University of Calgary
The last few years have witnessed a revival of a structured scholarly and policy debate about the extent and impact of the brain drain on the continent, following a lull in academic discussion about the subject for much of the 1980s and early 1990s. As mobilization of domestic resources and strategies for socio-economic development failed to produce improvements in the lives of Africans, attention has once again turned to analyses of the complicity of the 'brain drain' in the continent's predicament and steps that can be taken to address the impact of the exodus of intellectual capital. It has become clear to most observers that the incorporation of the large Diaspora communities in development planning is a crucial necessity. Although these communities have always made significant contributions to their countries of origin, the contributions have generally been at micro-individual and informal levels. Until very recently, no concerted national or continental efforts were made to tap the enormous potential of these communities for macro-level developments in their countries of origin.
Even though statistics show that Africa, with its 20,000 scientists, accounts for only 3.6 percent of the world total (Deen, 1999), these figures do not take into account the large number of African scientists working in the developed world who contribute to scientific knowledge and who can potentially be useful resources for their continent of origin. With over 30,000 Africans with doctorate degrees, and still larger numbers of other professionals, living outside the continent (Daily Mail and Guardian, February 10, 1999), the value of the Diaspora in Africa's renaissance is now an acknowledged fact. For example, Ghanaians in the Diaspora, whose remittances contribute about US$400 million dollars to the national economy every year, constitute the country's fourth highest foreign exchange source (see http://www.homecoming.com.gh/introduction.html); see also Peil, 1995, p. 359-363). As Lella Ben Barka (2000), Deputy Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa observed : "African communities in the Diaspora represent a significant source of capital for Africa and an important source of investment capital for productive use in Africa through effective use of electronic-commerce, exchange of expertise by making use of Information and Communication Technologies and distance learning."
The realization of the relationship between the brain drain, the African Diaspora, and capacity building in Africa is the reason for various mobilization initiatives that are being undertaken at national, continental, and international levels. The most elaborate continent-wide effort yet at addressing the continent's human capital deficit was the 'Regional Conference on Brain Drain and Capacity Building' which was organized in Addis Ababa in February 2000, under the auspices of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the International Development Research Center (IDRC) of Canada, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). A recent example of a government-organized initiative aimed at courting the potential of the Diaspora communities was the July 2001 'Homecoming Summit' in Ghana. The summit was meant to bring together government officials, local professionals and their counterparts in the Diaspora to "explore avenues for optimizing economic and investment opportunities in the country. It is geared towards evolving an institutional framework that enhances the capacity of our migrant nationals to effectively participate and intervene in matters of this country as identifiable stakeholders at the same time as it encourages co-operation and actions that promote the well-being of the motherland" (Ghana Investment Promotion Council, 2001).
In this paper, I will engage the paradoxical relationship between the seemingly negative consequences of the brain drain, on the one hand, and its positive mobilization for Africa's socio-economic and political development, on the other. The paper starts with an analysis of the reasons for, and extent of, the loss of the cream of Africa's human resources to the more developed countries. It then examines two of the major conceptual strategies whereby the skills, knowledge, and assets of the Diaspora communities may be re-appropriated for the good of Africa. This is interwoven with discussions of some of the initiatives that have been informed by these models. The paper then ends with an exploration of how communities of affinity, based on common epistemic and entrepreneurial interests, can be built and utilized around a shared desire and commitment towards Africa's socio-economic and political advancement. My particular focus is on the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to create networks of action among Africans in the Diaspora and between them and their compatriots on the continent.
|Understanding the 'Brain Drain': Causes and Costs|
Numerous reasons have been offered for the exodus of Africa's best minds (Fadayomi, n.d.; Peil, 1995). Most of these tend to be skewed towards those push and pull factors that are political and economic in origin. It is important, however, that we do not lose sight of the social and psychological pressures that compel African intellectuals to seek more conducive environments for their work and lives. This section, therefore, provides a more holistic representation of the factors that underlie the loss of the continent's intellectual capital to other countries, particularly the advanced industrialized countries.
One major reason for the erosion of Africa's human resource, particularly among social scientists, was the intolerance of political dissent by many African governments. Such intolerance stymied critical expression and thus, by extension, hindered a fundamental mission of the continent's institutions of higher learning. This mission requires that these institutions provide "a forum for critical analysis of ideas. ... The ability of the university to preserve, transmit, criticize, and discover knowledge is dependent upon the free and open flow of information as well as disinterested inquiry" (Zinser and Lewis 1988:217). Most African states, however, have shown a gross intolerance for ideas, perspectives, and opinions that do not dove-tail with those of the ruling elite. Since social scientists are, by definition, commentators on society and all its dimensions, they regularly find themselves locked in battles with governments who might not be enamored of their perspectives on issues. These exchanges have potentially unpleasant implications for the economic and physical survival of these academics (See, Sawyerr 1994; Saint 1992).
