Friday, November 02, 2007

"Africa Staffs the West"

In a recent Mail & Guardian article David McFarlane wrote the following:

"Africa is losing its brightest to the First World. Less than 10% of doctors trained in Zambia since its independence in 1964 are still in the country: the other 90% have migrated, mainly to Europe and the United States. No less staggeringly, there are more Sierra Leonean-trained doctors in Chicago alone than in the country itself and cash-strapped Benin provides more medical professionals to France than there are in the whole of its own health system.

These medical examples are merely one facet of the massive loss of skills Africa as a whole continues to suffer. In effect, one-third of the continent’s university resources are serving the manpower needs of Western nations and not those of Africa itself. United Nations estimates suggest that Africa is spending a staggering $4-billion a year training professionals for developed countries."

Consider the following points the article highlights: Measuring The Brain Drain

1.Nearly 235 000 professionals left South Africa between 1987 and 1997. Since 1997, the brain drain has cost the country $7,8-billion, according to the Paris-based Institute for Research and Development.

2.Arabic African countries annually lose 50% of their doctors, 23% of engineers and 15% of scientists. Of all Arab students abroad, only 4,5% return home.

3.About 80% of Ghana’s doctors leave the country within five years of graduation; and about 25% of all doctors trained in Africa work abroad.

4.About 20 000 professionals leave Africa every year, according to the International Organisation for Migration.

5.A recent study of 10 African countries showed an average loss of 40% of their university graduates, with massive brain drains from Cape Verde (67%), The Gambia (63%), Seychelles (59%), Sierra Leone (53%) and Mozambique (45%).

6.A survey last year of 415 students from developing countries studying at Texas University in the United States showed that more than half wanted to start their careers in the US, 20% preferred their home countries, and nearly 30% were unsure.
I think it important to recognize the manner that the West continues to mine Africa for resources. Keep this in mind the next time an Afro-pessimist or other racist opines on the uselessness of Africans!

Africa has never been useless to the West. Not in the time of slavery and certainly not now in the era of globalization when predatory immigration practices draw African professionals and skilled workers to the US, Canada, Britain, Australia, and New Zealand.

In this sense we are still very much a colonized people.



Dade said...

These statistics are highly disturbing. I'm afraid it jibes with my suspicions that Africans, generally, view America (and Western Europe) as the "Promised Land" where everything is easy.

Someday, in some future where we are governed by compassionate and wise people, we should provide financial incentives for African doctors who choose to stay in their home countries. In the end, the health of Africa is the health of humanity. But it will be a monumental task to convince people of that.

Good post, Ridwan. Thanks.

Ridwan said...

Hello Dade I think that this may be the general impression and in relative terms it is easier to make money and have stuff in the West.

It is about capitalism more than it is about attitudes among Africans, Indians, and the others.

What is hidden is the manner that the US, in particular, strips skills from the developing/undeveloped world.

Predatory immigration policies bring software engineers, doctors, and other development skills, to the the US.

Canada, Australia, and New Zealand have essentially built much of their economies on predatory immigration policies.

After the fall of Nazi Germany many of its scientists found the US luring them here.

It is a very hard situation for African countries who have to foot the bill and then see their skills migrate.

At the individual level folks look for a better life. But collectively it is a disaster.

In South Africa we have made it harder for young doctors to leave after graduation. It is a controversial policy and it remains to be seen what the longterm effects are going to be.

All the doctors from the apartheid era who wanted to leave have left already. And this is true of other skilled sectors.

There is an attempt to lure skills back but that is a controversial and mostly ineffective strategy.

The focus will have to be on training and keeping skills.

This means developing an adequate infrustructure. It also means that the West has to consent to stop purging skills and other resources from the motherland.

It is a matter of real irony that those of us who have come to live in the US find that the better life here is mostly a hyped and decidedly skewed perception.

Home is always better in my opinion.

Thanks for looking in my brother.