Reversing the Brain Drain: How Can Africa Stem or Even Reverse the 'Brain Drain'? Stuart Price Talked to Africarecruit's Dr Titi Banjoko about Her Organisation's Aims and Objectives

Article excerpt

With Africa operating in an increasingly competitive global economy, one of the most vexing issues facing the development of the continent is the 'brain-drain' syndrome. The problem challenging many African countries today is how to stem the flow of professional people leaving to seek more lucrative employment overseas--and reverse this traffic of skills back to Africa.

It is estimated that Africa's brain drain sees some 23,000 academics, over 40,000 Africans with PhD's and 50,000 middle and senior management personnel, leaving the continent each year for the developed world. In Ghana alone, it is estimated that up to 68% of the country's trained medical staff left the country between 1993 and 2000.

One company which tackles this matter and works to encourage people to take employment back in Africa after working overseas is Africarecruit, an initiative taken by the Commonwealth Business Council (CBC) to build robust and enduring productive capacity throughout the continent.

As part of the CBC, it identifies resources and human capital outside the continent by focusing on the concept of 'attract and retain'. The fundamental aim of the group is to raise awareness and tackle issues pertaining to jobs, recruitment and careers in Africa, and how the diaspora can contribute to development.

Dr Titi Banjoko of Africarecruit told African Business that the company is about building a sustainable, skilled workforce capacity in Africa by using the diaspora as a resource. "We bring together holistic human resource capacity for Africa, using Africans in and outside Africa. By strengthening the framework for human capital, not only are skills developed but they are also retained. We achieve this through seminars, networking events for human resources and personnel in Africa and holding career fairs to attract people."

The first of these events, The Global Skills for Africa Career Fair, was held in Nairobi last March and attracted over 3,000 people. As a direct result of the fair, over 190 people acquired employment and moved back to Africa to work on a permanent basis. The event concluded that "growth that is employment intensive must be pursued thereby creating jobs, transferring skills and knowledge. Lifelong training is essential with a system that incorporates incentives, standards and opportunities to link performance to promotion as vital."

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Similar events are planned in Nigeria in December, Ethiopia in January, Washington in February and London in March 2005.

DISPELLING WARPED PERCEPTIONS

Another central focus of the company is concentrating on Human Resources (HR). By looking at various aspects around the issues of HR development and its obstacles, Africarecruit provides a framework of solutions that is posted online as a database for people to access. It has over 29,000 registered job seekers and over 70,000 people on its mailing list.

"If you live in a global economy you have to make your jobs available on a global scale, so that Africans wherever they are located can access the jobs available. You can attract the skills but if you cannot retain them, then it's really just a leaking basket. By strengthening HR in Africa we will see the concept of brain drain begin to reduce."

As an example, the telecoms sector is one of the fastest growing industries in Africa. But there is a shortage of people with the skills that the industry needs, resulting in companies having to search further afield for the right people. "More people have a mobile phone in Africa than have a landline and it is growing at an explosive rate ... but HR demand is outstripping supply; there are a lot of telecom jobs to be filled," says Banjoko.

Popular misconceptions about contemporary Africa are something Africarecruit endeavours to dispel. Often, if an African has been living in the UK, Europe or the US for some time, their perceptions are coloured by what they see and hear in the media, believes Banjoko. …