning returnees preferring sycophants. In this climate they would rather employ an expatriate who is viewed as non-threat to the status quo. Western governments in the interest of long term western prosperity, tacitly helped install this under performing leadership class after independence. On a positive note those of us in the diaspora are developing our capacity which would greatly benefit the continent when she cries to us to come home.
Nuesiri Emmanuel, Oxford, UK

To stop Africa's brain drain? No way to stop it, if Africans want to go to US and Europe then, what is wrong for that?
Peter Chol, USA

I am a Nigerian with a PhD in Ecological Sciences. I once applied to a British company for an Environmental Scientist job in Abuja Nigeria and received a reply that unless I have a British residency and work permit I couldn't qualify to work in my own country. In another incident, I got a position as Lecturer to in a Nigerian university, but was asked to pay my air fare and sea freight back to Nigeria to take up the position. At the same time, a Nigerian football player was quoted as complaining about an Economy class air ticket procured for him by Nigeria to play a match instead of a Business or first class that befits his superstar status. The issue of brain drain in Africa, is one of rhetoric by the various government, I really don't think they care.
Emmanuel Aigbokhan, Nigeria/USA

This is definitely one of Africa's most serious problems and requires looking into. Maybe the African Union should put this case on its agenda and give it highest priority. Africa has lost a lot of its brains and will continue to do so until African leaders start being really interested in their peoples, and not themselves and their cronies. Ex-pats don't feel the pain of the people and will never be the solution for Africa's woes.
Rodney Lobo, Norway

I suppose the major issues revolves around peace, justice, transparency and equality. Why would I want to go into more trouble when I know I am troubled and want no more troubles? Better for someone who knows no troubles.
Taban Alex Donato, Sudanese in ACT/ Australia

I left South Africa very soon after school. I have been living in England, and supporting myself for three years now. This year I will be entering university to obtain a British degree. As a young person, my reasons for coming here are simple. Here I can afford to support myself financially on just a part time job whilst studying full time. In South Africa, such a thing is nigh on impossible. The kind of jobs available to undergraduates in South Africa pay a pittance, whereas in England, there is a minimum wage. Then there is the question of government support and finance for study. Here students get tax benefits and discounts on public transport and various other services, student loans and financial support are also available to them. After study, it is fairly easy for graduates to get well-paid jobs based on their qualifications. Whether I will return to South Africa after I get my degree, I do not know.
Lee-Anne James, South Africa

Andrew, I'm very disappointed about your irresponsible comments on South Africa. Affirmative action has turned out to be a white man's worst nightmare.The trouble with white South Africa is that you are scared of change.
Bongani Sibisi, South Africa

If we take the case of Ethiopia, someone with a Masters degree makes $150 a month whereas that same person would make 30 times more if hired with a similar kind of job in the West. But here, even if the living standard is not the same you can lead a decent life with the latter and a life of hand to mouth with the former.
Haile T, Ethiopia

As a scholar of migration dynamics, I don't totally see the effect of migration only in its negative sense. Migration is a labour market adjustment mechanism. In some cases, migration can be good for both the sending and receiving countries. Current literature in migration is rather in favour of migration and the case of "brain drain" is not as such a problem. The case of remittances is one positive thing, for example. So the trend does not need to be reversed in one night but eventually migration will adjust the labour market. Should the political stability in Africa improve, it will not only attract its citizens but also foreigners who would love to work in an African atmosphere.
Daniel, Eritrea/Germany

I am a Ghanaian currently doing my PhD in Canada. I have decided to go home after graduation. I remember the toil of our cocoa farmers and miners that kept us in school. Consequently, I don't think we the young ones have any excuse not to return and contribute. My elder brother returned to Ghana after his studies in the US and I can testify that he is happy, although not rich. Patriotism, that is all that Africa needs to reverse this brain drain.
Kojo, Canada

African governments must stop the dependence on foreign aid and NGO's and instead encourage their people to develop indigenous solutions to their problems
Akin, England

Remember that the brain drain is in the interest of the dying Western society.
Allen Aramide, Nigeria

My home computer was built by a fellow African from Nigeria, he learnt to do that while in Nigeria and came to the US because he couldn't get the support he needed back home. There are thousands like him around Africa.
Yk, USA

Time will solve the problem. Eventually, Africans will be returning home with experience in Western business culture. Furthermore, the current crop of inept African leaders will be forgotten history.
Alvin Jinka, Cameroon

Many see this exodus as the only conceivable way for an African graduate to enjoy the basic necessities of life (good food, house, fat salary, and perhaps a car), which unfortunately have been classified by African leaders as luxury in the hands of ordinary Africans.
Okey Amaechi, Canada

Affirmative action in South Africa is what is keeping me in the UK. I used to manage a black affirmative action guy, and after I trained him, he was promoted to become MY manager. The current government is encouraging reverse racism and it is unfair.
Pieter Erasmus, UK

