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Conference to Attract Professionals Opens in Kenya

An international conference in Kenya's capital is discussing ways of attracting African professional expatriates back to the continent.

Participants at the four-day "Africa's Brain Gain Conference" in Nairobi are strategizing on how to entice educated Africans to return to Africa so that they can use their knowledge and skills to develop the continent.

A chemist and lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Prof. Raphael Munavu, told VOA that African professionals leave the continent primarily because of low pay.

"If you look at the salaries of some of our, for example, Ph.D. holders in this country, and what they would be earning outside, it is about 40 percent," he said. "In other words, anybody who goes out would be able to earn [about] three times what they would be earning here."

Mr. Munavu said bad governance, limited opportunities, and high crime rates are also factors accounting for the continent's brain drain.

Mr. Munavu estimates that up to 35 percent of the 7,000 Kenyan students who study abroad each year do not return to Kenya, especially those in the science and engineering fields.

He calls for African governments to put more funding into post-secondary education, and research and development.

The University of Nairobi lecturer is also urging the private sector to offer higher payment to professionals. He says more partnerships between the public and private sectors could open more opportunities for professionals.

Conference documents note that about five million African professionals and entrepreneurs live and work outside of the continent.

One conference report says the brain drain of African professionals cost the world's poorest continent more than $1.2 billion of investment between 1985 and 1990.

The report estimates that 40 percent of African doctors, nurses, lawyers, higher-level managers and other professionals, live outside of the continent.

The largest number of educated Africans who live and work in Western countries are in the United States.