Degrees of Uncertainty: Students and the Brain Drain in Southern Africa
"The brain drain has recently emerged as a major policy issue in Southern Africa. Although precise data on the extent of the skills exodus is lacking, all the countries of the region have expressed concern about the impact of an accelerating brain drain on economic growth and development and on the quality of service delivery in the public sector. The impact of the brain drain is being exacerbated by the HIV/AIDS epidemic which is debilitating and “killing off” large numbers of people in their most productive years. Rather than adopting “brain gain” strategies (importing skills to replace those departing) most SADC countries have preferred a “brain train” strategy. Their rationale is that training of sufficient numbers of citizens in new skills is the only way to ensure that the skills base is not depleted in the long run. In theory, this makes a great deal of sense. Home grown skilled people are more likely to be “loyal” and to remain when others might leave. But is this really so? The whole argument begins to look rather suspect if it can be shown that governments are, in fact, providing students not with skills to invest at home but passports to leave. In a globalizing world of increased skills mobility, the opportunities for using skills as a ticket to a better life elsewhere are growing. What are the implications if the next generation of skilled people are just as likely to leave as their predecessors? If new graduates are simply preparing to leave, governments will have to fundamentally rethink their strategies on skills retention."