Intellectuals are a threat to the politics of the countries which they come from. The nasty part of this is that many of the political regimes are sanctioned by Western developed nations. One of the issues I haven't heard voiced is that children should see knowledge as an investment in one's self. If you don't, why should an employer want to invest in you by giving you work.
L Johnson, PA USA

As a roving ex-pat from a developing country, I agree with much of the reasons presented. However I do not agree that we ought to wait until the conditions in our home countries become conducive and on par with the lives we enjoy in the West. Those seriously committed to serving will have to be willing to stomach the drawbacks, frustrations, and resist the temptation to take the next flight out.
Ranil, Sri Lanka/ Zimbabwe/ USA

I think there is a possibility that this can stop. If African governments themselves want this to stop. I haven't seen any government making any sort of effort to bring back the educated. Generally, we must understand that because all African governments are corrupt, they see it as threat, encouraging the well educated back into the country let alone involving them in critical decision making capacities.
Joseph Ngum, Kansas city USA(Cameroon)

I have many Nigerian friends that were trained in Nigerian universities as Engineers, Doctors, Pharmacists, and Nurses. Some of them moved their businesses back home, but many came back empty handed. Many Africans in Europe and North America will be ready to work at home for lesser pay but safety, infrastructure, transparency and decency in the African governmental system is lacking. Brains are draining to overseas, whereas brains in Africa are drifting and wasting.
Charles Egure, United States

Make no mistake. This problem is not Africa's problem alone. There are lots of Europeans, Asians etc who are making other countries their home. I have met many Europeans and Asians who went to USA to study and have since made US their home never to return to their countries. So the world is changing, borders will be a thing of the past and everybody has a right to live anywhere he/she feels is good for his or her family.
Sheriahouse, Kenya

I have recently seen some websites, that promote international migration of Africans to Canada and the US. This trend cannot stop when, in fact, students in Nigeria for example, can hardly get any job when they graduate from colleges and universities because no jobs are created by the private and public sectors. And of course security is a problem. During a recent visit to Atlanta, USA, the Nigerian Inspector General of Police told Nigerians in the diaspora that when they visit home, they must alter their lifestyles by being low profiled in whatever they do and wherever they go. He opined that, they must pretend they are not from overseas so that armed robbers would not attack them - this is a food for thought.
Prof. Bernard-Thompson Ikegwuoha, USA

People are happy staying overseas than in their own countries. They want to live in a free world. Africa needs to wake up and recognise its fellow citizens as qualified people with ample skills to handle the labour needs. Most people will agree with me that Africans are very hard working people and they have done extremely well in foreign countries.
Reinford Mwangonde, United States

I am a Zambian living and working as a Geotechnical Engineer in Australia. Unlike in my own country, I am recognised and appreciated as a professional in every sense. In Zambia I worked for the copper mines and was paid less than a tenth of what an expatriate was paid and was constantly being put down as being not up to the standard of expatriates. Why on earth would I want to return to such a miserable existence?
Angakhoze, Australia

Africans do not need to return home to help their countries. What is needed is improved security for lives and properties, along with basic amenities. With these variables available, different types of investments will flow into the continent.
John Okeke, Nigeria

Proper governance. That's all. Then professionals will not have a reason to look for greener pastures, everything they need and want will be "at home"
Jim,

What we have here seems to be a catch 22 situation. If you go back home, you are faced with all sorts of problems such as inability to find a proper paying job, corruption, inefficient bureaucracies, etc. However, if one decides to work in North America or Europe, one loses the opportunity to change these problems. I guess the solution is simply to introduce a merit-based, geographically representative system into both public and private service. Employment and high wages should be tied to productivity or performance.< br />Akingbolahan Adeniran, Nigeria

What can stop Africa's brain drain? My answer is this: democracy, security and better living standards. Unless we achieve these minimum prerequisites, the brain drain will not only continue, but it could also amplify.
Anumu Ketoglo, Togo

I studied in the United States and graduated in 2002, got a job in Nigeria and I have been working in Nigeria for over one year now. It is true that Western countries pay you higher and you have a better living standard but African countries won't develop if there is no change of attitude from everybody. The issue of brain drain is a complex one because it involves satisfying personal ambition versus national interest.
Olalekan Fawumi, Nigeria

Remember that most of those who leave are well-trained people who may have been critical of government policies that tend to waste resources, thus their openness throws up trouble with their leaders.
Roger S.W.Y.Domah, Africa University, Zimbabwe

A fundamental truth is that aspects of globalisation have made political boundaries more meaningless in the 21st century. Coupled with the exceptional incompetence of MOST African governments, I do not see how the younger generation of Africans can continue to tolerate snail speed progress while their contemporaries are surging ahead.
Zulfikar Aliyu Adamu, Nigerian/Saudi Arabia

Getting an education from here helps one understand the dynamics of the world. One fact that some would rather ignore is that development is a sacrifice one has to make. It's a burden each and every African must accept and carry. It's about time some Western educated Africans realise that creating systems and wealth from nothing is better than enjoying the spoils. I for one have seen the bigger picture, the burden is mine, therefore all my plans and knowledge will end up in Africa where I dare make a difference.
Sulu, UK

