I came across this phrase, 'brain drain' for the very first time in my first year in the university. I had read an article by Philip Emeagwali, the Nigerian Scientist who is renowned for invention of high-performance computing applications, in an oil reservoir modeling calculation using a novel mathematical formulation and implementation. I read that article more than three times that day and I have read it more than 15 times ever since.
Brain drain is a coinage that explains the exit or migration of educated, skilled or professional people from their country to another. Most times, if not all time, what engenders this migration is the inherent human idiosyncrasy of wanting a greener pasture, better opportunities and better living conditions. Let me use Mr Philip as a case study. He had his high school education in Nigeria, his home country before moving over to the United States for his tertiary education. After his extraordinary invention in 1989, Mr Philip was recognised and awarded the 1989 Gordon Bell Prize in the United States. Having identified such a rare capacity, he was given the option of bringing over to the States about 20-30 members of his family and loved ones in Nigeria. That was how Mr Philip took his people and those dear to him and permanently reside in the United States.
Every day, a great number of people emigrate mostly from underdeveloped nations to developed ones in search of better opportunities. More often than not, they end up living in those countries permanently especially if they've shown unparalleled skill at what they do. I ask myself, what will become of these developing nations who apparently need these professionals for the development and betterment of their societies?
I have always posited that the greatest want of our modern day society is not natural resources. The greatest want of our time is the want of capacity; human capacity. What people can do is more important than what is available for what is available is useless if there are no people to transmute it to its physical equivalence. Many successful nations today do not thrive on natural resources. The strength of America lies mostly on her people; on what they can do. Picture America without Hollywood, Microsoft, Apples, Berkshire Hathaway, etc. And all these are brands created by human capital. These and many more are responsible for the greatness of this nation. They do not have preponderance of natural resources more than most other nations. Same with China, Russia, Germany and other developed nation of the world.
Still green in my memory are the words of Microsoft Chief and International Philanthropist, Bill Gate, during his last visit to Nigeria. While addresing Nigerian leaders, He said
The most important choice you can make is to maximize your greatest resource, the Nigerian people. Nigeria will thrive when every Nigerian is able to thrive.
I discovered that the multi-faceted problems propelling brain drain are entrenched in lack of human investment in most of these developing or underdeveloped countries. They fixate so much on the resources they have. Venezuela for example has the largest oil reserve in the world, the economy of the country is chronically cachexic. Nigeria, my country has abundant oil, yet, about 70% of her population live below poverty line. A country that is acutely short of doctors and has the fourth worst maternal mortality in the world; yet not less than 2,000 doctors leave the country yearly. How on earth will the health system in such a nation improve?
For developing nations to expedite their development, they need to put measures in place to check brain drain. The ultimate question is how?
The first step that should be taken is a keen interest in the people and their welfare. When people are not appreciated or under-appreciated, you leave them with no better option than to find a place where there skills and talents will be recognised. A classical example is the professional heavyweight boxer, Anthony Joshua who represents United Kingdom despite being a Nigerian. Another example is the prolific soccer star and coach, Zinedine Zidane who represented France despite having paternal Algerian descent. When developing nations learn to recognise their own, it will ignite the passion to stay and improve their nations.
Secondly, developing nations should establish special training or skill acquisition programmes. Best brains from tertiary institutions should be selected for these trainings. They should be made to sign an agreement to use their skills to work for the nation upon graduation from such special trainings. These trainings can be done in world class centres abroad where these intellectuals will have a firsthand knowledge of what is obtained in the developed nations and model whatever they want to produce or introduce into their own countries after the ones they were exposed to abroad. In addition, they should be handsomely remunerated to fuel their passion in what they do.
Incentives and honours should be giving for extraordinary ideas and inventions. The enabling environment for such ideas to develop and thrive should be made available. This can be in the form of research centres, tech centres, etc. If a citizen, especially by origin, does something spectacular in another country, such a person should be called back home and celebrated. This will encourage more people to be proud of associating with their country despite the underdeveloped status.
In as much as there is right to freedom of movement, developing nations should learn to toughen their emigration laws a bit. It can be structured in such a way that it will not be bread and butter for those with impactful contributions to the polity to leave.
As expected, Africa is worse hit by brain drain. It is the modern day slavery in the continent. It is important for Africans to know that no one will develop their place for them. The onus lies on all of us to work to create the nation or society we want. We cannot do so by fleeing to other countries and adding to their riches. We can take the pain now and build a better tomorrow for posterity. Let it be the monument we build for the future. Our world is moving fast, we have to move with it, this is our chance.
I am @winningman
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