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Opinions of Thursday, 25 April 2013

Columnist: Dale-Asiedu, Michael

The overseas’ dream

Nearly half of Ghana’s educated citizens live abroad while one in three skilled Angolans resides outside that country. Of the ten countries with the highest percentage of educated citizens living abroad, six are in sub-Saharan Africa, where many governments subsidize higher education.

With this little worrying statistics about how our skilled men leave their respective sub-Saharan countries, join me as we ride on in discussion. Putting the African continent in perspective, i would like to inquire when truly the days of going overseas will be over.

I was challenged by a good friend that such living questions better not be asked as this exodus is not going to end anytime soon. And he had the guts to substantiate his stance with mind-blowing statistics. This is what he said: the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has estimated that Africa has lost a third of its human capital and continues to loose skilled personnel at an alarming rate. IOM and the Economic Commission for Africa gathered statistics showing that between 1960, when 17 African countries became independent and 1974 when most had achieved independence, an average of 1800 skilled Africans left their homelands for developed nations. Between 1975 and 1984, the rate had jumped to 4000 a year. Between 1985 and 1989, 12000 skilled Africans each year left for what they thought were greener pastures and since 1990, the rate has skyrocketed to 20000 annual African migration and brain drain. After his defense, all i could mutter was greener pastures indeed!

Then i was swift in replying that non-Africans also are in the same category, thus they also migrate and ply their trades on African soil. I later realized that it’s not the same whichever way i looked at it. They are closer to development and as such if we go there we only help them develop faster alluring to the fact that the best leave for the west. Ravinder Rena of the Eritrean Institute of Technology puts it nicely that it will be impossible to achieve an African renaissance without the contributions of talented Africans residing outside Africa. Subsequently, a lack of skilled local labor means that the continent spends roughly $4billion a year to hire foreign skilled workers according to IOM. Yet again Joan Dassin of the Ford Foundation tells Voice of America that if you don’t have qualified people on the ground with strong local roots to carry out development projects, it’s not likely they will move forward in a sustainable way. This assertion is very true because we and only we know and understand our problems better save parochialism. You can therefore solve it better if you know and understand it better. Maybe you have not really seen the adverse repercussions of brain drain, may be you will gladly leave if a ship docks at your port advertising free transportation to Europe. Maybe you are planning to sell your last property to secure a visa, but please hold on a little while; the days of going overseas are over. You see few blacks who have made it on TV doesn’t mean it is all rosy over there. There are many blacks who are stranded and can’t even afford a ticket back home whilst countless many have dreaded their decisions of leaving abroad. We have cattle and bees in Africa yet we seek for milk and honey outside. The climate is favorable here yet we seek for greener pastures outside. Not surprising right! Consider the patient to doctor ratio in Africa, what about the pupil to teacher ratio, currently Ghana has about 10000 nurses short of the required national number of 40000.

If indeed we hold these truths to be self-evident, then why at all do we ply our trades elsewhere when we are more needed home. I once again reiterate that the days of going overseas are over, mother Africa deserves better. This is our continent, our Africa, most especially to my Ghanaian folks, our Ghana, things are not all proper here but what have we got to do? We have to try very hard to make it work; it’s the only place we’ve got. Living a century long overseas doesn’t genetically change your roots. Folks make it work. Graduates applying for foreign scholarships all over the internet with the motive of leaving never to return again must cease. Young people do something worthwhile home. You have more than enough brains to awaken your entrepreneurial conscience. Our outlook about how we perceive people who have travelled outside must change. Long queues for visas must cease, constant rush for American lottery must reduce. We can make it here in our home continent. Remember Barack Obama pluralized his “yes we can” spirit from the word “African”. The last three letters translated into words read “i can”. There is therefore no reason whatsoever why we can’t. One will argue that remittances sent home by our relatives abroad go a long way in reducing poverty. Whilst i don’t dispute that assertion, chronological analysis will attest that the mere fact of you making it there literally means you can make it here too. The only difference might be in the value and currency appreciation but that notwithstanding, you will have the joy and satisfaction of having contributed your utmost quota in making mama Africa develop.

This article would be incomplete without extending a note of appreciation to the Neil Turok of Cambridge University who run a science and technology postgraduate programme in South Africa that hopes to be expanded to fifteen African countries since this will entice more graduates to stay. Another new programme the African Leadership Academy which i am proud to have participated in their maiden finalist weekend at Tema SOS will waive tuition for most of its students but if they are not working in Africa by the time they turn twenty five, they will owe the school tuition fees plus interest. Let’s live the African dream “For we are strangers before them, and sojourners, as were all our fathers.1 Chronicles 29:15’!

michaeldaleasiedu@gmail.com

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