Paul Zeleza points our attention to a special edition of African Issues that examines some aspects of the brain drain. Find below his Intro. to this volume
The African "Brain Drain" to the North: Pitfalls and Possibilities
We are delighted to bring you this special edition of African Issues on the African brain drain to the North, a subject that has attracted the attention of, and is of grave concern to, African governments, development agencies, civil society organizations, employers, universities, as well many of the professionals and scholars involved. It is a phenomenon that not only affects development prospects in African countries, but also intellectual production and relations, both within and outside the continent. Recent studies show that the African "brain drain" to the North has accelerated. According to some estimates, an average 20,000 highly educated Africans have been migrating to the North every year since 1990. The implications for African development have been far-reaching. While the negative impact of these skilled labor migrations is often emphasized, it is crucial to examine how the "brain drain" can be turned into a "brain gain," or "brain mobility" and what they tell us about Africa's insertion into contemporary processes of globalization.
The essays in this edition offer a rich sampling of empirical research, theoretical analyses, and personal reflections that address various dimensions of the "brain drain" -- its causes, courses, and consequences for Africa and the North -- and investigate both its pitfalls and possibilities. Many of the essays explore how to build expatriate knowledge networks and establish new linkages between this new African diaspora and institutions on the continent. They stress the need to think critically and creatively about whether and how the new African diasporas, building on trails of the older diasporas, can promote the globalization of Africa and the Africanization of globalization in productive ways.
We solicited the essays from a wide range of writers both those on the continent and outside, those working within the academy and without, in national and international organizations and institutions, and those from the older and the younger generations. Although not grouped into sub-themes, the essays follow a pattern. Unfortunately limitations of space forced us to leave out many deserving pieces. The essays can be divided into four broad sections. The first two offer broad overviews on the historic and contemporary African diasporas. We begin with Cassandra R. Veney's apt reminder that the current "brain drain" is by no means new. She recounts the educational, political, economic, and cultural connections constructed over many generations by the older African diaspora in the United States from which the new diaspora can build on. Paul Tiyambe Zeleza, then, outlines the dynamics and directions of contemporary global migrations before surveying the patterns and trends of African migrations to Western Europe and North America.
The next four essays examine and seek to unpack and conceptualize the forces that have spawned the brain drain from the continent. Thandika Mkandawire presents sobering reflections on Africa's challenges of economic development in general and capacity building in particular, which forms the necessary backdrop to the story of Africa's "brain drain" to the North. This is followed by Esi Ansah's succinct analysis of the competing theoretical perspectives on the brain drain, then by Soumana Sako's candid and informed assessment of the magnitude and causes of human capital flight from the continent. George J. Sefa Dei and Alireza Asgharzadeh emphasize the roles of global inequality in generating the brain drain and of the African diaspora itself in helping counteract some of its negative consequences.
The following five essays offer reflective and reflexive country-specific studies. Ibrahim Elnur discusses the generation and growth of the brain drain in the Sudan over the last four decades. Anthony Barclay analyzes the political economy of the brain drain in war-torn Liberia, using the example of the University of Liberia. John Lwanda focuses on the complex conditions that created and have sustained the medical brain drain from Malawi from colonial times to the present. Getahun investigates the causes and processes of Ethiopia's brain drain, and assesses the possibility of "brain gain" from the Ethiopian immigrant community in the US. Kwabena Akurang-Parry offers an intriguing picture of generally positive perceptions on the brain drain among Ghanaian professionals he interviewed in Ghana.
The remaining six essays explore the conditions, challenges, and potential contributions of the African intellectual diaspora in various countries of the North. Abdoulaye Gueye shows that while some African professional migrants in France might prosper, this is not true of those holding doctorates in the social sciences and humanities. Building on this, Jean-Philippe Dedieu notes what he calls the growing "defection" of French speaking African intellectuals from France to the United States. F. Njubi Nesbitt emphasizes that the "double consciousness" of African intellectual migrants in the North produces three "types" of migrant intellectuals: the comprador intelligentsia, the postcolonial critic, and the progressive exile. For his part, Uwem E. Ite presents a personal narrative of his migration to Britain as a student and his subsequent efforts as a professor at a British university to build mutually-beneficial linkages with Western African universities. Nzegwu Nkiru documents her admirable labors to use the new information to promote African scholarly production and communication by establishing several online journals. Finally, our intellectual elder, Ali Mazrui, muses in his inimitable style on the potential impact of the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington on the "brain drain" from Africa.
Paul Tiyambe Zeleza and Cassandra Rachel Veney
About the Editors
Paul Tiyambe Zeleza
Historian, literary critic, novelist, and short-story writer, Paul Tiyambe Zeleza is professor of history and African studies and director of the Center for African Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In his sojourns as an intellectual migrant, he has taught at universities in the Caribbean, Kenya, Canada, and the United States. He is the author of scores of essays and more than a dozen books, including most recently Rethinking Africa's Globalization (2 volumes) and the Routledge Encyclopedia of Twentieth Century African History. He is the winner of the 1994 Noma Award for his book A Modern Economic History of Africa and the 1998 Special Commendation of the Noma Award for Manufacturing African Studies and Crises.
Cassandra Rachel Veney Cassandra Rachel Veney is an associate professor in the Department of Politics and Government and Director of the Unit for African Studies at Illinois State University. Her publications include Women in African Studies Scholarly Publishing and Leisure in Urban Africa, as well as journal articles that focus on refugees in East Africa, human rights issues, and Africa's relations with Asia and the United States.