Date: Sat, 13 Mar 1999 19:07:20 -0600 (CST)
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Rich Winkel)
Subject: LABOUR: Conflict, Poverty Hamper Return of African Professionals
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Conflict, Poverty Hamper Return of African Professionals
By Philip Ngunjiri, IPS, 8 March 1999
NAIROBI, Mar 8 (IPS) - A campaign by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) to woo back the 250,000 African professionals working in western countries is being thwarted by the conflicts and growing poverty on the continent.
"Many of the professionals are interested to return home, but domestic conditions do not allow them to do so," says Dr Gichure wa Kanyugo, a Kenyan-born psychiatrist, working in the U.S. city of Boston.
Kanyugo says Africa does not offer him, and others out there, much hope. "You see, you cannot eat patriotism," he says.
Kanyugo, who is a naturalised U.S. citizen, has lived in America for 17 years.
"After years of working abroad, the migrants' plan to return home becomes increasingly vague," he says, adding that, "the IOM programme fits very well with those who are very old and wish to come and die peacefully at home."
About 250,000 African professionals work in Europe and North America, compared with the about 100,000 expatriates employed in Africa by foreign aid agencies, according to the latest IOM report, titled 'Meeting Essential Manpower Needs.'
Maureen Achieng, the head of the Nairobi-based Return and Reintegration of Qualified African Nationals (RQAN) programme, says Europe and America benefit most from the African brain drain.
She says Africa bears the cost of raising and educating its professionals in their unproductive years before the latter seek greener pastures abroad.
RQAN, which is funded by the European Union (EU), is implemented by the Geneva-based IOM in cooperation with participating African governments.
Although the civil wars, abject poverty, and massive unemployment that made the Africans to relocate still stand, RQAN says it is committed to encouraging and facilitating the return of trained and experienced professionals back to Africa.
"This exodus of African professionals and experts, commonly referred to as 'brain drain' represents a crippling loss for the continent, depriving African economies of people who are vitally needed for the purpose of development," says Achieng.
Zephania On'gata of the Kenya Institute of Policy Management, blames the brain drain on "the politics of international economics and aid."
"When bi-lateral or multi-lateral donors release aid packages, expatriates appear as a 'must-string' on it," she says.
Expatriates get a hefty package compared to their local counterparts. This, in turn, forces the African who is equally qualified to divert his or her interests abroad.
Most Africans, the IOM says, remain abroad because of inadequate knowledge of job opportunities back home, which might be attractive enough, or because of an inability to foot the relocation bill.
To attract the migrants, IOM has launched a major campaign to reclaim the lost talent, through advertisements in local papers, urging firms and businesses interested in various key professionals to contact IOM for potential overseas-based experts.
IOM, in collaboration with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the relevant embassies, has traditionally been associated with the resettlement of migrants from warring countries or persons fleeing persecution at home.
Every year, more than 7,000 persons, most of them refugees from neighbouring countries, are resettled to various industrialised countries from Kenya alone.
Since 1983, only 1,500 qualified Africans have been assisted to return to take up jobs in their respective countries. The largest programme has assisted over 1,200 to return to six "target" countries -- Ghana, Kenya, Somalia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Currently, an average of 10 professional Kenyans are returning home annually, under the IOM plan.
Upon return, IOM provides the returnee with, among others, an air ticket, pays for the excess baggage, provides a relocation allowance and a salary supplement of up to 800 US Dollars per month for six to 12 months.
IOM officials, however, say they regret that some of the professionals, after returning home, are packing and relocating elsewhere, especially to South Africa.(END/IPS/pn/mn/99)
[c] 1999, InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS)
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