[S]ome of the human rights abuses documented include: summary executions of academics and students; torture; arbitrary arrest and prolonged detention without charge or trial; imprisonment under conditions that are cruel and degrading; restrictions on freedom of expression, assembly, association and movement; ... censorship of teaching and reading materials and manipulation of curricula. Lesser forms of coercion are used as a means of intimidation, such as denial of promotions and tenure to outspoken academics; restrictions on travel abroad for research and meetings (Atteh, 1996, p. 38).
Partly due to these acts of harassment, and at times killings, there has been a significant exodus of African academics to all continents of the globe since the 1980s, creating a pool of 'lost brains' in the Diaspora (Tettey, 2000). The United States, for example, is home to a lot of these 'exiled academics', with an estimated 10,000 of them being Nigerians (Blair and Jordan 1994).
The ravages of war have also compelled many of Africa's 'brightest' to seek refuge in safer places. Since 1996, 20 countries have been plagued by civil conflict, resulting in deplorable and life-threatening conditions. Among those who find it relatively easy to escape these conditions are the intellectual and professional elite, because they have the means and/or the skills to begin life anew elsewhere. In the Sudan, for example, "it is estimated that of professionals in the graduating class of 1978, 30 percent of engineers, 20 percent of university lecturers and 17 percent of doctors have fled the country" (Johnson, 2000).
A key driver of the professional exodus from Africa is, undoubtedly, the harsh economic conditions under which most professionals work and the perceived lack of appreciation for their work that is reflected in the low levels of remuneration that they get relative to other groups of employees. It is therefore not surprising that they avail themselves of better opportunities in other countries when the situation presents itself. As Sibry Tapsoba, Regional Director of IDRC in West and Central Africa, laments: "How can we keep the best of our minds ... if we continue to pay less to our top researchers and experts than the youngest unskilled military personal and security guards?" (Economic Commission for Africa, 2000a, p. 4).
A corollary to the poor remuneration for professionals is the loss of status that they suffer in societies where more value is placed on material attainments rather than on educational accomplishments. To recapture the worth of their intellectual achievements, many highly educated professionals move to those places where they think their worth is likely to be recognized and rewarded, even though they may end up not getting jobs commensurate with their qualifications (see Tettey, 2001a). The situation is compounded in a culture where these professionals, who are usually the better-placed members of their extended families, are expected to provide economic and social support for other kin. In the face of constant demands from family members, and their inability to fulfil their cultural obligations to their kin, many professionals seek better opportunities elsewhere in the hope of gaining the wherewithal to fulfil these obligations and hence gain respectability among kin.
A significant number of African professionals in the Diaspora also leave their home-countries because of a lack of psychological satisfaction with their jobs. Some academics and doctors, who do not have access to relevant literature and equipment to perform their jobs at optimal levels, quit out of frustration. Young professionals, in particular, are also forced to leave partly because of constraints on professional mobility imposed on them by the retention, common within a lot of organizations, of those who are past retirement age. This problem is sometimes caused by the economic insecurity and anxiety that characterizes retirement in much of Africa. Older folk are, therefore, compelled to continue working for as long as they can in order to maintain a certain level of sustenance and to fulfil certain social and economic responsibilities. The barriers to mobility are also attributable to the 'older is wiser' syndrome whereby some organizations retain older professionals because of the assumption that their years of experience make them indispensable.
In tandem with these push factors are the pull factors of better remuneration, access to inputs necessary for satisfying job performance, the value placed on intellectual worth, which all combine to draw Africa's 'brightest' to the developed world. The consequence of this confluence of factors is a significant loss of a fundamental factor in socio-economic and political development - intellectual capital. It is estimated that between 1960 and 1975, about "27,000 high-level Africans left the continent for the West. Between 1975 and 1984, this number increased to about 40,000 and then almost doubled by 1987, representing 30 per cent of the highly skilled manpower stock" (Oyowe, 1996). About 369 South African doctors have emigrated since 1994, while about a 1,000 management staff left Zimbabwe in 1997 alone (Africa News Service, April 18, 2000). Statistics reveal that Ghana and South Africa have, respectively, lost 26 percent and 8 percent of their most highly educated nationals to OECD countries (Financial Mail, June 25, 1999). The African situation is representative of the crisis facing many developing countries (see National Science Foundation, 1998, 1999, 2001).
