Kenya: Leading in Brain Drain

More than a million Kenyan professionals live and work abroad, making the country one of the most heavily drained in Africa.

Damning statistics released by the Government yesterday show that between 500,000 and 1.8 million Kenyans work overseas, although their skills were much needed locally.

Additionally, although more than 30,000 Kenyans leave for higher studies overseas, less than 9,000 of them return home on completing their learning.

"When people who are highly skilled leave the country, or those who have acquired high skills do not return, it poses serious brain drain, robbing the country of essential human capacity to help in socio-economic development," said Labour permanent secretary Nancy Kirui.

Ms Kirui, who was speaking at the opening of Second Annual Africa's Brain-Gain Conference at the Kenya School of Monetary Studies, said more than 200 million Africans are in diaspora.

Most Kenyans, she said, were moving to other countries due to high unemployment rates locally. She said the country was planning to put in place several measures to ensure those working in other countries were able to contribute to Kenya's development.

Consequently, she announced, the Government was developing a labour migration policy framework that would address some of the problems of brain drain.

It was also planning to form a committee that would work out ways in which Kenyans living in other countries would send in their financial contribution to boost local development.

Currently, it is estimated that Kenyans living in foreign countries send in about Sh45 billion to their relatives annually.

Delivering a keynote address at the meeting, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) chancellor Ali Mazrui said African countries could easily tap the skills of their migrants living in foreign countries for their development.

Particularly, he said, people in diaspora would offer skills to make up for the gap left by people who die of Aids complications.

He regretted that most of the professionals leaving Kenya included doctors and nurses, who were most needed in local health institutions.

They were leaving because of push factors, which included poor remuneration, lack of academic freedom and poor government policies, he said.

Education permanent secretary Karega Mutahi said brain drain was one of the reasons Kenya's economic growth was slow.

However, he said, brain drain could be transformed into brain gain by creating a greater sense of belonging among Kenyans abroad to send in their economic contribution.

"We know our current socio-economic levels of development cannot necessarily accommodate their expertise," said Prof Mutahi.

The conference, whose theme is: Leveraging Diaspora Participation in Africa Socio-Economic Development, ends tomorrow.

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