“Africa will overcome the challenges of poverty, underdevelopment and global marginalisation not because of its wealth in natural resources, but because of its intellectual ability properly to manage and utilise these resources for the benefit of the peoples of our continent. In this sense the resources embedded in earth Africa may turn into a curse if Africa does not develop the intellectual capital to empower the African masses and the governments they elect to exploit these resources for the greater good of the citizen.” Taken from Thabo Mbeki’s speech at the All African Students union Conference.
Mbeki’s remarks should include young professional Africans who are part of the workforce in developed countries. I am talking about the 25-45 year age group of Africans in the Diaspora. I have been doing some research concerning just how many young African professionals are working in first world countries. The statistics are astonishing to say the least. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which includes most of the world’s richest nations, 25% -50% of college-educated citizens of African countries including Ghana, Mozambique, Kenya and Uganda lived in an OECD country. In contrast, less than 5% of the skilled citizens of newly emerging powers such as India, China and Brazil live abroad.
Africa’s problems cannot fully rest on the shoulders of our leadership. We all need to be accountable for the state of our continent. Based on the information, our intellectual capital is virtually non-existent in Africa.
Since 2000, it is estimated that Africa loses 20 000 professionals annually. 40 000 doctoral graduates reside outside the continent. Statistics show that Africa’s technical and managerial talent living outside the continent has more than doubled in a generation. The IOM World Migration Report 2005 estimated that there are over 21 000 Nigerian doctors practicing in the USA and over 200 000 African scientists in the United States, more than on the entire African continent.
In 2003, 5,880 UK work permits were approved for health and medical personnel from South Africa, 2,825 from Zimbabwe, 1,510 from Nigeria and 850 from Ghana. According to a report by the British Medical Journal, between 1993 and 2002 Ghana lost 630 medical doctors, 410 pharmacists, 87 laboratory technicians and 11 325 nurses.
African professionals who live in the Diaspora have the desire to return but do not know how to go about it. Many leave because of frustrations such as lack of work opportunities and professional growth in their native countries. Those who leave are not entirely happy in their adopted countries but they remain because living conditions and quality of life are greater.
With all these obstacles, what would it take for a mass influx of our intellectual capital back onto African soil? It will take sacrifice, as there are presently no incentives to return. It will take a conscious effort by young Africans to return despite the poor conditions in their country. For those who cannot fathom making the decision to return for whatever reason, keep the idea at the back of your mind.
Returning has its challenges like: adapting to sub-standard services, lack of infrastructure and cultural adaptation. As challenging as it may be, it is possible. Every African in the Diaspora should consider going home, some day. If only it were as easy as saying “there’s no place like home there’s no place like home” like Dorothy did in the Wizard of Oz. Plan and work towards returning someday.
Africa needs you!