There are no systematically collected, consistent and verifiable statistics about the monetary cost of the brain drain to Africa. This is mostly due to the fact that the non-availability of accurate data on the migration of Africans and the value of their skills makes such statistics difficult to compute (see Carrington and Detragiache, 1999). Proxy measures have, however, been adopted to give us a sense of the value of human capital that developed countries, in particular, are gaining at the expense of Africa and the repercussions for the continent (see Odunsi, 1996).
Carrington and Detragiache (1999, p. 48) note that African immigrants in the United States "consist primarily of highly educated individuals (about 95,000 of the 128,000 African migrants).... The biggest migratory flows from Africa to the United States are from Egypt, Ghana, and South Africa, with more than 60 percent of immigrants from those three countries having a tertiary education." Obviously, if significant numbers of the 'best brains' are leaving their countries, the quality of education, training, and service delivery will inevitably deteriorate. In fact, the expertise- base of many countries has been eroded to the extent their there is not enough capacity to provide quality training for the new generations of citizens (see Jumare, 1997; Edokat, 2000; Oni, 2000). The university of Ghana Medical School, for instance, has been hard hit by the exodus of academic staff: only 95 instructors remained at post, in March 2001, instead of the required 183. Out of the 95 remaining, 23 are on post-retirement contract (Ghanaweb, March 30, 2000). The implications of this situation for the health sector are very ominous, not only in terms of retaining instructors of future medical professionals, but also with respect to the provision of medical services. The dwindling number of instructors, and hence the number of professionals who can be trained, is worsened by the fact that the few who are trained do not remain in their countries. "Between 1969 when the Ghana Medical School was opened and 1994, about 1,280 doctors were trained there, but a review of the records in 1998 showed that less than 430 of this number were left in the country" (Ghanaweb, March 30, 2000). Over 2,000 Nigerian doctors are practising in Canada and the United States (see http://www.anpa.org; http://odili.net/pros.html) while many of their compatriots at home are dying due to an acute shortage of medical personnel. This number is significantly less than the 21,000 quoted by Barka (2000). Nevertheless, in a continent where even the full complement of indigenously-trained medical professionals is far below what is required to provide needed services, the devastating repercussions of the loss of such high numbers of doctors on the health of the population cannot be gainsaid.
Based on the US Congressional Service's 1971-72 assessment that the United States gained $20,000 a year on each skilled immigrant from the developing world, Oyowe (1996) extrapolates conservatively that Africa lost more than $1.2 billion of investment on the 60,000 professionals who left the continent between 1985 and 1990. He believes that UNCTAD's valuation of each African professional migrant at $184,000 is probably closer to the loss that the continent suffers per individual, taking into account the investment that went into their training and the spin-offs that that investment could have generated. In South Africa, the emigration of professionals is estimated to have cost the country about 8.4 billion rand in tax earnings and 285,000 rand (1.4 billion US dollars) in terms of GDP from 1994 to 1997 (African New Service, April 8, 2000).
|Conceptual Models and Practical Initiatives at Reversing Human Capital Loss|
Two main models underlie efforts aimed at addressing the problem of the brain drain across the world. These are the 'return option' and the 'Diaspora option'. The former option is geared towards the adoption of measures and strategies that will convince professionals abroad to return to their countries of origin in order to contribute to development there. In Taiwan, for example, the National Youth Commission (NTC) was established with the mandate of coordinating efforts at getting nationals to return. This scheme goes beyond verbal appeals to patriotism. It encompass recruitment drives, that will make the return option attractive, as well as taking concrete measures that provide the enabling conditions for the retention of those who return. The NTC serves as a repository of information where potential returnees and prospective employers are able to match their interests.
South Korea, for its part, has since the 1980s shored up the qualities of its research institutes and provided research incentives that will attract its citizens abroad who might be reluctant about returning because of concerns about research integrity, professional development, and psychological job satisfaction. The result is that while only 16 percent of US-trained Korean science and engineering doctorates returned home in the 1960s, the figure had jumped up to about 75 percent in the 1980s (UNDP, 2001, p. 92). In addition to individual states, some multilateral agencies have established programs to address the developing world's intellectual deficit crisis. The IOM's Return of Qualified African Nationals Program (RQANP), for example, enabled 1,857 nationals to return to their countries of origin between 1983 and 1999, an average of over 100 people a year (UNDP. 2001, p. 92).
