Abdullai Ahmed?s analysis on the brain drain from our homeland (Ghana web ? 8th December 2004) makes an interesting reading. He identified all the important factors that lie at the very heart of our inability to stop our professionals from leaving the homeland.
Those who have studied skilled migration and the International Division of Labour/Globalisation will know that this is a phenomenon that is not unique to Ghana, however with the right measures sending countries can benefit immensely from this trend.
The world economy is structured in such a way that the poor countries who have no coherent policies to help uplift their people from poverty would continue to lose their trained skilled labour. A classic example of such a trend is Ireland. As everyone knows, for many years Ireland was known to be a net migration country, mainly to United States/Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.
In the 1970s Ireland, like the phase Ghana is going through now, lost most of its skilled labour to the more prosperous countries in the Western Hemisphere. When Ireland joined the European Union, they have a massive injection of the Common Market funds, just like the other poor countries of the Union (Portugal and Spain). With this injection, the Irish government began to pursue policies (always supported by her big brother, United Kingdom) to attract inward investments and talents. The Irish adopted most of the practices, such as poverty eradication, fighting illiteracy, and corruption etc during the restructuring phase of her economy. Then in the 1990s the take off stage kicked in. Ireland became one of the fastest growing economies in Western Europe. This growth attracted most of her skilled Labour that left back to the homeland. This growth also attracted 2nd, 3rd, and 4th and so on of generations of Irish entrepreneurs in Diaspora to the homeland to invest. Perhaps this was a stroke of luck for Ireland, for the first time in their history; they became began to attract other immigrants into their country. Like South Korea, Ireland began to give some of their hard earn wealth away as aid to poor countries, mainly to countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Over the years Africans have enjoyed the support of Irish Roman Catholic Priests who went to the continent in droves to spread the Roman Catholic faith. In return many Africans began to pour into Ireland, mainly as economic refugees. Ireland welcomes most of these migrants, abate reluctantly. There has been a lot of research about the role of the skill Irish Labour that migrated back to their homeland and the role they played in Ireland?s industrialisation.
Like Ireland, migration in the West African sub region is not a new phenomenon. The Western Africa sub region is the most integrated region in the whole of Africa. Tribes overlap into each other?s country as well as large communities of nationals that have lived in member states for years. As results of study abroad policies adopted by developing countries in the 1960s, 70s and 80s most countries in sub-Saharan Africa lost many of their skilled labour. Ghana lost most of her skill labour than most. However some countries in Latin America and East Asia which also participated in the scheme were able to attract their nationals back. For example Venezuela, Chile, South Korea, Thailand and Malaysia got most of their nationals back due to the better economic conditions home. The question is, ?Can Ghana stop the brain drain and start attracting her nationals back??. Although Ghana?s economy was drastically restructured during the Structural Adjustment period in the 1990s, she is still losing those professionals that she very much needs in her push for economic development. Abdullai Ahmed in his article entitled ?The Ghanaian Brain Drain ? Who is to Blame? highlighted the very issues at the core of this brain drain that is not receding. Yes as results of restructuring of the economy many of these professionals decided to go back and help in the reconstruction of their motherland. However as Ahmed stated the corruption (rent seeking) among the politicians and other policy makers is so entrenched that it has become a decease that would need a drastic action in the form of education by the sitting government to turn the tide (stop the brain drain). Where I disagree with Ahmed and Juliana Adomako Gyimah is about their assertion that when African Professionals depart from the continent and become successful, they fail to give something back to the continent. Well in the case of Ghanaian professionals, this analogy is not correct. A study that I conducted in the early 1990s about the ?Role of Ghanaian Skill Migrant in the Development of their Homeland?, my research findings support the findings of other commentators that economic development tend to pull lost professionals back to the homeland. The cumulative inflows from this powerful group to their homeland since the mid 1990s support my thesis.
It is true that lack of research facilities and good infrastructure discourage nationals from returning to their homeland, and again there has been much research on the subject. What cannot be denied was since the mid 1990s Ghana has been experiencing a quite revolution which very is much influence and driven by the large inflows from the Diaspora community. What is needed is for this group to return and help with the final push towards economic development. Along the way, there are core issues such as illiteracy, poverty reduction, large inequality, HIV/AIDS and primary health care for all that needs to be urgently addressed. There is also the issue of politicians using political office to enrich themselves as well brutalised the citizenry. This very behaviour was exhibited by both the NDC administration and the last NPP administration, where ministers think they are above the Law. This BIG MAN attitude is what is holding our professionals back from going home. The Rule of Law must be enforced in order to give security to all, especially the Skilled Labour who are now borderless and can take their skills anywhere they chose to. Ahmed also raised a very important issue that goes to very root of our existence as a nation state and that is the issue of ?Tribalism?. The fact that there are mumblings among certain sections of the population about one tribe dominating the rest is a very dangerous precedent that if not checked can lead to the disintegration of our country.
Ivory Coast is a case in point, and there other examples all around us. The 2004 elections show that after so many years of peaceful coexistence there are still divisions within the country. We have come a long way, have been able to maintained our unity instilled in our by the late President Dr Kwame Nkrumah. However the atrocities that occurred in Rwanda, Kosovo and Bosnia should remind us of how precarious our unity is. I wouldn?t go as far as my brother and compatriot Ahmed to advocate that the future looks grim. As Ahmed perfectly knows and is aware, various stakeholders have commented on the negative impact of the brain drain, especially the brain drain of our medical professionals, on our economy and the inability of the government to stop this trend.
In Western Europe and North America, every hospital ward that one visits, one can find one or two Ghanaian medical professionals working there. The sad fact is these are the people that Ghana needs in her hour of need. Yes we are a poor African country (and not a strategic one to the Industrialised countries), yet we have the best trained medical professionals in the world. Our medical professionals have been winning wards for excellence wherever they happens to be. They are the best trained professionals to emerge from Africa ( ironically majority were trained at Korle Bu Teaching Hospital of University of Ghana and Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology).
Our current leaders owe it to all of us, both in Ghana and Diaspora to reverse the trend. Ahmed was right when he stated that the only way to exploit all the skills available to the government is by recruiting not only in the homeland, but from the Diaspora community as well. Examples from various countries have shown that the Diaspora constituency plays an important role in their homeland?s development.
As the election 2004 is now over, Ghana needs all the skills of her people in the development of the homeland. The interest shown by the Diaspora constituency should be wake up call for the government. The sons and daughters Ghana lost during the study abroad policies are now willing to help developed their motherland. The onus is now on the government to implement policies that will encourage them to go home. The future of Ghana is in her own hands.
God Bless Our Homeland Ghana.
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