Once upon a time, a group of uninvited visitors travelled across the Atlantic Ocean to check out a place that some of their friends had stumbled upon. When they got there, they met the locals and traded their commodities for local goods and citizens. Soon enough, more of these visitors came over and proceeded to raid the locals, capturing them and taking them back home as slaves. Demand for these slaves grew which encouraged local rulers and traders to raid their own communities to provide these visitors with their people. Despite the fact that over 500 years has passed since this occurred, it is clear that ‘our mumu never do’*.
Just like the past, African leaders are still trading their most valuable assets for financial gain but rather than being obvious about it, they have creatively decided to frustrate their citizens out of the continent. Rampant theft and corruption has led to poor educational and healthcare systems, job insecurity and even terrible power supply.
Some people refer to this as a brain drain and others, the human capital flight. This is the departure of highly educated and skilled professionals in search of higher income and a better standard of living. Obviously our leaders are extra and don’t discriminate the highly educated from the illiterates so everyone is encouraged to leave. The impact of this on the wider economy is direct and non-financial. In terms of direct economic impact, the loss of tax revenue from these workers is somewhat buffered by remittances from the diaspora. Emigrants who are fortunate enough to find the greener pastures that they leave home for are able to send money back – money that is spent at home and which in turn, stimulates the economy. The other economic impact relates to non-financial contributions. For example, during a healthcare crisis such as the ebola and COVID-19 epidemics, it was clear that countries were and are struggling with a shortage of healthcare professionals. Professionals had to come out of retirement with some countries, such as Kenya, banning their doctors and nurses from travelling to other countries to help. With these ‘brains’ in limited supply, the impact on the population is poor/insufficient healthcare provided resulting in long term medical issues or even mortalities.
None of this is new, but the powers that be would rather get kickbacks on contracts or cut selfish deals with international (and national) organisations than develop and implement policies that will encourage their citizens to settle back home. So years down the line, when I hear people talk about how the western countries pillaged the motherland resulting in the terrible condition it is in, I’ll respond with the famous words of a certain first lady,
* For my non-Nigerian friends, this means that we (or they, depending on where you sit) are not tired of being stupid.