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As Senegal hosts key meeting, Africa’s brain drain numbers show Rwanda, Zambia, Ethiopia holding on to their best talents

Talent matters if a country is to shine economically. But some African countries just do it better than others.

“There are more African engineers working in the United States than in Africa,” the organizer of the first Next Einstein Forum (NEF) held near Senegal’s capital, Dakar, said.

The conference is hoping to reverse a situation in which Africa’s brightest talent feels compelled to move abroad to work at the cutting edge of research and earn a decent salary.

Leaders have been queuing to emphasise the need to retain the continent’s top talent.

“The pressure is on to catch up and keep pace so Africa is not left in the wake of technological progress,” Rwandan President Paul Kagame said at the opening ceremony.

“This starts with a change in our mindset. We really cannot be satisfied with just ending extreme poverty. Our aim is shared and sustainable prosperity. And the key to that is science and innovation, bound by research,” he added.

With more than half of the continent now aged under 30, its fast population growth means they will either be a demographic dividend that will turbo-charge new growth, or there will be social unrest as tens of millions of Africans find jobs and opportunities hard to come by.

Skills loss.

The problem of underinvestment in higher education to create the skilled force needed to allow Africa achieve its growth targets is worsened by the loss of those to other regions of those who are already skilled.

The World Economic Forum, which holds its annual African edition in Rwanda in May, every year publishes an annual Global Competitiveness Report that among other indicators tots up data on brain drain.

It assigns a maximum score of 7 to the country that is best able to retain its best and brightest talent, and 1 to that which is not at all able to retain its talents.

Perhaps it is fitting Kagame spoke of the continent’s frustrations: his country is ranked as the top ranking African country in retaining talent.

The increasingly dynamic East African country also comes in at a respectable 23rd position globally.

By Robert Muriisa.

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