Greener Grass In The Old Country?
I received a call from a good friend of mine a few weeks ago. I remember being so excited to take his call as I?hadn’t?heard from him in ages.
Then he broke the news?.
He was actually calling to let me know that he was moving back to Ghana after 15 years of life as he knew it in the United States, to work at as a senior manager in one of the largest telecommunications companies in West Africa.
Huh??Wasn’t?this the same guy who swore he would never return back to Africa? I?didn’t?get it.
?Life is good back home? he said. ?I?m just tired of the rat race and bills, bills, bills?.
Then he told me how much he would be making. I almost fell out of my chair and immediately asked if I could go with him.
I ended my conversation with him wishing him well, but I realized that he will not be the first and definitely won?t be the last of upwardly mobile, well educated Africans returning back to the continent. Everyone seems to be voluntarily going back in droves, “voluntarily” being the key word.
Over the course of the last few decades, an increasingly prevailing complaint among African politicians and educated Africans alike has been about the increasing numbers of Africans who have departed the continent to seek better opportunities on foreign shores. For the longest time it seemed that all the brightest talents in Africa were taking their talents everywhere else except where they were most desperately needed. The term ?brain drain? was coined to most accurately characterize the extensive loss of raw talent that inevitably comes with the emigration of large numbers of the educated population.
So why do so many people move away from Africa as soon as they have the skills to help Africa? For the same reason as most immigrants. Many decide to leave the African continent for foreign shores due to promises of a better life, higher financial incentives, higher standards of living, and even an easier or more leisurely life. Some leave Africa as students and simply decide that they would rather remain in their new and improved environment. ?But this trend is quickly on the reversal.
In recent times, there has been a marked improvement in fortunes. For example, 7 out of the 10 the fastest growing economies in the world are African countries, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Naturally, the entrepreneurial Africans who left the continent’s shores in search of greener pastures have noticed the sudden change in fortunes. The same motives that incentivized them to leave seem to be the very same ones drawing them back. Hearing encouraging news from ?back home? has helped many make that decision to try life back on the continent.
The promise of a brighter future for Africa is not the only reason why Africans are repatriating themselves back to the continent. The recent economic downturn and global recession have made life more challenging, even in industrialized countries. Austerity measures have laid off workers and depleted earnings. Also contributing to repatriation incentives include societal climates abroad. Some Africans in diaspora have complained about racism, glass ceilings and other social ills. Then of course, many return for no greater reason than deciding there is nowhere like home and that their time to return had come.
The incentives to repatriate are becoming more convincing. The economies are growing, infrastructure is being built, and facilities that were once luxuries in Africa are now more commonly available. Things such as quick internet speeds and mobile phone communications are now easy to access. Technologies that are necessary for productive work are now increasingly available. Africans who have returned home appear to lead a much better lifestyle than most live in industrialized countries.
In a drive to curb the brain drain, deliberate attempts have been made by various African nationals to lure citizens in the diaspora back home. One such example out of many is the Digital Diaspora Network Africa. This is a collaboration between several agencies, primarily the United Nations, to encourage the development of Africa by tapping the efforts of Africans in diaspora.
A temporary brain drain is actually a productive thing for Africa, provided that they can eventually be lured back to Africa with more favorable offers. A returning African would have acquired the education, skills, practical experience and know how that will be necessary to replicate the more successful systems of industrialized nations. The ?brain drain gain? will eventually lead to an importation of a new wave of skilled labor which will undoubtedly aid the development of Africa.
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