The African Brain Drain: Causes, Costs, and Consequences



Globalization of the world markets has paved the way for the movement of people with scarce skills across national boundaries with relative ease. Professionals have been extremely susceptible, given their particular knowledge and skills base. The trend is for such professionals from developing countries to fill the gaps in the labour market in developed countries. Africa has not been immune to these trends and losing skilled migrants has serious implications for development. The aim of this chapter is to present an overview of the African brain drain in terms of causes, costs, and consequences. More specifically, the chapter reviews the scale and extent of the problem, analyses the factors influencing the African brain drain, briefly examines the impact of remittances, and considers policy options to stem the tide. This has two major impacts on African economies: losing the most talented and skilled personel and increased expenditure on education and training to compensate for those who have left. The chapter suggests that the brain drain from Africa is unlikely to be stopped or curtailed in the short to medium term. Incentives to return to the home country received lukewarm responses because conditions which initiated the decision to migrate have further deteriorated. Restrictive migration policies have been largely unsuccessful. Neither have calls for reparation or compensation from receiving to sending countries. The challenge for African countries is to exploit perceived advantages (remittances/diaspora options/technology transfer) from what many consider to be a negative process.


Human Capital Brain Drain Pull Factor Push Factor Skilled Migrant 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



An earlier version of this chapter was published in African Insight, (2010), 40, pp. 96–108. Some of the statistics and literature have been updated. Financial support from the Africa Institute of South Africa (AISA) is gratefully acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Springer India 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of KwaZulu-NatalDurbanSouth Africa

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