National and international initiatives, under the rubric of the 'return option', are laudable. However, their potential for addressing Africa's problem of human capital deficit is limited, in view of the large size of the Diaspora community and the rate at which skilled and professional Africans are leaving the continent. The unfavorable economic climate in many African countries makes the sustainability of the 'return option' very difficult. The strategy requires a large infusion of capital to attract the requisite numbers of professionals needed for socio-economic and political development, and to prevent those intent on leaving from doing so. Such funds are not available to the cash-strapped countries on the continent or to multilateral agencies like the IOM. Furthermore, the same socio-economic factors that pushed people out of the continent in the first place still prevail in most of these countries, thereby compelling a significant number of returnee-professionals to embark on new sojourns of economic survival. This defeats the objectives of the 'return option'.
It is noteworthy that 'return option' programs tend to target a select category of 'most urgently needed' professionals - mainly in the fields of science, technology, and economic management. While the limited resources available to the programs require such selectivity, it is difficult for such returnees, on their own, to create the multiplier effects for socio-economic and political development. This can only be engendered through a synergistic confluence of different skills and expertise. It is, therefore, imperative that mechanisms are put in place for the gelling of a wider spectrum of minds. It is true that science and technology professionals are a key ingredient in Africa's economic rejuvenation. They cannot, however, achieve that objective without input from their counterparts in the social sciences and humanities whose expertise is particularly necessary for the creation of the enabling environment within which technological and economic progress for all can take place. There is also a wealth of African expertise in entrepreneurship that should be incorporated into schemes directed at channeling Diaspora resources towards African development. Many Africans are running successful businesses in Europe and North America, for example, and their skills in negotiation, investment, customer service, etc., can provide tremendous assistance to the development of an enhanced entrepreneurial culture in Africa. They are, of course, a potentially significant source of investment as well. An efficacious program of human capital regeneration and capacity building requires an integrated approach which recognizes and promotes the symbiotic complementarity of knowledges and expertise. The resource constraints facing the 'return option' make it a difficult option for achieving such integration.
In addition to the inability of African countries to support the return option at effective levels, it is a fact that there are many Diaspora Africans who, for a variety of reasons, are not willing to relocate to Africa. Ali Mazrui and Philip Emeagwali, two successful Africans in the United States, have, for instance, made it clear that family considerations in their new country of residence does not make it feasible for them to relocate to Africa (see Ghanaian Chronicle, November 22, 1999; and Emeagweali, 2001). This reality rules out the possibility of deriving maximum benefits from such individuals by focusing entirely on the 'return option'.
In view of the limitations facing the 'return option', many analysts agree that "the emphasis on promoting the return of Africans in the Diaspora is not realistic, neither is it enforceable. Africa does not have the means to accommodate mass returnees. It must rather explore ways and means of maximising the contribution of this large ... human resource resident abroad by adopting appropriate policies and incentives" (Economic Commission for Africa, 2000a, p. 8). This evaluation of the situation has lent support to the 'Diaspora option' which advocates making use of the resources of nationals abroad, without necessarily having them relocate to their countries of origin. Adopting this option provides an opportunity to transcend the barriers of physical distance and promote the contribution of all Africans to the development of their countries, irrespective of their geographical location.
The attraction of the 'Diaspora option' emanates partly from a theoretical conception that sees human capital, not exclusively in terms of an individual's abilities, but as a product of the synergies between those abilities and the professional environment in which the individual is located. Based on this conception, advocates of the Diaspora option see migration to the developed countries as a potential asset for Africa, rather than a liability (Meyer and Brown, 1999). They contend that by being in their host countries, African professionals are able to enrich their skills and expertise in a way that they could not have done in their countries of origin, because of better access to professional resources (see Emeagwali, 2001). They are also able to build invaluable networks within epistemic communities that can be utilized for the benefit of their home countries.
