Saturday, October 27

I never realised the aspect of internal brain drain

We know of the brain drain from emerging countries to the west but how about the internal brain drain aspects? fascinating angle and one which I didn't previously consider. Something to think about. I quote:

As a director of international programs at the University of Botswana for four years, I witnessed this indigenous African brain drain up close. Every year it seemed somebody from the law department was recruited to be a judge. I watched as nongovernmental organizations poached at least three of the best female academics for jobs within Botswana. For-profit universities, almost all foreign owned, regularly recruit local Ph.D.’s from the university to give them a local face. Foreign-owned businesses in Botswana are always on the lookout for faculty trained in business, science, and engineering. The government itself has not held back. It has cherry picked at least two of the university’s best administrators for top roles in education. Finally, a number of academics find that their services as consultants are so in demand that they can easily make a much better income as self-employed contractors than working at the university.

Further depleting academic staff at the university is a brain drain to South Africa. Every year at least one faculty member leaves for a very sizable pay raise to work at a university to the south. There is, however, one difference with the internal brain drain and the one to South Africa: Most of the university’s former faculty come back after a year or two. They find the social environment in South Africa much more conflicted and competitive. Also, they feel they are treated as foreigners rather than fellow Africans. And some are surprised that taxes are often higher than they expected. On the other hand, those who leave the university for jobs within Botswana almost never return to academe in any capacity.

Most discouraging is that those leaving are often among the best and brightest. They are creative, ambitious, often charismatic, and almost always top leaders. The result is that the full professor ranks at the university have very few locals and a sizable proportion of expatriates, particularly from other parts of Africa. Indeed, Botswana poaches extensively for senior talent from other African countries, many of whom are quite good as instructors and scholars. These African expatriates often remain in Botswana until retirement because the salaries are much better than what they could earn at home, even in the private sector. However, they usually do not identify with Botswana personally or professionally. Many provide little service to the institution in terms of committees, are not serious about mentoring junior colleagues from Botswana, and do not contribute to the local intellectual environment. So while the university may provoke a brain drain from its sister countries in Africa, it cannot replace the best and the brightest local scholars who have the energy and vision to propel both the institution and the nation forward. Moreover, the university often ends up paying more for these senior expatriates than it would have for the talented locals.

No comments: