Distinguished participants,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

Firstly, allow me to express my gratitude to the Government of Qatar for the outstanding generosity it has shown in hosting this first World Innovation Summit for Education.  Let me also commend and thank the Qatar Foundation for their tremendous role in bringing together so many high calibre participants.  I sincerely hope that this inaugural meeting will help shape and deepen the debate on some of the major educational challenges facing us in the 21st century.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

We meet today in what is often called an age of mobility – an era where people cross borders in growing numbers in pursuit of opportunity and hope for a better life. Certainly, the conditions that govern mobility today have changed dramatically, in terms of new form of communications, transportation, geopolitics, intercultural relationships and commerce.

 

As a result of this flux, an ever increasing number of talented individuals are on the move and their participation in international knowledge networks has created many possibilities and a plurality of opportunities for productive exchanges between developed and developing countries.

 

Undoubtedly, the circulation of talent and skills is inevitable in an increasingly cosmopolitan and globalised world. I would however like to caution that while we should continue to encourage greater circulation of intellectual capital, we should at the same time take stock of some of the emerging and somewhat troubling trends.

 

A key challenge for our world today is to manage migration better.  We need to maximize its many real benefits and minimize the difficulties that it can cause. 

 

It is also equally important that we remind ourselves that in maximizing the benefits of mobility, we safeguard the rights of those who do seek greater opportunities.

The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families adopted in 2003 constitutes a comprehensive international treaty regarding the protection of migrant workers’ rights. It emphasizes the connection between migration and human rights, which is increasingly becoming a crucial policy topic worldwide.

 

Distinguished participants,

 

Allow me to share with you some revealing figures to underscore the thrust of my message today. According to UNESCO,  almost 500,000 Africans are currently studying abroad, mainly in France, the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany , although I should note as an aside, that more recently there has been some interesting intra-African movement mainly to South Africa and parts of east Africa.

 

Nigeria is the largest sender of foreign students but Zimbabwe, Cameroon, and Kenya have comparable numbers.  Three francophone African countries – Morocco, Senegal and Tunisia – are in the top ten study abroad rankings.

 

What is patently clear from these statistics is that the demand for an international education is growing rapidly in Africa, which is in part due to the structural changes that have occurred in recent decades. Rapid urbanisation has led to urban-based economies which require growing numbers of skilled workers with technical training and college degrees. Investments in secondary education systems have paid off and a number of students who complete high school want to obtain degrees that will allow them to compete in the technology and knowledge-based labour markets.

 

I am sure we will all agree that this is an encouraging sign, but not without reservation.

 

Although statistics are not available on the number of skilled African migrants living outside their homelands who started their sojourns abroad as students, it is reasonable to assume that a large share did so.  What has emerged is that of the growing number of African students who seek educational opportunities abroad, very few return home after completing their tertiary studies.  As a result, there are increasing concerns within the region over implications that human capital losses have for development.

 

A brief look at the statistics shows that almost 30,000 Africans from the sub-Saharan region holding PhDs now live outside of Africa.  More than 500 Ugandan doctors work outside the country, while there are reportedly more Malawian doctors in Manchester, England, than there are in all of Malawi. Kenya has a shortage of neurosurgeons – one for each three million Kenyans while Tanzania and Ethiopia have only two each for the entire country.

 

Some researchers have highlighted that what is lost in human capital is offset by the inflow  of remittances from the diaspora. However there are some serious questions being raised about whether remittances adequately compensate sending countries for the impacts.  

 

As many of you are aware, the brain drain phenomenon in Africa and in other parts of the world has financial, institutional and societal costs.  In Africa, however, there institutions are increasingly dependent on foreign expertise in light of a dwindling professional sector.  To fill the human resource gap created by brain drain, Africa employs up to 150,000 expatriate professionals at a cost of US$4 billion a year. In many cases, countries spend more hiring expatriates than it would cost to retain local professionals. This is clearly unsustainable.

 

Distinguished participants,

 

Generally, countries make investments in their education systems in order to prepare their next generation of leaders in technology, business, research, development, and other fields. Therefore the loss of engineers, scientists, doctors, managers, and teachers to other countries after they complete their higher education studies abroad raises some difficult questions about who benefits and who loses from the increased mobility.

