About two decades ago, it was fashionable for African governments to invite long lost citizens, now top flight professionals working abroad, to come home and help build the home economies.
The invitation came at the height of the clamour over brain-drain, with sub-Saharan Africa constantly losing its best people to
Some did turn up, but admittedly not for very long due to several reasons including the governments' unwillingness to pay the super high salaries being demanded and governance issues. In other words, many did not understand how we did things over here.
Today, the interest has shifted to their savings. But not just that of the doctors, engineers and lawyers. Also that of those working in the lower levels of the services sector abroad.
As official development aid (ODA) has gradually fallen off, (except from the Scandinavian countries), remittances from Africans employed abroad have been steadily going up.
Again according to the
Indeed, the harsher effects of the global economic downturn since 2008, have been mitigated by these flows of cash into African economies. It mostly comes for paying school fees, housing construction, subsidising family incomes and investment in medium business enterprises.
According to latest figures, Kenyans lead int he
This money has become hugely important to sustaining regional economic growth. This makes it all the more wiser that governments do not antagonise our far flung brothers and sisters. We need their money, so within limits, lets pamper them. Quibbling over dual citizenship is one such issue. Giving them voting rights is another.
However, the ome thing that these African professionals can offer and what we desperately need, is expertise. For many years, they have been exposed to the modern ways of getting things done. They can help transfer this knowledge to people back home.
An understated point about Chinese rapid economic growth, is that the government sent hundreds of young people to the best universities abroad. After their studies they were obligated to return and share that knowledge at home.
In our case, why not offer our professionals working abroad short term contracts to mentor our young people. It will be difficult in the beginning adjusting to the circumstances, but in the long run much cheaper than the technical assistance offered by development partners. This is also a way of giving them a stake in the country, besides encoursaging them to invest more in the relevant home economy. After all, many of them do not have to ever come back at all.
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