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Migration Impedes Development in Zambia, Angola

As the G-8 summit gets under way, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) says poverty and development in Africa cannot be addressed effectively without considering the effects of migration. One of the results is a brain drain that can cripple the economy.

In many ways, Angola and Zambia are a study in contrasts. Angola has suffered from nearly 30 years of war. The country is in ruins. Zambia, on the other hand, has enjoyed relative peace and stability since it became independent in 1964.

A study by the International Organization for Migration, shows that Zambia used to be a country of immigration. It says the country's copper mines attracted many workers from other parts of Africa. However, due to a steady economic decline over the past decade, Zambia, like Angola, now has become a country of emigration.

IOM spokeswoman, Jemini Pandya, says both Zambia and Angola are among the poorest, most highly indebted countries in the world.

"The other commonality is that they are both increasingly suffering from brain drain and a chronic lack of qualified labor in key sectors of their economies and public administration," she said. "Zambia, in a way, is, I think a much greater problem. Skills migration is actually a structural problem in the country. Zambia is suffering more acutely from a shortage of human resources in critical sectors such as health and education and this is seriously affecting its development."

Ms. Pandya says this is unlikely to change because of the steady decline in the country's socio-economic conditions. She says this situation will continue to discourage skilled nationals from returning home.

Despite the grim situation in Angola, IOM spokeswoman Pandya says the country has some positive factors that can attract back its skilled professionals.

"The post-war recovery and reconciliation and also the huge stock of natural reserves that is has represent new and attractive opportunities for qualified Angolans abroad. The study does show that there is more willingness among more Angolans to return back home. And, the Angolan authorities recognize the importance of attracting back its skilled nationals or ensuring that the qualified nationals that still are remaining in the country do not actually leave. But, much more work needs to be done in this area," she noted.

The IOM study recommends that both countries expand training programs and build up skills in areas that correspond to their needs. It says closer links should be forged with migrants in foreign countries to encourage them to send back money and invest in their countries. It also says ways must be found to pay critically needed doctors and nurses more money so they will not be tempted to go abroad.