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AFRICA'S TALENT FARM: THE EXPORT OF OUR STEM TALENT AND ITS IMPACT ON OUR CONTINENT

POSTED 06/10/2024

Africa serves as an anode to 17% of the world's population with more than 60% under 25 years of age, ideal to create a massive workforce.

With this potential, Africa is still lagging behind the rest of the world in terms of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) capabilities. (Source: www.greeningafrika.com)

According to insightsonegiantleap.com the country has an estimated 675,000 STEM graduates making their way into the job market every year.

However as stated by the World Bank on the 25th of September 2023, an estimated 2.5 million more engineers are needed in sub-Saharan Africa to tackle its development challenges, which Africa is yet to meet. But what could be the reason for this?

According to (www.africacenter.org), there are about one million new migrants over the past year, which adds to the estimated 43 million African overall migrants, and that is just it, the reason why Africa is yet to meet the demand for the estimated STEM talents in the continent.

Skilled and innovative individuals are leaving the continent in pursuit of better opportunities abroad.

The rate of brain drain in Africa has its own positive and negative impacts on Africa's development.

In this Article, we will be gaining insights on the effects of exporting our STEM talent and suggest ways to balance the benefits and drawbacks.

But before we dive into any of that, it is essential to explore the effects of brain drain in Africa.

THE BRAIN DRAIN PHENOMENON

 

Brain drain is the resettlement of practitioners, which results in the reduction of skilled and equipped human resources in the country.

According to the African Union, about 70,000 trained professionals emigrate from Africa every year.

As labeled as the world's youngest continent with 10-12 million young Africans joining the labor force each year, Africa has been able to establish 3 million jobs yearly, which is why many young individuals are migrating to Europe, America etc. for greener pastures.

In 2016, a massive number of African migrants in OECD countries (Organization for economic cooperation and development), was reported to be 7 million in 2013.

Also, in 2013, France, the United Kingdom, the United States of America (USA) made up 50% of the total sub Saharan African diaspora. ( Source: Ibrahim foundation.com)

The United Nations tells us that between 2010 and 2015, Africa lost 20,000 scientists and engineers to developed countries.

With the following statistics provided, it is visible that Africa has experienced significant brain drain in recent years with many STEM professionals evacuating the continent to display their skills in developed countries.

All these have contributed heavily to the loss of skilled STEM talents in Africa, which simultaneously has hindered the science, technology, engineering and mathematics growth in the continent.

DISADVANTAGES OF THE EXPORTATION OF AFRICA'S STEM TALENT

The exportation of STEM talent from Africa has several disadvantages, including:

1. Brain Drain: Africa loses its most talented and educated individuals, leading to a significant reduction in its intellectual capital.

2. Loss of Investment: The education and training of STEM professionals are often subsidized by African governments, which means that the export of these talents means a loss of investment.

3. Reduced Innovation: The absence of STEM professionals in Africa reduces the continent's ability to innovate and develop solutions to its unique challenges.

4. Dependent on Foreign Expertise: The export of STEM talent makes Africa dependent on foreign expertise, which can be costly and unsustainable.

5. Reduced Economic Growth: The loss of STEM talent reduces Africa's potential for economic growth, as these professionals are essential for driving innovation and entrepreneurship.

6. Inefficient Use of Resources: The export of STEM talent leads to an inefficient use of resources, as Africa invests in educating and training professionals who then emigrate to other countries.

7. Demographic Imbalance: The export of STEM talent can lead to a demographic imbalance in Africa, as the continent loses its most educated and skilled individuals.

8. Reduced Competitiveness: The export of STEM talent reduces Africa's competitiveness in the global economy, as the continent loses its most talented individuals.

9. Negative Impact on Healthcare: The export of healthcare professionals, such as doctors and nurses, can lead to a shortage of healthcare workers in Africa, exacerbating the continent's healthcare challenges.

10. Reduced Capacity to Achieve SDGs: The export of STEM talent reduces Africa's capacity to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly those related to education, healthcare, and economic growth.

With the following negative impacts on Africa's progress and development, the exportation of STEM talent in Africa has several economic benefits.

Many African STEM professionals abroad send remittances back home, which plays a significant role to the development of their countries economy.

For instance, in 2020 Nigerians abroad sent home $25 billion in remittances, which is about 6% of the country's GDP.

INTERNATIONAL COLLABORATION AND RELATIONSHIP BUILDING

The export of STEM talent can also lead to a strong and beneficial international collaboration and relationships building.

African STEM professionals abroad often join hands with their international colleagues on projects that benefit their host countries and their home countries simultaneously.

Let's make use of this analogy: A Nigerian scientist working in the United States may collaborate with American colleagues on a project to develop a new malaria vaccine that benefits both the US and Nigeria.

SOLUTIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Here are some solutions and recommendations to control the exportation of STEM talent in Africa:

1. Create Opportunities: Provide competitive salaries, benefits, and research funding to retain STEM professionals.

2. Improve Research Infrastructure: Invest in modern research facilities and equipment to enable STEM professionals to conduct cutting-edge research.

3. Encourage Innovation: Support startups and entrepreneurship programs to enable STEM professionals to turn their ideas into businesses.

4. Develop STEM Education: Improve the quality of STEM education in Africa to produce more talented professionals.

5. Collaborations And Partnerships: Foster international collaborations and partnerships to enable African STEM professionals to work on global projects while remaining in Africa.

6. Talent Retention Strategies: Implement talent retention strategies such as scholarships, mentorship programs, and career development opportunities.

7. Government Support: Encourage governments to prioritize STEM talent development and retention through policies and initiatives.

8. Private Sector Involvement: Engage the private sector in STEM talent development and retention through funding, mentorship, and job opportunities.

9. Create A Conducive Environment: Foster a conducive environment for STEM professionals to work and live in Africa, including adequate infrastructure, security, and quality of life.

10. Repatriation Programs: Establish repatriation programs to encourage African STEM professionals abroad to return to Africa.

11. Pan-African Collaborations: Encourage collaborations among African countries to retain STEM talent within the continent.

12. Address Brain Drain Causes: Address the root causes of brain drain, such as political instability, economic instability, and lack of opportunities.

By implementing these solutions and recommendations, Africa can reduce the exportation of STEM talent and retain its most talented professionals to drive innovation, economic growth, and development.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, Africa's STEM talent is a precious resource that can propel the continent's growth and development.

While the export of this talent brings economic gains and international collaboration, it also robs the continent of its most brilliant minds.

To strike a balance between the benefits and drawbacks, African governments and institutions must prioritize STEM talent development and retention.

By nurturing and retaining our talent, we can harness their innovative potential to solve Africa's unique challenges and drive progress.

Will we seize this opportunity to unlock Africa's full potential and create a brighter future for generations to come?