Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

The Brain Drain, Skilled Labour Migration and Its Impact on Africa's Development, 1990s-2000s

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

The Brain Drain, Skilled Labour Migration and Its Impact on Africa's Development, 1990s-2000s

Article excerpt


There are existing studies on the movement of population from one geographical area to another in the course of human and material development. This movement can either be voluntary or involuntary. In this paper, our main focus is the voluntary international migration. Historically, migration is a way of life in Africa. Over the generations, African peoples have migrated in response to security, demographic, economic, political and related factors: population pressure, environmental disasters, poor economic conditions and so on. (1) As argued by Curtin, Bruijn and International Organization for Migration (IOM), Africa has long been described as an immensely "mobile continent". (2)

Generally, international labour migration is not restricted to Africa. It is a global phenomenon, which became unprecedented between the 1990s and 2000s as a result of globalisation. International migration or cross-border migration remains a major global phenomenon that has continued to rise steadily in recent years, with migrants now accounting for over 3 percent of the global population. (3) The number of international migrants, comprising both economic and humanitarian migrants increased threefold since 1960, reaching 232 million in 2013, of which about one quarter migrated over the past two decades. (4) For instance, according to the 2002 report of the United Nations, by the beginning of the 21st century, the total number of persons globally living in countries other than their own was 180 million. (5) From 1970 to 2005, the stock of international migrants in the world increased from nearly 82 million to just over 190 million, according to United Nations (UN) estimates. (6) Recent international migration patterns have been predominantly characterized by South-North flows. While migration between emerging market and developing countries (South-South) accounts for a large part of the international migrant stock, recent trends have been driven mainly by migrants moving from emerging and low-income developing countries (Africa in particular) to advanced economies (with Europe and North America being the main recipient regions) (South-North). (7)

The major continent that has continued to record high rates of skilled labour migration during this period of study is Africa. Since the post colonial period, the movement of African immigrants into the Western and Eastern hemispheres is hinged on push and pull factors. Donald argues that four major factors account for the patterns in African migration during this phase. These factors are globalization and integration of the world economy; economic and political development failures in Africa; immigration and refugee policies in Europe and the United States; and colonial background. (8)

Importantly, since the 1990s the major centres of attraction especially for African immigrants are North America particularly the United States of America and Canada) and Europe (especially United the Kingdom); New Zealand, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirate, Asian and Middle East countries. (9) In fact, according to Akanmu, the streams gathered strength and became a flood in the 1990s. (10) This was why according to the 2005 World Migration Report, Africa was described as "the continent with the most mobile populations in the world" (IOM 2005, 33). This development has resulted in the general view that high emigration from Africa has led to brain drain and brain waste. Undoubtedly, the migration of highly trained professionals out of Africa leaves many countries in the continent short of the skills needed to meet the challenges of socio-economic and political development.

It is against this background that this paper intends to interrogate the brain drain, skilled labour migration and its impact on Africa's development between the 1990s and 2000s. The paper is divided into five sections. Section one introduces the discussion and the methodology adopted for the study. …

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