African leaders must work to reverse the African ‘brain drain’ that is costing the continent US$ 4 billion annually, says Deloitte
Johannesburg - As skills continue to drain away from the African continent, business and the public sector are being forced to spend about US$ 4 billion annually to plug the gap in health, education, the environment and public management left behind by the 40% of the continent’s professionals who have sought employment elsewhere, says Deloitte.
Ironically, whilst the continent is enjoying a resurgence in international investment, countries are finding themselves having to compete internationally to ensure that critical skills are available to support their economies, whilst simultaneously doing a ‘phenomenal job’ of exporting their best and brightest to other countries, says Helen Bimbassis of Deloitte Talent recruitment.
As African leaders battle to meet the challenges the movement of talent internationally brings to their economies, they have to cope with the fact that international competition for talent is working against them.
“A major demographic shift is taking place,” says Bimbassis as the ‘baby boomers’ of the 1950’s and 60’s begin retiring.
”By one estimate, 50% of the top people at America’s 500 leading companies will retire over the next five years. Internationally, as this scenario is repeated elsewhere, international competition for recruiting the best and the brightest is ‘hotting’ up, creating further opportunities for Africa’s mobile young professionals.”
A recent survey examining the feelings of the African diaspora indicated that:
- The majority of those surveyed live in Europe and North America
- 75% to 80% of them completed the majority of their schooling in Africa
- Most of them had very little work experience in Africa before leaving the continent
- The majority of them intend to return to Africa within seven years
- Those who do not intend to return, left because of political reasons and the lack of security
- The majority of them have been sending money home to family
- The money sent to family was mainly for consumption and personal responsibilities, and it was usually sent by hand or International Money Transfer
Reinforcing this outlook were the findings of a paper presented at the Institute for African Studies and Slovenia Global Action (‘African Migration and the Brain Drain’), in which the following statistics were provided:
- An estimated 300,000 African professionals live and work outside the continent
- Since 1990, Africa has lost 20,000 professionals each year
- About 30,000 Sub-Saharan Africans holding PhDs now live outside Africa
- To fill the gap caused by this brain drain, Africa employs up to 150,000 expatriate professionals at a cost of $4-billion annually
“On a more positive note, the growth of democratically elected governments and the improvement in political and economic governance in many countries have increased the interest of African’s diaspora in engaging constructively with their former homelands.
“Many African governments, seizing the initiative presented by this growing interest, have taken the initiative to create awareness of job opportunities and employment within Africa.
Their efforts include:
- Enabling private and public sector African employers and global economies with a footprint in Africa, as well as working together to boost skills inflow into key managerial and technical areas
- Fostering debate in Africa, and internationally with the African diaspora, on how to contribute to an African- wide skilled strategy to change attitudes and perspectives
- Ensuring that governments and employers work together to make skill transfer easier, including opportunities to self-employed Africans
- Addressing cultural, social and other barriers and developing best practice among the identification and retention of professionals from outside and enabling the labour market in becoming more flexible
“Africa, today, is one of the emerging markets that most companies are exploring and are considering expanding into.
“Africa presently exhibits the risks and opportunities that were common in the emerging markets of China and India during the early 1990s. Back then, few global players knew how to react when these countries opened up their markets for business, as it was difficult to assess how committed their governments were to creating an ‘investor-friendly’ climate.
“Companies that invested in India and China then, are now reaping the benefits. New regimes in North Africa have yet to demonstrate their intention, while in Sub-Saharan Africa attention must be given to issues like HIV/Aids and creating an enabling business environment that will attract young African professionals seeking employment,” concludes Bimbassis.
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