How do you expect a doctor to be paid say $100 a month as is done in some countries and expect him/her to stay on the job while they too have families to look after? Besides, there are many graduates languishing on the streets of Nairobi, Kampala, Johannesburg, Lagos and many other cities so that instead of being sun worshipers, they can at least look for work in the West and remit some of their earnings home for development.
Mugume Amooti, Uganda/USA

Africa Governments are proud of cheap labour at the expense of quality of service. The brain drain is a big lesson for African leaders and they have to learn to pay for the full price for a mango, and not use guava rates.
Victor Funsani, Malawian contractor working in war torn Bagdad, Iraq

I came to the UK to study because I felt universities here would prepare me for a lifetime of service to my people back in Nigeria. Unfortunately, my country's leaders do not share this goal.
Abiodun, London, UK

My country Nigeria has never been ruled by a Nigerian university graduate or a graduate of any civilian higher education institute. Why then should we expect Nigerian leaders to comprehend the pains of being jobless while highly qualified for a job?
Ibrahim, Canada

It is not a hidden fact that Africans are contributing to what the so called world powers have become today. We are the architects of our own misfortune.
Juliana Taiwo, Nigeria

The question that must be asked of African students and professionals in Europe and America is: Where is your patriotism? Have your values and commitment to a better Africa fallen so low, that you dismiss the need for your education and talent at home? Some people in Europe and America often see African students and professionals as no more than non-violent mercenaries. Holding no allegiance to their countries, or to American and/or European countries, but to the highest bidder. True professionals and scholars overcome problems, they don't run from them!!
Dana, USA

I have family and friends who work in Kenya and have been educated to graduate and higher levels, but still suffer the humiliation of being passed over by these expatriates we are "forced" to employ. Treat us right and we will stay.
Wairimu Githahu, Kenyan living in the UK

Forget about job opportunities or good standard of living. Most Africans don't know freedom or peace. I dream of going back home but I am not sure what the situation will be from day to day.
Eve, UK

In Botswana, an expatriate doing the same job as a local makes a lot more than locals, this on it own is reason enough for people to seek work outside where they can make up to 5 times more.
Mothusi Sebina, Botswana, studying in Canada

The only hope is true political change in Africa. It will come eventually, but unfortunately it's a long way off.
John S., Arizona, USA

It's a terrible shame that as a highly qualified General Practitioner, I cannot go to South Africa and work without having to spend two years in the back of beyond earning a terribly poor salary. I have a family and would go to South Africa to provide well needed medical expertise. Keep the medical professionals in the country, invite new ones in and in turn they will create a healthier country and many more jobs.
Adrian Stilton, UK/Kenya

African Governments should pay citizens the same entitlements they are willing to pay expatriates and you'll see a reversal to the problem.
Kojo, Ghana

It is natural that people are always looking for better opportunities to improve their social status.There are better working conditions in Europe and America and if one is lucky to get a job abroad after graduation it is almost certain that one would stay and do the job that is well paid.
Josephus Choe Junior Mamie, Sierra Leonean studying in Scotland, UK

I am one of the 10,000 South Africans that left the country a while ago. Globalisation, politics and various other factors contribute to people leaving Africa. In South Africa affirmative action is necessary, but I don't want to be made a scapegoat forever. If my country does not require my skills, well I am quite happy to go elsewhere, which will use my talents. South Africa has to re-think it's labour policies, otherwise it will just continue decline.
Rouan Kruger, Ex South Africa/UK

I'm stationed here in Italy winding up my studies and working part time earning the equivalent of triple the monthly pay of a senior professor in Kenya (And that's part time.) Though I'm planning to work in Africa in the future, it will be as a missionary in my old age. And good news for my leaders. It will be free!
Joseph Musembi, Italy

The real treatment to this problem first is to treat the mentality of African leaders from what we call corruption. The solution is very simple. No corruption = No brain drain.
Thabor Ding, Sudan/USA

After years of tranquillity, of studying abroad and possibly starting a family, why would I want to go back to chaos and massive corruption. With corrupt leadership prevailing, Africa is a black hole for prosperity. Very sorry to say that, but no regrets.
Michael, United States

The West has built its fortunes by exploiting the weakness of the less privileged areas of the world. They do not invite able minds and bodies (in sports) to train and help develop their places of origin. They build their own fortresses at their cost. Nothing short of 'brain reclamation' of Africans can stop the brain drain.
M.Saeed, Nigeria

I am a Nigerian and I do not have any plans of returning home after my studies in New Zealand. Why would I when it is guaranteed that I will not get a job at home and even if am lucky, the wage will not be as juicy as it is here?
Ashiru Abdul-azeez, New Zealand

Everyone keeps on talking about worsening conditions back home and use that as an excuse not to go back. I admit it is off-putting but in order to achieve improvement we must go back. I plan on going back as soon as I finish graduate school and am actively trying to get people to do the same. I agree there's not much money in it but I think that is a decent sacrifice that will have positive long-run effects.
Wambui Boulch, USA




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