More Diaspora elite brains coming back home is great news

21Dec 2017
The Guardian
More Diaspora elite brains coming back home is great news

WHILE for decades Africans are used to seeing those who do well after obtaining an opportunity to study abroad, either for the first degree or higher studies, there is something new in the air, as US-based and some European surveys show that most finishing students in top business schools intend to

Surveys range this level of intention as anything up to 90 per cent of those surveyed, and more significantly, the survey findings seemed consistent with studies in different countries, continents and professions on which surveys were conducted. That is what it takes to make such a finding scientific, not just a rushed or hushed conclusion on the basis of insufficient probing, a public relations feat.

Statistically put, the surveys indicated that nearly 70 per cent of African MBA students at the top 10 US andEuropean business schools planned to return home and work after graduation, while another survey showed that nine out of ten PhD students studying abroad plan to work on the continent after graduating. It is from impeccable data of this sort, cross checked with different surveys, that experts can affirm that the trend of professional emigration is being turned around, highlighting the major reason as a rising optimism on the continent, whatever transitory pangs or momentary drawbacks being felt.  The wider psychological context is said to be the theme of the rise of a middle class in Africa,  clipped somewhat but going strong.

While the term Diaspora is being used to refer to this sort of professional re-entry into countries of origin, it isn't as yet a big shaker in relation to attitudes as it is still representing merely a change from what took place by preference, though partly due to error.  Surveys show that most African students being trained at post-graduate level like MBAs and PhDs only remained abroad at a cost, where they had to fit into roles for which they were by and large over-qualified, and at times a totally inappropriate role. In the latter context it was a situation where a student had to remain outside by all means, given chaotic conditions back home, as one could observe in Bordeaux, south west France mid-80s, a Ugandan PhD holder doing night guard work.

When students doing higher degrees make it a preference to return home, it means that there will also be a greater tendency for those who make money in Africa to commit their future to the continent, in which case seeing no need to stash cash abroad. While there are some good reasons about fearing the unknown, for instance negative changes of government and civil disorder, much of those conditions are becoming a thing of the past, with some recent examples helping to validate this impression, even in bad situations. The polls contention in Kenya had little in common with the early 2008 mayhem, and the proto-civil war situation in Burundi all the same was a shadow of the sort of thing the country had been through in its troubled past.

There is an aspect however that observers ought not to lose touch about the African Diaspora in Europe and America specifically, namely that the real challenge is not to bring or entice back home those who are doing higher degrees, especially the more marketable MBAs and PhDs. It is those who have put up roots in the Diaspora, who also dispose of considerable funds that could catalyse investments back home that in actual constitute the real challenge, and at that level there is plenty of adaptation in Africa for most of these to feel that they are welcome. They need to feel protected by retaining their foreign citienship while being able to reclaim citizenship so as to be treated equally before the law in investing, not victims of charlatans.

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