African and Caribbean Brain Drain, Part 2

P ossible Solutions

The global economy encourages the international mobility of the science and engineering (S&E) workforce. However, that mobility sends an overwhelming amount of S&E professionals from developing nations in Africa and the Caribbean to developed countries; not the other way around. The first part of our look at "brain drain" examined the reasons for reverse transfer of technology (RTT) among African and Caribbean S&E workers and the subsequent impact. Now, we will examine several strategies designed to end brain drain.

Compensation and Remittance

Dr. Edwin Carrington, secretary general of the Caribbean Community, recommends receiving or host countries should compensate source countries for taking their skilled professionals.1 He is not alone in this assertion, but if this occurs, how should recompense be levied? Should compensation be a monetary or a nonmonetary form of reimbursement? Suggested reimbursement programs involve training personnel, improving facilities, renovating management structures, and improving work conditions in source-developing nations.2 However, such efforts are discouraged by difficulty in receiving the necessary high level of international cooperation and the supervision of an international body.3 Another hindrance for nonmonetary reimbursement--and monetary compensation as well--is how to determine fair compensation.

A standard compensation measure is the amount invested in educating S&E workers.4 Unfortunately, this measure excludes the numerous S&E professionals who migrate as students. The cost of replacement personnel is another possible measure to consider.3 Compensation based on replacement costs is impractical, since foreign replacements cost considerably more than native professionals (Africa spends $4 billion annually4). Also, who would be taxed--the receiving country or the migrants themselves?

Even without official compensation policies, voluntary remittances are a substantial portion of Africa and the Caribbean's revenue. Remittances sent to countries in the Caribbean and Latin America, which the International Monetary Fund (IMF) studies as a single region, and Sub-Saharan Africa grew faster than their respective Gross Domestic Products (GDPs), according to an IMF report.5 The Economist estimates that remittances in Latin America and the Caribbean are three times larger than foreign aid and larger than export profits (as cited in Vaknin, 2002). However, these monies are used mostly for staple foods, shelter, maintenance, and clothing, with little true investment.6 Ultimately, compensation policies alone are insufficient because brain drain's impact is much more than economic.

Migration Policies: Retention and Repatriation

Migration policies are generally considered better solutions than compensation for RTT. Some developed nations (notably Canada and South Africa) have implemented retention strategies for S&E workers and students through "restrictive" and "incentive" policies. Robin Cohen, a sociologist at the University of Warwick, states that restrictive policies occur through compulsory national service or additional certification requirements during education, but only delay immigration.7 Dr. Moustapha Diouf, a Senegalese-born sociologist at the University of Vermont, prefers incentive policies--including pay incentives, enhanced research budgets, and laboratory subsidies--to entice intellectual migrants in the diaspora to return.7, 8 However, he notes the need for the proper infrastructure and competitive wages to enact repatriation policies that developing nations often cannot afford.8

For developing African and Caribbean countries, it's a Catch-22, as repatriation also requires home countries to offer expatriates what they cannot. These include higher salaries, knowledge networks, and infrastructure comparable to that in their adopted countries.4, 9 Also, nations paying repatriates higher salaries do so at the risk of alienating their underpaid S&E citizens. Consequently, recently developed nations such as India, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan have implemented successful repatriation policies.10 Repatriation efforts are backed by several government and international organizations.

For example, Kenya's Research and Development Forum for Science-Led Development in Africa and the African Foundation for Research and Development identify African professional expatriates interested in returning home. They even transfer professionals away from African countries with economic or political strife to places where they can be productive.11 Facilitating these short-term, project-based stays have been successful. Dr. Ajit Ghose, senior economist at the International Labour Organization, suggests a similar "fixed-period migration" as a policy to prevent permanent emigration for Caribbean natives.11

Other international policy proposals involve developed countries agreeing to not recruit S&E workers from developing nations.11 The Union for African Population Studies, a scientific, pan-African nonprofit organization, supports using international pressure.11 However, The Medical Journal of Australia concedes that international voluntary agreements are unlikely to "make a real difference" because they require adherence by the public and private sectors as well as regular recruiting checks.3 Despite RTT's challenges, there is hope that brain drain can be turned into "brain gain" with improving telecommunications and the repatriation of former S&E emigrants in other countries such as Ireland and South Korea to found hi-tech companies.

