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

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment More

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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid