Brain drain reportedly costing $4 billion a year

Africa is losing as much as US $4 billion a year through top professionals seeking better jobs abroad, according to research by a senior economist at Addis Ababa University.

Dr Dejene Aredo argues that 20,000 professionals each year leave the continent for new jobs in the west. In an academic paper, presented at the Organisation Of Social Science Research In East Africa (OSSERA), he claimed the brain drain was hindering the continent’s development.

“It is a problem, because there is a huge deficit of manpower in developing countries," Dejene told IRIN. “Highly qualified professionals are migrating to the west when we don’t have enough of them here.” He said that for every 100 professionals sent abroad for further training between 1982 and 1997, 35 failed to return home.

“In Ethiopia alone we have one full professor in economics – in the United States they have more than 100. We don’t have enough highly skilled manpower," he said.

Dejene argues that countries should put policies in place that restrict the flow of educated migrants. He also says western governments should pay compensation for drawing the best talent away from developing countries. He believes that higher wages, better access to information and the dominance of western culture and values act as a magnet to professionals.

Kibre Moges from the Ethiopian Economic Association, a leading think-tank in the country, agreed that the brain drain was a serious problem in Africa as a whole and Ethiopia in particular.

“Today if you visit colleges and universities in this country you will not find any lecturers who have been there for more than seven or eight years," he said. He pointed out that the majority of senior lectures had been lured abroad by lucrative university posts and by political freedoms.

“The main reason people go is politics,” he added. “Across Africa I still think the main reason people go is political, the lack of development, democratisation and human rights... And some may leave simply for better opportunities.”

During a recent visit to Ethiopia, US Congressman Jim Kolbe said the brain drain from Ethiopia had robbed the country of much its talent." I am troubled personally that some of the best brains and best entrepreneurs of a country like this end up coming to the United States and thus rob the people of Ethiopia of their talents," he said.