The capitalist system has been designed to ensure that African workers remain underpaid so that they are forced to become migrant workers in the west where they can be easily exploited and forced to do the menial tasks in their society..At the same time it ensures that Western workers receive high paying jobs in Africa which allows them to monitor Africans in order to ensure that they continue to remain dependent on the West. It is a very ingenious scheme which will only end when African people understand that. Hort
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African Immigrants In The Western World: Whose Brain Drain And Whose Brain Gain?
Written by N. Amma Twum-Baah and Funmi A. Adeyele
Wednesday, 15 July 2009
I walked into the local library a couple of months ago and met a fellow Ghanaian working behind the counter. We got acquainted to the point where he felt comfortable enough to let me in on his personal plight as an African immigrant living in the US. Kwame holds a master’s degree in Agriculture from the University of Ghana, and moved to the United States six years ago on a visitor’s visa. He overstayed his visit, married an American woman, had two children with her, and got divorced all in the last six years. He is still an undocumented immigrant because his now ex-wife refused to show up for their immigration interviews. She continually holds the children (and his illegal status) as bait to get him to do what she wants. As he openly lamented about his situation to a complete stranger – turned confidant - he at one point looked to have reached his breaking point.
Before Kwame arrived in the United States, he had what most consider, by Ghanaian standards, to be a good job with one of the government ministries in Accra. Though he admits his salary left much to be desired, Kwame says he had his dignity and felt fulfilled. When his longtime friend extended an invitation to visit the United States, Kwame thought his prayers had finally been answered. He got a job stocking the counters of a local grocery store, while he stayed with his friend in Texas. The money was good (a whole lot better than what he earned back home in Ghana) and the temptation to stay illegally grew stronger with each weekly paycheck. When he met his ex-wife he saw that as another answered prayer. His woes, however, began when his now ex-wife started holding his legal status in the United States over his head. He left everything to her in the divorce, without a fight; the house in her name, but that he was making mortgage payments on, the “good” car, and their two adorable children. He is hoping to save up enough money to go back home and live in dignity. The good news, he admits, is that in the six years he has lived in the US, he has managed to build a beautiful house back in Ghana and even managed to start a trading business currently being managed by his younger brother; so he has something to look forward to when he returns.
Okey Aramide, a medical doctor by profession graduated top of his class from the University Of Lagos College Of Medicine in Nigeria. Before moving to the US, he worked as one of the top level administrators at Nigeria’s premier hospital, and was well respected by his peers and all who came in contact with him. Okey says the respect was great, and the job was fulfilling, but the pay did not match the status he felt he had earned. He currently works as a parking attendant at one of the country’s rental car companies, while he prepares to write the US medical board exam that would allow him to practice medicine in the United States. While Okey seems outwardly unfazed about his circumstances, he did admit that this is not the life he imagined when he moved to the United States a little over a year ago. He does not intend to stay in the US for long and says he has plans to go back to Nigeria and start a private clinic in Abuja. In the meantime, he keeps a low profile for fear that someone might recognize him and cause him to be embarrassed for what he has become.
When doctors, nurses, lawyers, professors, engineers and other highly-educated, highly-qualified professionals leave the continent of Africa, there is a dirge and an outpour of grief over what is termed “brain drain” for Africa and “brain gain” for the countries they migrate to. But, with stories like Kwame’s and Okey’s, all educated professionals with advanced degrees working menial jobs, Afrikan Goddess had to ask: whose brain drain/brain gain is it, really? Why are so many Africans choosing to leave noble jobs back home to work menial jobs abroad?
It definitely is a brain drain for Africa, according to Dr. Olusegun Phillips, PhD, a retired lecturer of Economics and now a consultant for an economic advisory firm in Abuja. “Brain drain in Africa has financial, institutional, and societal ramifications. African countries find themselves investing in higher education, and getting nothing in return since too many graduates leave or fail to return home at the end of their studies abroad. In the end what you have is a government that is pumping resources into individuals who do not return the favor by serving the country that sent them abroad in the first place.”
According to the International Development Research Centre, in Ottawa, Canada, African institutions are increasingly dependent on foreign expertise largely due to the dwindling professional sector. In order to fill the human resource gap created by brain drain, Africa employs up to 150,000 expatriate professionals at a cost of $4 billion a year. The centre further states that the “departure of health professionals has eroded the ability of medical and social services in several sub-Saharan countries to deliver even basic health and social needs. Thirty-eight of the 47 sub-Saharan African countries fall short of the minimum World Health Organization (WHO) standard of 20 physicians per 100,000 people.” Dr. Phillips points out that the money used to bring in these foreign workers is money that could have been used to pay the many departing African professionals. He thinks Africa’s main problem is the fact that we have bought into the stereotype that foreign educated workers are better qualified than those educated at home. This, he says, is why an African educated abroad is highly favored over someone educated at home. Once we get over this illusion, we will pay our professionals what they are worth, keep the profits and use the money to develop ourselves and our country. The fact that we are even spending that much money to bring in foreigners means we have the money, but are unwilling to pay them what they are worth.
Not so much for brain gain, however. Most of the professionals who migrate abroad most often end up in fields they are less qualified for or that have nothing to do with their areas of expertise, and most others end up working menial jobs, mostly for lack of legal documentation. Mr. Sam Bernard operates a nursing certification program in Connecticut and has observed that of the 50 people enrolled in his courses for the spring 2009 term, almost half are trained African professionals trying their hands at the nursing field in hopes of getting their foot in the door. “There are three certified accountants, an engineer and a number of other highly trained health professionals starting at the bottom of the ladder either because their certificates and degrees are not recognized by the states in which they wish to practice or because of lack of jobs in their trained fields.”
So why are so many Africans choosing to leave respectable jobs back home to work menial jobs abroad? The answer always seems simple: for the money. But, is it really that simple? If opportunities were greater, and the money fit for the job performed, would Africans still migrate to the US and other Western countries in search of greener pastures? Many Africans we asked answered “yes” leading us to believe it isn’t all about money and greater opportunities.
For African men, it’s mostly about working and earning a living free from dictatorship, judgment and fear of expressing an opinion; being recognized for their contributions to national development, having a say in the way their countries are governed, and free from fear of unstable lives brought about by civil wars. For African women, it is working without limits, earning what their labor is worth, and living free from cultural oppression and views that delegate them to subservient roles in society; having a say in their government and the matters that affect them the most. It is seeing that their children have equal opportunities as the people at the top, and in government, and knowing that their children’s future is secure.
In the meantime, Africans continue to leave in massive numbers every year, thanks to the US diversity lottery and, now, the European Union with the blue card program, in hopes of finding freedom from unappreciative governments; to a land where you are guaranteed an honest wage for honest labor even if it means working at the local grocery store with a PhD.
(Dr. Olusegun Phillips contributed his expert opinions to this article via email. He is a retired professor of economics at the University of Lagos and now owns his own economic consulting and advisory firm. He lives in Abuja with his wife)