Brain Drain

Photo by Robina Weermeijer on Unsplash

The brain drain concept, which has become a crying foul especially by African governments, is in many ways antiquated and rife with inaccuracies. The nature of work has changed over the years due to advancing technology, such that one can be based in Namibia and still working to contribute to your country of origin and a Namibian can be in Uzbekistan and still contribute to your community in Gobabis. If your thinking is that the only way a country can benefit from the collective intelligence of its citizens is when they are in the geographical borders of their country, you may not be the right person to move the said country. Meetings can be held virtually, and since a lot of the work in this digital age require a computer anyways, why do we continue to think that we have to be located in the same room physically to have a discussion.

Full disclosure, this is personal for me as a Namibian who currently resides in the USA. Whenever I come home or speaking to someone from home, I keep getting questions of “when are you coming back? We need you to contribute to the country, you are part of the brain drain and that’s why we cannot move as fast as we would, come and start industry and stop waiting on the government” etc….etc….etc… These words are empty for several reasons

  1. Not everyone who comes back contributes. There are two wrong assumptions. The first is that everyone who comes back just magically saves the country. The person you are telling to come back can very well be the next dictator or the next looter of government coffers. Second, there are many who are in the country but are simply draining the system and not contributing. Point being, physical presence in a country does not automatically equate to contributing more than the person outside. The assumption that those outside the country do not contribute is inaccurate. Some often send money back home (remittances) to support their families, which eventually contributes to economic activities. They are also skilled and available to advise or advance international partnerships, however they are left out of opportunities due to physical distance.
  2. Some of these are insincere cries. The same people crying for people to come back are often then ones who refuse employment for those coming back. When I graduated with my Bachelor I was looking for work and could not find any? I was told I needed to study further because the country needs specialist. Then when I got my Masters I was told I was too qualified hence I could not find a job. Multiply me by hundreds of others who are unemployed but with qualifications, often from universities where they were sent by their own government. Coming back home therefore sometimes simply means suffering for some, who must sit at home with qualification unable to get anything.
  3. Insincere Mantra – Sometimes graduates from outside the country are encouraged to “become job creators” instead of job hunting. However, the go create jobs mantra can be disingenuous. The same people promoting the mantra of go create jobs are the ones who have been in government jobs for decades. Which begs the question, if you who have been in government all these years and have amassed an extensive list of contacts cannot create jobs then how can a student who is fresh out for university easily create something without a network?

What is the point? The point is that in a globalized world, the nature of work has changed. Don’t take my word for it, look at the recently release report from the World Bank (http://www.worldbank.org/en/publication/wdr2019) which discusses how the nature of work is changing as a result of technologies that allow rapid growth due to digital transformation and expanding boundaries that are reshaping traditional production patterns. Actually, you can even just put into your favourite search engine and search for “changing nature of work” and you will get tons of results on the topic.

Fixating on name calling for those who are not in the country is not useful. What then is useful? How about actually partnering with those who are outside? No matter what country you are in, you are exposed to a network that you can tap in. Today you are only as good as your network (although to be honest this has always been the case in many Afrikan cultures). It doesn’t matter where you should be able to contribute, and your government should be free to call on you for your expertise. Whether you choose to answer that call or not is entirely up to you.

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