Developments in the field of information and communication technologies (ICTs) bring an added advantage to this option. Partners in development initiatives do no have to be in close physical proximity to engage in collaborative efforts. The internet, for example, makes it possible for them to communicate faster, share ideas and build knowledge pools that are accessible to multiple users and collaborators. It also helps avoid the tedium and expense of traditional forms of interaction. In sum, the intersection of information technology and the 'Diaspora option' allows Africa to turn the brain drain into a brain gain, from a problem to a potential asset. This intersection has been credited for the significant contributions that the network of Indian professionals are making to the development of their motherland, resulting in skill development, the raising of endowments, and the financing of some of the country's institutions of higher education (UNDP, 2001, p. 91). Other examples of efforts aimed at deriving benefits from the marriage between the 'Diaspora option' and information technology can be found in the Philippines' Brain Gain Network (BGN) (see http://www.mit.edu/afs/athena/activity/m/mitfsa/News/BGN) and Thailand's Reversing the Brain Drain (RBD) project (see http://rbd.nstda.or.th/). In Africa, the ECA and IDRC are currently working on a program, the African Consultancy Capacity Building Initiative, whose purpose is to bring together African professionals at home and abroad to engage in various projects that could enable the continent improve its socio-economic and technological standing. This effort will be given a strong boost if the African Information Society Initiative achieves its purpose of bolstering the continent's ICT infrastructure. There are currently a few country-focused initiatives emerging that are aimed at taking advantage of the opportunities provided by ICTs to tap the resources of Africans in the Diaspora and their locally-based compatriots for national development (see http://www.ghanacybergroup.com; http://www.uct.ac.za/org/sansa/). It should be made clear, though, that although the value of ICTs for development-support resource mobilization is significantly explored in the ensuing discussion, networking, as used in this paper, is not exclusively technology-based. It also encompasses social networks that might flow from, but transcend computer-mediated exchanges, or those that may not have their provenance in technology-mediated interaction at all.
|Harnessing Human Capital via ICTs and Trans-National Networking|
The task of harnessing human capital for African development should be a collaborative one that involves various stakeholders. Among them are the African Diaspora, African governments, donor countries and agencies, and African-based professionals. In the following discussion, I shall outline the various ways in which these agents can contribute towards this effort and the contributions that information technologies can make to the process.
Diaspora professionals can take the initiative in building zonal intellectual, professional, and entrepreneurial networks within the Diaspora; networks that can be used for research, consultancy services, and as think-tanks aimed at benefiting their particular communities, countries, and in some cases, the continent as a whole. The large concentration of Diaspora Africans in a few countries should make it easier for such networks to become viable. For example, 58 percent of the 21,485 identified graduates from five South African universities, who are resident abroad, can be found in just six countries (SANSA, 2001). Such concentrations can make collaboration and resource mobilization much easier by enabling Africans to meet face-to-face and to know each other better at the professional level. These interactions may help build the necessary level of trust (i.e., the social capital) required to embark on collaborative schemes, and which might not be provided by the anonymity of an exclusively computer mediated form of communication.
Among the uses to which zonal networks can be put are collaborative research that can benefit particular African countries or the continent as a whole. This can be accomplished by encouraging sectoral-, issue-, and project-specific internet forums where interested parties can share ideas and design feasible projects and programs. As Schlege (1994, p. 2) points out, "[c]omputer mediated communication could provide a missing link needed to bring together 'virtual scientific communities, based on fields of activity and interests, rather than on the mere coincidence of vicinity." In view of their better access to ICT resources, those in the Diaspora can take the initiative in hosting networks of knowledge exchange with their home-based compatriots, by supporting network subscriptions for local professionals who cannot afford them, as well as developing and maintaining a database of national experts - a point that is elaborated below.
The credibility that individual members of the network have garnered in their professional careers, and the contacts that they have established, can also be harnessed to 'sell' Africa on the world wide web, and thus serve as a vehicle for eliciting material, financial, and other support for the various projects that they plan on pursuing. This can be done through an organized collection of easily accessible information that showcases opportunities and potential, and provide quick access to relevant experts who can respond to inquiries. Furthermore, the success of collaborative projects by these networks could induce further support from other compatriots and external benefactors. The success of the Ghana Cyber Group in attracting matching financial backing from the Kaplan Fund bears testimony to the potential of such initiatives. The Fund has offered to match every $50,000 that the Group raises for a specific project because it is impressed by what this network of Ghanaians seeks to do for their country (Ghanaweb, July 20, 2001). One of the initiatives being undertaken by these Ghanaians, which is worthy of emulation by other communities, is collaborative investment in a number of areas, proceeds from which will not only benefit members individually but would be channeled into development programs in their home country. The involvement, in such initiatives, by Africans who have investment and entrepreneurial experience will be very useful in enhancing the value of these networks, thereby helping them promote the ideals that they stand for.
Distance education is one of the areas that can benefit from the interface of ICTs, Diaspora networks, and African institutions of learning. In view of the shortage of academics that bedevils African institutions of higher learning, it would be possible to make use of the many African intellectuals in the Diaspora to offer distance or correspondence courses to universities polytechnics, professional bodies, and public servants. The World Bank's African Virtual University project (http://www.avu.org/) could make use of the expertise of these Africans to provide instruction for various courses and share their knowledge. The success of these distance learning programs depends on access to computers and internet services, as well as an efficient ICT infrastructure, something lacking in many African countries. Diaspora networks can help enhance the prospects for access, particularly in the first two areas. They can do this by soliciting/providing computers and buying internet subscriptions for partner institutions in Africa that will enable them to access the distance programs. They can also pay subscriptions for on-line academic and professional publications, so that their colleagues and students in local universities can access such materials.
