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Brain Drain Continues to Plague Africa

A Word Bank economist says the brain drain, or loss of skilled professionals to industrialized countries, has serious implications for economic growth and development in sub-Saharan Africa. Caglar Ozden says about 30 to 40% of college graduates in sub-Saharan Africa have migrated to developed countries, including the United States, Britain and France.

Ozen is a co-editor of World Bank study on the contributions of African expatriates called “International Migration, Remittances and the Brain Drain.”

From Washington, he told English to Africa reporter Joana Mantey the trend is a symptom of the unstable political and economic environment in Africa.

“In many sub-Saharan countries almost 50% of doctors migrate within five years of graduation. And given that Africa is facing some of the most dangerous health problems that the world has ever seen, if you are losing 50% of your doctors, it is very difficult in fighting these problems. The same applies to engineers; we need to build the roads. The same applies to economists and accountants and [others].” He said the problem is pervasive in countries such as The Gambia, with 63% of college graduates outside the country, Ghana 46%, Kenya 38% and Angola 33%.

Ozden says remittances of these professionals are important but that the negative effect of brain drain far outweighs the benefits. He says, “The net impact of remittances on growth and investment in sub-Saharan Africa is not significant compared to India, the Philippines, Taiwan or Mexico.”