"REVERSING BRAIN DRAIN IN SOUTH AFRICA AND A TURN TOWARDS BRAIN GAIN"
A DRAFT CONCEPT PAPER
The African Union Summit of Heads of States and Government that took place from July 6 to 9 2004 suggested some useful strategies in dealing with issues of reaching out to African professionals and investors in the Diaspora. The AU Commission was mandated to organise a conference of African intellectuals located in Africa's homelands and those in the Diaspora. The conference titled Conference of Intellectuals from Africa and the Diaspora took place from 7 to 9 October 2004 in Dakar Senegal; an estimated 150 participants came from Africa while 100 from abroad. The participants ranged from African Nobel Prize Laureates, Eminent Personalities and other professionals. The common understanding of all the participants was to develop Africa's own strategies on how to halt the fast growing brain drain of African professionals and to fully involved Africans in the Diaspora in homelands physical, human resources and overall socio-economic development.
It was against this backdrop, that the first "AFRICA'S BRAIN GAIN" Conference was organized by Africa' Brain Gain Inc. at The Safari Park Hotel, Nairobi - Kenya from the 19th to 22nd December 2004. The theme for the conference was: Facilitating Return of Talents to Africa through Research and Project Collaboration.
The objectives of the conference were:
… To foster formulation of policies that will facilitate integration of the Diaspora into the continent's capacity development agenda;
… To foster research project collaboration between the Diaspora and Africa-based universities, development partners, NGOs, government departments and agencies, and the private sector;
… To identify collaboration opportunities in trade and investments between the Diaspora and the African continent.
The following facts and statistics came out of the conference discussion:
… That migration was old as the human race being the means which human being moved from their original domicile in Africa, about 200,000 years ago, to eventually spread all over the globe.
… That 175 million migrants in the world compromised only about 3% of the world population, with the richer countries carrying 60% of this total, while the balance were located in the poorer countries. Of the total number of migrants in the world today, 15 million were refugee (7 - 10%), while 20 million were irregular migrants.
… That there were both positive and negative factors surrounding the whole issue of migration - Brain drain/Brain gain.
… That brain drain was the results of various push-out factors such as political instability, economic uncertainty, the pendulum between too much government (tyranny) and too little (anarchy), and the resulting dilution of occupational opportunities and professional rewards, greater political openness, the reassurance of stability and better prospects for one's children and grandchildren.
… That institutional frameworks, needed to be set up to address the whole issue of brain drain/gain with a view to maximize the benefits of brain gain. This can be achieved through the creation of databases, linking of qualified professional, business and academic persons in the African Diaspora with institutions in the continent that could benefit from their human and capital resources.
… That means and ways be identified by which the domestic conditions could be made more conducive, in terms of political, investment and infrastructural environment, to exploit the skills and resources that the Diaspora had to offer.
… That the various governments in Africa facilitate the formation and sustenance of institutions, through finance and access to information and relevant personnel.
… That the whole issue of brain gain be addressed as an African phenomena and a joint African approach and effort be adopted. To this end therefore it was agreed that NEPAD and AU be involved and come-up with programs that advocate active participation of Africa professionals.
… That a student brain gains chapters in Africa be set-up with the purpose of sensitizing students with issues relating to brain gain/drain.
… To call for all African governments to support the universities, freedom of speech, academic and media freedom.
… To promote the concept of African citizenship and the establishment of an African Passport.
In the background, several categories of the Diasporas can be identified. The Diasporas of enslavement consist of enslaved Africans from the days of slave trade of which many have been identified abroad. The Diaspora of colonialism consists of African 'émigré's displaced or dispersed by the disruption of colonialism and its aftermath. And those currently leaving the country for pull-out factors such as better working conditions, higher income levels, superior infrastructure, better research support, greater professional recognition and in most cases, much greater academic freedom. There is an urgent need for a turn to Brain Gain in the new South Africa.
One of the major fall-outs of the Nairobi conference is the recommendation to establish country chapters of the African Brain Gain Secretariat. To initiate this process, there is a need for meetings of all the relevant stakeholders in South Africa aimed at using their contributions and buy-ins towards developing an informed framework for "South African Brain Gain Project"
The stakeholders will facilitate the creation of strategies; mechanisms and instruments that would stop further drain of South African professionals to the developed world. They will be expected to investigate the WTO Mode 4 strategy that describes the medium of trade in services of the General Agreement on Trade Services (GATS) developed by World Trade Organization (WTO). It is concerned with the temporary transfer of natural persons to another country for the purpose of providing the host country with services.
For South Africa, the project has the potential for solving the problems associated with acute unemployment of unskilled labor. The focus would be directed towards pursuing the movement of low-skilled and semi-skilled workers under organised official arrangements (OOA), as opposed to skilled and highly skilled workers that would drain the country of much needed professionals.
Research has shown that EU received 26 requests for commitments in Mode 4 and of this, 24 are from developing countries-the African countries amongst this were Gambia, Mauritius, Kenya and Egypt. The Mode 4 project could be used as a strategy to confront problems of Unemployment and poverty alleviation in South Africa.