Internet matters, especially Web 2.0, have been on my mind a lot lately. The 2.0 part of the meme scares me sometimes; a self-replicating something (some call it a hype) running across the interdisciplinary landscapes of the mind, latching on to long-held concepts, trying to transform established meanings--"development 2.0," "education 2.0," "government 2.0," "enterprise 2.0," "finance 2.0"...! It was while in this Web 2.0-induced state of mind that I stumbled accross a debate on Ghanaweb recently, concerning the brain drain of doctors away from Ghana. It had been triggered by a series of brilliant feature articles authored by Professor Atsu Amegashie of the University of Guelph, Canada.
It all happened in a cool atmosphere largely free of the insults, hot airs and sundry emotional perturbations that bedevil too many forums. Cruising through message after sensible message felt like an escape from the sticky mugginess of a hot day into the dappled ambiance beneath an indulgent mango tree. Lots of low-hanging intellectual fruits hung within easy reach of my eager fingers, the click of my faithful mouse...
This post elaborates a bit more on some of the ideas that came up during the debate, but from a more general African perspective. It attempts to capture the salient portions of the discussion in a way that, hopefully, makes up in African taste, what they might lose in Ghanaian flavor.
You must know by now that the main reason behind the age-old
exodus of African experts is the desire for a 'better life' abroad. We have been indoctrinated into the belief
that the pasture is green and the honey abundant at any place but home. Volumes
have been written about the problem. Most of them are irrelevant, often missing the head of the nail (ouch),
and hardly getting to the roots of the phenomenon: faith in a material
From my initial perch on the sidelines of the debate, I noticed an attractively adorned idea scrolling by on my screen, and grabbed it with a click before it could vanish. It was a juicy concept for turning the brain drain to our advantage, saying: encourage African professionals living abroad to enter partial affiliations with local organizations in their countries of origin. African professors and researchers based in North American universities, for example, would spend the summer vacation periods delivering teaching and research support to universities in Africa to which they are affiliated. In a flash, this idea quickly gathered an enchanted throng of satellite comments and thoughtful remarks. In the ensuing exchange, several people urged—rightly—that the model be extended to other professional fields besides professors and doctors.
Then Atsu dangled before us a link to an earlier article on the same topic. Clicking on it, I was teleported at digital speed to a fascinating piece by Robert Mensah-Biney in 2004. Mensah-Biney had done a thought-provoking job of showing how professionals in the diaspora could be mobilized for national reconstruction and development. He used entertaining analogies from the world of football to score his points. “If” he asked his readers, “it makes sense for the Ghanaian football (soccer) team to invite Ghanaian professional soccer players [based in] Europe to play for Ghana during the world cup tournament, I do not understand why it does not make sense to invite Ghanaian professional engineers, architects, economists, accountants, medical doctors, scientists, educationists, in the Diaspora (Europe, USA, Canada, Japan, Australia etc.) to come to Ghana as consultants and advisors on development projects in Ghana.” [To be continued]