The Social, Economic Impact of Migrating Entrepreneurs AFRICANS ONTHE OUTSIDE

Cape Times (South Africa), June 13, 2018 | Go to article overview

The Social, Economic Impact of Migrating Entrepreneurs AFRICANS ONTHE OUTSIDE


IN 2016, WE CONDUCTED a study interviewing entrepreneurial African diasporas living and working in the UK and the US. We found that migration for entrepreneurial purposes could obviously present an opportunity, but can also present numerous challenges.

Visionaries and innovative entrepreneurs are present in all communities, yet not all communities adapt quickly to the disruptive changes they provoke. This prompts entrepreneurs, professionals and innovators to either challenge the resistant nature of disruptive innovation, pursue rent-seeking opportunities or migrate to an environment that is more welcoming and embracing of economic creativity and innovation.

In Africa, very limited data and research is available on entrepreneurial migration patterns. The research studies that have been conducted did contribute to shaping the literature on entrepreneurship activity across the continent. Yet, they focus mainly on aspects such as the growing informal sector, entrepreneurship as a survivalist activity, the barriers which entrepreneurs face and the nature of entrepreneurial activity. Very few demonstrate the entrepreneurial activities of Africans living in other parts of the world.

Let's look at the numbers. African migration to the rest of the world has increased dramatically. From 1960 to the year 2000, it rose from 1.8 million to 8.7 million, with most Africans found mainly in the US and UK.

The highest number of African migrants residing in the US and UK are Nigerians, followed by Kenyans, Zimbabweans and South Africans. Noting the aforementioned migration trend, an exploratory study was conducted to determine some of the socio-economic factors that induce Africans to migrate to these countries.

Although the sample of the study conducted only reflected input from second-generation migrants, who are mostly educated with postgraduate qualifications and with a professional background in the finance and technology sectors, it still gives us a glimpse of the entrepreneurship migration landscape on the continent. In an article two years ago, Njeri Kimani, the leader of the Africa Capacity Building Foundation, also highlighted that there are tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of highly-skilled Zimbabweans in the diaspora. Their departure is Zimbabwe's loss, and the rest of the world's gain.

If Zimbabwe is ever going to turn itself around, it will have to somehow start convincing these talented people to stay.

In 2011, more than 1 000 medical graduates who were born or trained in Africa, migrated and were registered to practise in the US alone. Many African start-ups also take part in various competitions, which promise to develop them in world-class accelerators and hubs around the globe.

Although these are opportunities, they present hidden challenges, as most of them end up losing their product's IP, get convinced into selling their prototype for a song or their initiatives get "stolen" by the accelerators or hubs in the host countries.

The International Organisation for Migration estimates that there are 300 000 African professionals residing outside Africa, with 20 000 more leaving the continent every year. Meanwhile, Africa must employ some 150 000 expatriate professionals at a staggering cost, estimated at around $4 billion (R52.41bn) per year. When it comes to the adverse impact on revenue, our study estimated that in 2016, the African continent lost close to $652bn per year, due to African entrepreneurs and professionals operating outside the continent. …

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