News / Africa

Better Prospects Result in Brain Gain for Africa

Cars stream underneath a gantry on a road to Pretoria, South Africa, May 4, 2012.
Cars stream underneath a gantry on a road to Pretoria, South Africa, May 4, 2012.
African leaders have long sought a solution to the so-called brain drain - losing their best young minds to jobs in the West or in Asia. But recent studies indicate that is changing. Many African students who study abroad now find opportunities to use their training at home.

Nineteen-year-old Moroccan student Reda Merdi is finishing up school at the African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg. In August, he will head to the prestigious University of Pennsylvania in the United States, where he will study international relations and business.

Merdi says despite the opportunity to study in the United States, his long term ambition is to use his educational training in Africa.

"It is more exciting to work in Africa these days," he said. "There are way more opportunities, a lot of space for you to work, a lot of space to prove yourself. Also because there are a lot of exciting things going on in the African continent."

Fast growing economies

According to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, seven of the world's top 10 fastest growing economies are now in Africa. 

Statistics compiled by the World Economic Forum indicate many of Africa's growing economies have significantly increased the retention of educated workers.

Nigeria was ranked 112 in the world in 2008 for retaining educated workers.  It is now ranked 48th. South Africa has risen from 72nd place to 48th place in the world rankings and Ghana has risen from 125th to 53rd place.

A recent survey from the Johannesburg private equity firm Jacana found that 70 percent of African students pursuing Master of Business Administration degrees at leading American and European schools planned to return to Africa after graduation.

That does not surprise Rebecca Harrison, Project Director at the African Management Initiative, which helps to educate managers on the continent.

"Anecdotally, my sense is that there's a real shift," she said. "We are starting to establish some links with a lot of the top business schools, particularly in the States and in Europe, to have Africa clubs. So people who are interested in working in Africa in the future. Some are from Africa, some are just from elsewhere, but are interested in the continent. We hear from them that their membership is growing quite dramatically. They all want to come over here and do internships here, consulting projects here. They're interested in exploring working here."

Training future African leaders

The African Leadership Academy, or ALA, was established with the goal of producing the next generation of African leaders. The school is very selective, only admitting 3 percent of applicants.

Fred Swaniker, one of the academy’s founders,  developed the curriculum and program to encourage ALA students to return to the continent after studying abroad.

He says it was important to give students as many opportunities as possible to network and work on the continent.

"Our raw philosophy is that the main reason why people should come back to Africa is not out of any sense of obligation, or because we are forcing them to, but because they really see the tremendous opportunities that exist here for them. And because they see a wonderful future and a real opportunity for them to make a difference," said Swaniker.

Financial incentive to return

There is also a financial incentive. Most students’ tuition is covered through forgivable loans. If the student returns to Africa by age 25 and stays for 10 years, their loans are forgiven. If not, they pay them off, with interest.

But opportunity appears to be the main draw.

"If you think like an entrepreneur then Africa is really your paradise… You can really be the next African Sam Walton or the African Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. No one has done that yet. You can be that person," said Swaniker.

That idea resonated with Merdi, whose plans have changed because of the message.

"At the beginning when [I] started to develop an interest in business and economics in general. I thought that if you wanted to be influential in banking you had to work in New York or London. ALA made me realize that wasn't the case," he said.

While economics have helped to ease Africa's brain drain problem, The African Management Initiative's Rebecca Harrison says African leaders need to focus on helping distribute the resources and support needed for the next educated African generation.

You May Like

Photogallery Belgian Security Measures Foreshadow New Normal for Europe

Rising threat of terrorism, disaffected Muslim populations and open borders, along with refugee, migrant crisis, are creating perfect storm for Europe, which some analysts fear continent is ill-suited to weather

Competing Claims of Responsibility for Mali Hotel Attack

Malian authorities ask public for help in identifying gunmen killed in attack, amid conflicting claims of responsibility from multiple jihadist groups active in the country

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs