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

    US Leaders Who Served in Vietnam War Look Back and Ahead

    In New York Times opinion piece, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator John McCain and former Senator Bob Kerrey say as US strengthens relations with Vietnam, it is important to remember lessons learned from war

    Who Are US Allies in Fight Against Islamic State?

    There is little but opportunism keeping coalition together analysts warn — SDFs Arab militias are not united even among themselves, frequently squabble and don’t share Kurds' vision for post-Assad Syria

    Learning Foreign Language Helps US Soldiers Bridge Culture Gap

    Effective interaction with local populations part of everyday curriculum at Monterey, California, Defense Language Institute

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    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.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora