ALARMING! BRAIN DRAIN for NIGERIA, now BRAIN GAIN for KENYA, GHANA and other AFRICAN countries
My just concluded trip to Kenya gave me a lot to think of about the state of our country, Nigeria. In the capital, Nairobi, I had reasons to wonder why things seem to be working seamlessly, despite the large population and why the people coordinate themselves better. I wondered about the order, patience and tolerance that is so palpable. You can feel it!
I thought about the ostentatious behaviours of our politicians and executives and the totally different character exhibited by their counterparts over here. I wonder why they placed more value on modesty rather than“flossing”their wealth.
I use the word modesty because you would have to gaze for hours before you can find one ostentatiously expensive automobile, yet for each minute of those hours, you will not find one rickety automobile. It is interesting that behind the modest dressing of the people can be found Chief Executives of known brands and high profile personalities.
Yet this is Kenya with 24 hour power supply, usable infrastructure, perfect tourism system that impacts directly on GDP and Per Capita Income and an enabling environment that fuels enterprise.
When you see the order, structure and the thinking of the personalities behind the civilization of the Western World, it is easy to understand and conclude that with such systems, they should be where they are. But it becomes a paradox when you find order, structure and development in African countries that do not have the strength of our own Nigerian economy, the potential in our population and our amazing natural resources. This is pure mental and emotional torture for want of a better phrase.
Some of my many angst include a constant 24 hour power supply, the huge number of Nigerian students studying in Kenya and the number of Nigerian professionals working in Kenya happily, with no thought of returning home. Should it not be a source of concern that our citizens seek greener pastures in other African countries contrary to the usual trend of migration to Europe and America?
The beneficiaries of our brain drain beyond Europe, America now include other African countries. What is for us a BRAIN DRAIN is now a new BRAIN GAIN for other countries like Ghana, South Africa, Kenya, Benin republic and many other African countries. What bugs me is how long we will remain on the losing side of the equation?
Why am I concerned? I have come to recognize that talents play a huge role in the development of a country. Nigerian leaders must come to this realization: it is impossible to drive a nation building effort without underscoring the creation, management and retention of talents. The economy that has a large number of world class scientist, technicians, philosophers and thinkers would be more innovative than the countries without those.
Innovative economies are beginning to put in place distinct policies to retain skilled workers. China for example tries to create a normal and free atmosphere and create mechanisms that will help talents to flourish. The result is the world’s second largest economy vigorously rehearsing to be number one. Germany has established a government funded initiative called GAIN with the goal to assist German professionals working abroad to return to their home country. Switzerland, Australia, France have similar initiatives.
In Canada, you are offered an automatic residence permit when you study for your Ph.D. While it looks like a government nicety, they are indirectly tying immigrant professionals down to develop their economy and make up for those it has lost through brain drain.
For how long will we cry unrepentantly in Nigeria when other countries are initiating developmental initiatives and policies to capitalize on brain gain. Is our environment attractive enough for skilled professionals in other countries to want to live and work here thereby creating a brain gain for us? Are we exploring and maximizing our local talents?
Still, it is happening that Americans are naturalizing to become Singaporeans as in the case of Facebook co-founder, Eduardo Saverin. 1, 781 Americans naturalized to other countries in 2011. They are also responding as lobbyists from the computer industry, including Bill Gates who induced the government in 2000 to raise the annual cap on the temporary work visa granted to skilled professional immigrants under the H1B visa programme.
We too need corporate icons in Nigeria who understand the kind of talents we need and can lobby at the highest level to get policies in place for the benefit of those foreign talents that will come and plug their skills into our economy. We will need their expertise to develop our local talents to create intellectual capital and help us advance.
From tax incentives to citizenship benefits and real estate square offs, we can begin to make our country more attractive to them. We should sit down to think about the viable benefits that will drive brain gain for our economy.
It is never too late. We can never define our possibilities until we take the courage to sit down and ask ourselves where they are. THIS IS THE LIFE!