I had an unscheduled brainstorming session with a few friends and colleagues. The interest was the very staggering rate of brain drain in Africa and the long term effects if left unchecked. Brain drain is, of course, the emigration of highly skilled and educated individuals from one country to another, however, in this case, what we seem to have is commonly called the ‘Japa’ syndrome (as I was made to understand), because it is like a mass exit , not only open to the highly skilled but the unskilled and even the uneducated.

At the time I travelled outside my country for postgraduate studies, most of us foreign students were counting the days till we could complete our academic programmes and return to our countries to take our places among our peers in the development of our professions and the economy in general. These days, people put themselves through all sorts of hardship just to leave their countries and go find ‘greener pastures’ in other countries. What is even more absurd is that people rush to go to other countries whose citizens are also fighting hard to ‘japa’ to other countries. Quite a merry-go-round!!

Summed up rationally, people take risks to go to another country not because they just love the idea of living ‘abroad’ but because they feel a sort of hopelessness in their countries of origin. This is understood. They want to work jobs that pay better even if the job is less prestigious and unrelated to their fields. In effect, although there is an upgrade in income, there could actually be a demotion in career advancement.

The most devastating consequence of this ‘japa’ syndrome is the effect on families and the economy. Emigrants may find better career opportunities and higher salaries abroad, which can enhance their standard of living but it may also lead to a sense of detachment from their home country. Sometimes, relationships are ruined especially in a situation where the man or woman travels alone. There was a much retold story of a man that travelled out of Nigeria shortly after his wedding. The plan was for him to go abroad and get a job, prepare a home and send for his young wife to join him. Unfortunately, the relocation was not as easy as he’d expected. To find his feet, he had to marry another lady from his country of relocation. It took him 10 years to be able to visit Nigeria and that was only to break the news to his family that he had built a new life abroad and will not be continuing with the devastated Nigerian wife. Most people are so focussed on just getting there that they do not envisage the challenges of living in a strange country and trying to adapt to a different culture, language and lifestyle. Many families who encouraged their relatives to travel abroad expecting that their own financial conditions back home will automatically improve later realise quite sadly that it doesn’t always work that way.

Economically, the brain drain deprives the country of origin of its most skilled and educated individuals, leading to a shortage of professionals in key sectors. This loss of human capital, which is vital for economic growth and innovation can hinder the development of key industries and impede technological advancement.

Organisations and the government invest resources in educating and training professionals, only to lose them to brain drain. This represents a wasted investment and can strain organisational and public finances. Again, the emigrants are mostly vibrant youths which again deplete the most productive population.

It was surprising that all of us in that room had studied abroad at one point or the other but had returned quickly to our countries to develop our career paths. Most of us also had encouraged our children to make their marks in our countries. The questions were: why the urgent desire to move, why the hopelessness and how could we encourage the people to move back home and develop their countries. Ghana’s case was largely discussed; the people returned to their country because the conditions of service and of living became better. Another example was a state in Nigeria – Akwa Ibom State, where indigenes of the state were encouraged to quit their mass exodus to other states in search of sources of living because the state government had made provisions to train and empower the youths and every willing person in the state.

Our unofficial communiqué was that the change as usual starts with each one of us through encouragement to ourselves, siblings, children, other relatives and friends. The message should be clear; migration is not the solution, your country needs your input more now than ever before. Secondly, life abroad especially where there is no immediate accommodation and ready job has led to the death of many emigrants. The pull to travel and experience a greener pasture is quite real but sometimes it comes with a great risk.

Entrepreneurs have to adjust their programmes to encourage their staff to see a progressive future. Trainings and career enhancement courses can help staff to see a need to stay put and give their own quota.  Creating a conducive work environment with competitive salaries, career advancement opportunities, and a good quality of life can help retain skilled workers.

The government of course would play a large role. Improving educational and research opportunities within the country can help retain skilled individuals by providing attractive career prospects and resources for innovation. Governments can also implement incentive programs such as tax breaks, grants, or subsidies to encourage skilled individuals to stay or return to their home country . It can further encourage knowledge transfer, investment and collaboration with some of these foreign countries.

Of course at the end of it all, addressing the underlying reasons driving emigration, such as insecurity, insufficient economic opportunities, social instability etc can help mitigate brain drain in the long term. It is achievable to reverse the trend and it can start now.


Fatherhood with Ibe


I learnt with shock and sadness the transition of Amaka Josephine Modebe, nee Obiofuma . Since settling down to the reality of that happenstance I have clung on to a few descriptive phraseologies to allow me understand why God would call back a vibrant and beautiful soul like Amaka so soon and so suddenly.

First was that it was a TRANSITION. It had to be nothing else. She was transiting to heaven with the blessings God imbued her with. On earth she was by attitude and soul an ANGEL. Angels don’t die; they transition to a higher plane. And most times they transit young not old.

Second was the word HOLY. Her transition happened in the holiest of periods in the Christian calendar … the penultimate week to Easter and God must have chosen her specially to accompany Christ on this year’s anniversary of that holy voyage of transition.

Third was the word ANGELIC. For all who interacted with Amaka – family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances , we all got enamoured by the purity of her soul, the honesty of her disposition, the clarity of her thoughts and actions, the unpretentiousness of her friendship, the loud cackles of her laughter , the simplicity of her beauty and the totality of her commitment to any cause she chose. She was indeed an Angel.

In 1989 when I assembled a crop of young talents to premier what became the most celebrated romance and soft sell publication of that era, the Hints magazine, her leadership and collaborative skills shone like a million stars. She became the leader and chief executive officer at a very young age and helped grow a collection of young leaders who became stars in their own rights. Today, that pool and many more who knew Amaka mourn her.

Finally, the word IMPACT. It is often wisely postulated that it is not the number of one’s years on earth that matters but the impact of one’s presence here on the planet that matters. And that’s so right. If anyone ever met Amaka in her lifetime and didn’t feel the impact, then such a person lacked impact receptors. Amaka made an impact on everyone she met, no matter how brief that meeting was.

So on the occasion of her transition and as her mortal body is laid to rest, we all friends ,family and acquaintances of course MOURN  our loss, for it is a monumental loss; but above all we CELEBRATE  her life, an exemplary life at that.

May God lead her safely home. May her family receive divine comfort.