Network Development: Reconnecting the Diaspora

Drastic improvements in communications technologies, particularly the Internet, have enabled migrant S&E workers to help their native countries without returning home permanently.13 Networking does not require the massive investment required by retention and repatriation policies since it capitalizes on existing resources; therefore, it is a more feasible strategy for developing countries.13 With diaspora networks, the country of origin has access to the expatriate's previously unattainable knowledge and expertise and the knowledge networks formed in the host country.4

Several intellectual/scientific diaspora networks are independent and apolitical. Others are created or sponsored by international entities such as the United Nations (U.N.). They all use databases, newsletters, conferences, and seminars to sponsor joint research projects, technology transfers, information exchanges, joint ventures, and training sessions to help the home country develop its S&E infrasutrcture.2, 4 Most recently, Caribbean and African governments have begun expressing concern about the loss of S&E professionals and have begun to use diaspora networks to address the problem.

Caribbean nations are now reaching out to their skilled expatriates through the Digital Diaspora Network. This collaborative effort combines governments with several U.N. organizations as well as the Inter-American Development Bank and Seattle-based nonprofit Digital Partners.

African politicians created the pan-African coalition's New Partnership for Africa's Development ( NEPAD) to strengthen economic, political, and social interests in Africa. NEPAD wants to establish a continental database to determine the magnitude of RTT and promote collaboration between Africans at home and abroad to fully develop African nations.11

True Remedy

Although these strategies help ease brain drain's symptoms, they do nothing for the cause. The best solutions for brain drain are economic recovery and social development.2 That is why NEPAD wants to attack the true cause of brain drain--the disparity between developing African nations and developed target nations. By creating the necessary political, social, and economic conditions in African nations to curb brain drain and attract investment, NEPAD wants to improve the situation for all parties involved.

Some recently industrialized nations (India, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, South Africa, and Botswana) have shown that political stability and economic development can reverse brain drain.4 Such an effort requires the cooperation and trust of developing source nations, developed target nations, international bodies, and S&E professionals themselves. According to Narciso Mato, secretary general of the Association of African Universities, societies successfully reverse migration trends and attract some of their nationals back "once they put in place clear development policies and sustain them over long periods of time, [establish] an environment and resources that stimulate entrepreneurship and creative work, and ensure the possibility to maintain links with peers internationally."2

For other views on brain drain in Africa, please read "What Can Stop Africa's Brain Drain?" on the British Broadcasting Company's Web site.


  • (June 2002). Regional States Should Be Compensated for Brain Drain says CARICOM S.G. Online St. Lucia Government Press Release. Retrieved from the World Wide Web:

  • Narciso, Mato. Brain Drain in Africa. Retrieved from the World Wide Web:

  • Scott, Mark L, Whelan, Anna, Dewdney, John, and Zwi, Anthony B. (2004). "Brain Drain" or Ethical Recruitment? Solving health workforce shortages with professionals from developing countries Online The Medical Journal of Australia Vol. 180, Number 4. Retrieved from the World Wide Web:

  • Brown, Mercy. Using the Intellectual Diaspora to Reverse the Brain Drain: Some Useful Examples. University of Cape Town, South Africa. Retrieved from the World Wide Web:

  • Adams, Richard H. Jr. (June 2003. International Migration, Remittances and the Brain Drain: A Study of 24 Labor-Exporting Countries. Online World Bank Report. Retrieved from the World Wide Web:

  • Vaknin, Sam. The Labour Divide II. Migration and Brain Drain. Retrieved from the World Wide Web:

  • Cohen, Robin. Brain Drain Migration. Retrieved from the World Wide Web:

  • Diouf, Moustapha. (24 March 2004). Personal communication.


  • Okome, Mojúbàolú O. (September 2002). The Antinomies of Globalization: Some Consequences of Contemporary African Immigration to the United States of America. Retrieved from the World Wide Web:

  • Meyer, Jean-Baptiste et al. (July-August 1997). Turning Brain Drain Into Brain Gain: The Colombian Experience of the Diaspora Option. Retrieved from the World Wide Web:

  • (22 September 2003). ILO Economist Offers Solution to Brain Drain in Region. Caribbean Net News, Vol.17, Number 2. Retrieved from the World Wide Web:

  • Guellec, Dominique. Science and Development Network, Brain Drain Introduction. Retrieved from the World Wide Web:

  • Worku anglana, Tana. Good Bye Africa. A Review of the Research, Reflection and Debate on the Characteristics of New Intellectual Migrations: Africans, at Least, Are Returning. Retrieved from the World Wide Web:

  • Clinton Parks is a writer for MiSciNet and may be reached at

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