The other advantage that the network can offer is to allow African professionals in the Diaspora to coordinate their schedules in a way that enables a number of them to return periodically to the continent to offer their services for short periods of time. The terms of such service provision can be worked out with local institutions and state agencies. Doctors, for example, can come down in groups and offer medical assistance in selected communities. North American academics, for their part, can offer instruction during the spring and summer months when most of them are not teaching, but when African institutions are still in session.
Africans in the Diaspora can further improve conditions in their home institutions by coordinating resource support for them. Book and other equipment drives can take place on the internet among members of the Diaspora network who will collect needed resources for the education, health, and other sectors in their countries of origin. Individuals and small groups are already making some of these efforts, but the cost of sending significant amounts of such material to Africa can stall those efforts. Concerted and well-coordinated drives, with financial support from the networks of nationals abroad, could enable those resources to get to their intended beneficiaries.
There is a lot African governments can do also to promote the harnessing of Diaspora resources for development at home. Diplomatic missions have a vital role to play in this respect. The current feeling among most residents abroad is that their countries' missions do not serve as a useful conduit for channeling development-oriented efforts (see http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=16889). The desire of these nationals to contribute towards national development is, therefore, greatly diminished by the non-supportive attitudes of some diplomats. Ghana's foreign minister acknowledged this during a seminar with new heads of missions appointed by the New Patriotic Party government (http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=17015). Many of the missions are not even able to provide relevant information on the basis of which Diaspora Africans can initiate, and implement, plans that have potential to help their home countries. It is important that the capacities of these missions be improved to serve as centers of resource mobilization. This can start by getting them on the internet with web pages that offer relevant information and enable Diaspora communities to register themselves and their expertise for use by governments, as and when necessary. They can also be used to offer responsive services to inquirers and to organize progressive initiatives, such as fundraisers and discussion forums relevant to specific national issues or nationals in particular countries of accreditation. Together with the technological changes should come an attitudinal change whereby foreign mission officials move away from an inclination for social distancing from their compatriots to the adoption of a philosophy of positive collaboration with them.
Governments need to create enabling conditions in their countries that will give citizens abroad the confidence to invest their resources at home. They need to transform plans for socio-economic reconstruction from the level of rhetoric to that of concrete action. It is an indictment on African governments that the African Capacity Building Foundation holds some of them responsible for difficulties in accomplishing its goals. The Foundation notes "the lack of commitment on the part of most African governments to create the necessary environment and incentive systems that will ensure the sustainability of ACBF's programmes for capacity utilization" (Economic Commission for Africa, 2000a, p. 6). It is worth pointing out that the return of Indian and Korean Diasporas, and their enormous contribution to their countries' socio-economic development, is not unrelated to improved economic conditions and political stability at home.
One of the key pre-requisites for enhancing the capacity of national institutions, in both the public and private sector, to provide the necessary impetus for socio-economic transformation is the availability of accurate information and the proper management of such information. It is, therefore, important that governments work hard to improve this situation. Diaspora communities, just like any other potential investors, require critical information on the basis of which they can make informed decisions about where and how to allocate their resources. Central government should make relevant information available to its missions abroad to be posted on web sites or offered readily to requesters. State institutions at home, both at national and sub-national levels, should also follow suit, so that they can be direct sources of information. The example of South Africa, with regard to information access on the internet, is commendable and is worthy of emulation by other countries (see http://www.gov.za). Enhanced information collection, management, and provision capabilities must not be compromised if external support, whether by nationals, their allies, or other interested parties, is to be mobilized.
As Tettey (2001b) notes, one of the problems confronting ICTs as tools for government-citizen interaction in Africa is the absence of efficient feedback and response loops on government web sites. Governments can improve this situation and thus enable their nationals abroad to make representation and share their views on national and continental debates with political actors on the ground. Such inputs could offer a tremendous wealth of information for policy development and action. African civil society organizations, domiciled in Europe and North America, have, for example, played an important role in pushing for democratic change on the continent by using the internet to mobilize support for pro-democracy causes and engaging in deliberative discussions on the politics of their countries. As the concept of democratic governance takes hold on the continent, it is hoped that governments will be receptive to this source of interest articulation and aggregation. Moreover, positive responses by governments to inputs from Diaspora nationals will enable the latter to feel an appreciated part of their countries of origin and give them a sense that they are not just contributors to national development, but that they also have a say in influencing policies and determining what happens to their contributions. The desire to be acknowledged in these ways is at the root of numerous calls for governments to grant voting rights to those in the Diaspora.
