From Brain-Drain to Brain-Gain: The African-Diaspora Community and Development in Africa.

Author:Darkwa, Samuel Kofi


Africa has witnessed two waves of its citizens leaving the shores of the continent at the time the continent desperately needed them. The first wave was between the 16th and the 19th centuries where millions of able-bodied Africans were forcibly removed and from the continent shipped through the Trans-Atlantic slave-trade to the New World (North/South America and the Caribbean) as enslaved people to build the economies of other nations (Rodney 1972).

The trade in human beings has negatively impacted Africa's development, and thus, it has received extensive scholarly attention, and has been said to be responsible for why Africa did not experience industrial revolution (Bah 2005; Rodney 1972). Scarcely had Africa come out of these hurdles than it found itself in the clutches of brain-drain where many of the few professionals in the health sector especially and other critical human resources the continent needed most joined the exodus of brain-drain to seek greener pastures abroad (Adebayo 2011; Chen and Boufford, 2005; Docquier and Rapoport, 2012; Hanson, 2010). Thus, Africa has had two waves of its citizens leaving the continent first during the slave-trade era and second during the brain-drain era.

These two strands of African people, one forcibly removed and the other "voluntarily" travelled off the continent are referred to as the African diaspora (Adebayo 2011; Amagoh and Rahman 2016; Ogbu 2016). The African Union broadly defines the African diaspora as "peoples of African descent who live outside the African continent, irrespective of their citizenship and nationality and who are willing to contribute to the development of the continent and the building of the African Union" (African Union 2005). From this definition, the African diaspora has come to be associated with the development of the continent (Gaillard and Gaillard 2003; Ogbu 2016). This study focuses on the second strand of African diaspora (the post-independence emigrants). Unlike the first strand of African emigrants who were taken out of the continent against their consent, the second arguably left willingly and mostly identifies with the continent and often time maintains close ties with relatives on the continent (Gaillard and Gaillard 2003; Ogbu 2016). This category of African diaspora aptly fits the nomenclature--brain-drain which was in vogue in the 1970s and 1980s.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the concept of brain-drain had dominated the development literature and Africa was once again the focus of attention (Chen and Boufford, 2005; Docquier and Rapoport, 2012; Hanson, 2010) due to the negative impact of the phenomenon on the continent's development. This was captured by Artuc, (2015) who observed instances where more than 50 percent of tertiary educated citizens from over 20 developing countries had left their countries to work abroad while at the same time, these countries were spending huge chunks of their hard earned scarce foreign exchange on expatriates from developed countries. The concept of brain-drain is based on the argument that most of the developing countries had invested in the training of the indigenous professionals who leave their countries (Bhagwati and Hamada, 1974). Thus, brain-drain was a loss of investment on these professionals who had left their countries. In the words of Lee Jong-wook, the former Director General of World Health Organization (WHO), the migration of African health professionals was a loss of hope and years of investment (Lee 2006). Subsequent studies have downplayed the impact of brain-drain. Their argument is that counting the numbers of nationals that are working abroad was misleading because the burden of training these professionals in most cases was not borne by their countries of nationality but by the countries of training (Ozden and Phillips 2015).

Other studies have also found that there is brain-gain as professionals from developing countries practicing in advanced countries constitute a platform of expertise and a resource pool for their respective countries' benefit (Adebayo 2011; Clemens 2007; Kangasniemi, et. al. 2007; Ogbu 2016).

In the light of this, many scholars have argued that African professional expatriates in developed countries constitute a vast pool of resources to the continent in many ways (Amagoh and Rahman 2016; Chikezie 2011; Gaillard and Gaillard 2003; Ogbu 2016) for its development agenda. From the contribution to public policy, acting as a pool of scientific community, cross fertilization (1) and cost saving (Gaillard and Gaillard 2003; Zweig et al. 2008), to remittances (Combes, Ebeke, and Maurel 2015) down to areas of financial capital, intellectual and political capital (Chikezie 2011, Ogbu 2016) are what the diaspora community represents. In the light of its significance to the development trajectory of Africa, this study evaluates the role of the diaspora community in the continent's development by analyzing the impact remittances from the community has made on human development in the top ten recipients of remittances in Africa. In fact, the importance of remittances to the development agenda of the continent cannot be over emphasized. Available data and scholarship show that remittances to developing countries in recent years is as thrice the equivalence of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflows (Combes, Ebeke, and Maurel 2015; Ratha 2009, 2013). Again, remittances improve the recipient country's credit worthiness and helps it to attract low interest rates from the World Bank and other financial institutions (Ratha 2013; Ratha, Eigen-Zucchi, and Plaza 2016). The figure for remittances is more than twice the value of official aid received by Third World countries (Delgado Wise et al. 2013).

This study evaluates the impact of the diaspora community on the continent's development from the prism of human development which focuses on the richness of human life instead of focusing on the richness of the economy in which human beings live. Human development as the Nobel Laureate, Amartya Sen (1999) argues, is based on human freedom but not just on economic growth. This is the case because literature is replete of nations that had registered huge economic growth but eventually fail due to the unsustainability of such growths. In most cases they are based on human exploitation (Acemoglu and Robinson 2012) which are very repressive at best. The study also compares the GDP per capita, growth rate, economic freedom, political rights, and civil liberties of citizens in the top ten recipients of remittances in Africa. It also examines the status of the top ten African states with high remittances as percentage of GDP in 2015. In this way, the study does not select only the top ten African countries with high remittances in current USD, but also those countries with high remittances as percentage of GDP since the two are not the same, we are able to compare how remittances are impacting human development, the economy and governance of the recipient states. This study is very critical due to its implications for policy and literature on the role of the African diaspora to the continent's socio-economic development and democratic governance.

Thus, the research question of this paper is: What role do African nationals abroad who were previously viewed as brain-drain play in the continent's socio-economic and democratic progress? Specifically, what impact do remittances from the African diaspora make on the top ten recipient countries' human development, economic growth and democratic credentials?

The remainder of this paper is organized as follows; the next section reviews the literature and details out the theoretical basis with which to analyze the impact remittances play on political and economic development of the continent. This will connect to section three which is the discussion segment of the paper by analyzing the progress or otherwise of the selected countries in relation to their human development index. The paper uses life expectancy at birth, mean years of schooling and GDP per-capita for the selected countries as a measure of citizens' wellbeing. Section four, the final section summaries the discussions, points out the importance of this study and offers suggestions and recommendations for future research in the area.

Theoretical Framework and Literature Review

This section reviews the literature on how emigrants and their remittances (2) shape the political and economic development of their home countries. It then constructs a framework to analyze the impact of remittance+ on the top ten African countries with high remittances inflow based on Human development. Human development, as the Nobel Laureate, Amartya Sen (1999) argues, is based on human freedom but not just on economic growth. Thus, the paper hopes to evaluate the impact of remittance+ not only in terms of the political and economic development of these countries but based on their human development status.

Literature Review

The literature on the role of the African diaspora to the continent's development is very rich and diverse. For this study, the paper reviews the literature on the political and economic impact of emigrants in general and remittances in particular from African diaspora and thereby contributes to these two strands of literature. Politically, it has been found that the remittance+ have played a critical role in the building or weakening of political institutions of their home countries (Abdih et al. 2012; Docquier et al, 2016; Beine and Sekkat, 2013). Scholars have found that the quality of political institutions in the home country of many emigrants are developed along the lines of the hosting countries' political institutions (Beine and Sekkat 2013; Docquier et al, 2016). Thus, in many cases, the political characteristics of the hosting country and the level of education of migrants greatly impact the quality of political institutions of the home...

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