 

Like most issues of this nature however the solution is far from simple.

 

Various policy proposals have been put forward in recent years to address some of the problems thrown up by the current exodus of skills.

Some have argued for a tougher approach to allowing scientists and engineers to leave their countries of origin.  Others have suggested that such countries should be offered financial compensation for those who do leave. Both of these are restrictive and neither appears to be realistic.

 

 

A third option is to promote active recruitment policies, intended to promote immigration. This undoubtedly has many advantages. However as shown by the case of Southern Africa, it also risks creating a chain reaction, with every country trying to pass on the costs of migration to less developed ones.

 

 

In recent years so-called ‘return’ policies in Asia, based on incentives, have been successfully implemented. However this also risks creating secondary effects. For example, it could actually boost further emigration if a period spent abroad came to be seen as offering a path to subsequent rapid promotion at home. Another concern is the high financial cost of any incentive package. And consideration also needs to be given to the tensions that can be created by offering privileges to returnees that are not enjoyed by local researchers.

 

Middle Eastern countries have encouraged international universities to collaborate with their universities, and some countries, including the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia, have invited foreign universities to set up a sister university in their countries and award degrees under the name of the foreign university.

 

Another promising approach to have emerged recently is to draw on the resources represented by the scientists from one country who may now be distributed around the world – the so-called diaspora option. A recent report identified more than 110 existing initiatives worldwide.

 

Interesting pilot projects are also underway, such as the International Organisation for Migration’s programme ‘Migration for Development in Africa‘, and the Asian Development Bank’s assessment of Asian science and technology diaspora networks.

The advantage of this type of approach is that, while providing access to expatriate human and social capital, it does not deprive host countries of useful human resources.

 

What is also clear is that young talent would be more inclined to remain in their countries and enter public service if there were opportunities to advance and upgrade their skills as they progress in their careers. Allow me to mention that my Office is at the embryonic stage of establishing a scholarship scheme that will see mid-career civil servants in African and the Least Developed Countries pursue graduate programmes at universities across the globe. It is expected that on their return they will use their skills to enhance the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals. It is an ambitious undertaking and needs support.  

 

 

Ladies and Gentleman,

 

The advancement of communication technology has made it increasingly feasible to tap intellectual migrants at their host countries, creating the phenomenon of brain circulation.

 

Virtual communication has emerged as a promising avenue of brain circulation, as well as an opportunity for harnessing human capital. The potential of the intellectual Diaspora in the internationalization of higher education is tremendous. Many countries in the South are proactively engaging their citizens overseas in intellectual, economic, cultural and business initiatives by opening offices at home and overseas. It is possible that there may be several other such active initiatives being undertaken in many other countries to use the brainpower of immigrant nationals in nation building process.

 

In the long run, the optimal solution is likely to lie in providing conditions in which people do not have to leave their country in the first place. A really free and positive circulation should not proceed from constraints and generate shortages.

 

Fellow panelists,

 

I would like to conclude by reiterating that the phenomenon of brain drain is complex, and needs to be better understood and better managed. No simple solution is at hand.

 

However, the questions raised by the circulation of skills – such as the unknown magnitude of the phenomenon, uncertainties about the consequences, the strong diversity of situations, and the effectiveness of policy responses – need to be addressed jointly by scholars and policy makers.

In thinking about way to manage international academic mobility, we ought to consider the complexity of the issue, the technological developments in the world, and the idiosyncrasies of international, regional, and national political, social, and economic realities.

Given the world that makes physical mobility ever more easy and simple and at the same time ever more redundant, the policies that may be formulated to address the movement of brain capital should seriously take in to account the patterns of these developments and their ramifications.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

It is my sincere hope that the outcome of these exchanges in Doha serve to enrich the Global Forum on Migration, which seeks to enhance the positive impact of migration on development by adopting a more consistent policy approach, identifying new instruments and best practices, finally establishing cooperative link between the various actors involved.  

 

I thank you.