Another way that governments and donors can take advantage of the skills and expertise of Africans abroad, and indeed at home, is to abandon the attitude of uncritical adulation of foreign experts by some governments and to stop their imposition on countries by way of donor-funded programs - in the form of technical assistance (see Tettey, 1997).
[I]n Sub-Saharan Africa there are still tens of thousands of expatriate technical assistance personnel employed in development projects in all sectors of the African economies - government, the state-owned enterprises, the private sector and costing about US$4 billion per year, nearly 35 per cent of ODA to the region --- when a large pool of distinguished African professionals are available in industrialised countries. It is estimated that about "100,000 foreign experts work in Africa, whilst some 100,000 skilled Africans work in Europe and in North America" (Economic Commission for Africa, 2000b, p.3; see also Berg, 1993; Oyowe, 1996)
The vast majority of Africans abroad, if not all, profess a strong commitment towards the uplifting of their countries' socio-economic and political status. Governments should, therefore, use, and insist on using, their expertise in technical assistance projects. Most African professionals in the Diaspora have relatively better knowledge of these societies than the foreign experts who are brought in at tremendous cost, and many will be willing to charge less for services rendered, as a way of contributing to their countries' development. Donor agencies and countries should emulate the UNDP's Transfer of Knowledge Through Expatriate Nationals (TOKTEN) program. "TOKTEN has proven to be a cost-effective and innovative modality to transfer knowledge to over 30 developing countries in a wide spectrum of fields. TOKTEN funds the services of expatriate national experts for well prepared short-term assignments, usually one to three months, with selected host institutions in the government, academic and research institutions, private sector and non-governmental organisations in developing countries" (http://www.undp.org.np/programme/tokten/).
As noted above, the effective operation of such a program requires the presence of up-to-date, easily accessible databases that provide information about Diaspora professionals and their areas of expertise. The functioning of well-developed, recognizable, issue-specific or country-specific networks makes it easier for requesting donors to avail themselves of the expertise available. Donors can then follow up to find the appropriate expert(s) for their purposes. These databases need not be exclusively about Diaspora professionals. They should include local professionals as well. Using experts at home helps to develop and, hence, build local capacity, thereby contributing to the overall effort of harnessing all available human resources for national development.
It is important that African-based professionals do not remain passive in efforts at promoting 'brain gain'. They do not always have to wait to be 'discovered' as partners, but can initiate joint activities with their compatriots in the Diaspora. Some such locally-driven initiatives are already present on the continent. One of the relatively developed ones is the South African Network of Skills Abroad (SANSA) whose aim is to link South African professionals abroad with local experts and projects for the purpose of national socio-economic development (see SANSA, 2001). Of course, the participation of local experts in these initiatives requires access to the internet and the relevant databases. So, in order to expand, and make less expensive, the use of ICTs, African governments need to adopt a progressive attitude to the import of these technologies. Currently, import duties on computer equipment are so high that even institutions of higher education are complaining about its effect on their ability to provide connectivity for research collaboration.
Because they have a more up-to-date knowledge of the situation on the ground, local professionals could provide the necessary ideas regarding lucrative business ventures, relevant areas for research, current economic and social trends, etc. These contributions then provide the base data on which their Diaspora partners can use their privileged locations to move the ideas forward. They can also serve as useful sounding boards for those who might contemplate using the 'return option'. Local professionals are quite similar to their foreign-based compatriots in a lot of respects and are in a very good position to provide the best advice for the latter about the climate for professionals at home. This is where the value of the internet again comes into play. Those who are interested in such collaboration can participate in the issue- or country-specific discussion forums. It is true that access to the technology is still limited (Tettey, 2001b), but the mushrooming of internet cafes in a number of urban areas where the bulk of professionals reside should help ease access for this group.
Based on the evidence provided above, it is clear that African countries are confronted with a serious human capital crisis that has been exacerbated by the outflow of a significant number of their most highly qualified nationals. Consequently, the countries' capacity to develop their intellectual resources further, manage their institutions, and provide needed services to their communities have been immensely impaired. At the same time, the industrialized countries of the North, where the vast majority of these professionals are domiciled, have become the beneficiaries of the continent's extensive human capital crisis.
The benefits that Africa has tended to derive from the exodus has generally been in the form of individual-level remittances and some concomitant spin-offs into the informal sector. Until very recently, not much has been done at the state level to harness conscientiously and in a sustained manner, the intellectual, fiscal, and material resources of the Diaspora for socio-economic development at home. Whatever attempts were made to attract professionals were based mostly on appeals to the patriotic sensibilities of individuals. In those cases, where some systematized mechanism was devised, the strategies tended to be premised on a model that emphasized incentive packages aimed at wooing particular categories of professionals to return home - i.e., the 'return option'. This lapse in resource mobilization has now been recognized and various initiatives have now been put in place to attract the 'lost brains' of the continent.
While the 'return option' seems to have worked relatively well in some wealthy developing countries, the poor economic position of most African countries, and the desire of many professionals to remain in their host countries for a variety of other reasons, constrains their ability to effectively make use of it. Consequently, there is a shift towards the 'Diaspora option' as a way of making use of the resources of Africans in the Diaspora without facing the problems that the 'return option' poses.
What this paper argues is that developments in the area of ICTs provide new opportunities that can enhance the utilization of the 'Diaspora option'. It proposes a variety of ways in which human and financial capital can be pooled and mobilized, through technology- and otherwise- based networks of individuals and groups, in order to benefit particular sectors, communities, countries, and indeed the continent as a whole. These include the building of knowledge communities that would serve as a reservoir of ideas and expertise, as well as a vehicle for development-oriented action. There are possibilities for joint economic initiatives, such as those being undertaken by the Ghana Cyber Group. These could involve bringing together credible individuals who use the internet to establish networks of mutual trust on the basis of which to launch economic ventures and other undertakings whose ultimate mission is tailored towards the development of their countries. While the focus of the paper has been on the mobilization of Diaspora resources, it emphasizes the need for these networks to involve locally-based professionals as well. This is because their interactions with compatriots who are resident abroad create linkages and produce synergies that each group cannot generate alone, but which will go a long way towards benefiting their home countries. The paper also highlights the important roles that governments and donor agencies have in ensuring that the intersection of ICTs and diaspora resource mobilization produces intended results.
The conclusion that can be drawn from the foregoing discussion is that the 'Diaspora option', coupled with the potential that information technologies provide, offers tremendous opportunities for socio-economic development in Africa. The continent has a real chance to transform its serious 'brain drain' problem from a spectre to a source of positive human capital mobilization that can be channeled into development at home. The realization of the potential that the intersection of the 'Diaspora option' and technology provides, however, requires the commitment of multiple agents. Commitment from professionals in the Diaspora to work towards the development of their countries of origin, the ability of local professionals to cooperate with their compatriots in this effort, and the support of governments and donors, constitute the foundation upon which the potential of technology can be utilized most efficaciously.
Funding from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRCC) and the University of Calgary Research Grants Committee, which helped support this research, is gratefully acknowledged. My thanks also go to Natasha Rodrigues for her invaluable research assistance.
 The Group is "a non-partisan and pro-democracy organization, that will ...leverage economic, political and social resources to create and sustain viable institutions ... for the development of Ghana" (http://www.ghanacybergroup.com/mission.htm).
 The Foundation is a more than US$80 million program, which was set up in 1992. Its aim is to implement the African Capacity Building Initiative, which is being undertaken by several multilateral agencies.
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is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Communication and Culture, University of Calgary, Canada. His research interests are in the areas of mass media and democratic change in Africa; information and communication technologies, state capacity building and civil society; as well as international and intercultural communication.
His recent publications include: "Information Technology and Democratic Participation in Africa," Journal of Asian and African Studies, vol. 36, no1, 2001; "African States, Bureaucratic Culture and Computer Fixes," Public Administration and Development, vol. 21, no.1, 2001 (with Bruce Berman); "The Media and Democratization in Africa: Contributions, Constraints and Concerns of the Private Press," Media, Culture and Society, vol. 23, no.1, 2001; "The Relevance of Human Factor Analysis in Understanding Democratic Process in Africa," in B-S.K. Adjibolosoo (ed.), Portraits of Human Behavior and Performance: The Human Factor in Action, Landham, MD: University Press of America, 2001; "What Does it Mean to be African-Canadian?: Identity, Integration and Community," in D. Taras and B. Rasporich (eds.), A Passion for Identity: An Introduction to Canadian Studies (4th Edition), Toronto: ITP Nelson, 2001. He is currently undertaking a Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada-funded project on "Information Technology, Decentralization, and Participatory Governance in Ghana and South Africa".