Sunday, March 11, 2012

Bridging the Gap: EGI Working to Reverse the Brain Drain

By: Rose Goldich (@rosie_hg)
March 11, 2012

Ethiopia lost 75% of its skilled workforce between 1980 and 1991.

The phrase “brain drain” is nowhere near new to Africa. Over the past 30 years, many African countries have lost their trained and skilled professionals. Many people leave the continent to receive higher education and better jobs in other areas of the world. This creates the deficit of educated professionals, such as physicians and scientists, in areas of the world that need them the most.

There is more than just the physical loss of people leaving Africa. The loss of professionals is greatly affecting the health and economic development of countries in Africa. For example, because many Africans are going abroad to become doctors, 38 out of the 47 African countries are falling short of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) regulation to have 20 doctors per 100,000 civilians. This creates a severe shortage in the amount of people able to get medical attention. Also, Africa’s scientific output has slightly decreased. There are more African scientists and engineers in the United States than on the whole continent. 

With the Ethiopian Global Initiative’s U.S. College Students for Ethiopia (USCSE) program, every summer chosen applicants are sent to Ethiopia to serve as interns with local, Ethiopian-led organizations, ranging from community health organizations to micro financing institutions. Essentially, USCSE aims to reverse the brain drain by bringing talented and skilled students back to Ethiopia, in order to get Ethiopians and non-Ethiopians alike interested in increasing Ethiopia’s opportunity for success. The program aims to “tackle the shortage of a skilled and educated workforce in Ethiopia” by bridging the “access gap”, “creating an “environment for volunteerism and community engagement”, and raise the “consciousness of service to Ethiopia”. 

EGI encourages new professionals to go to Africa as well as those who have earned their degrees abroad to return and help people understand the necessity of skilled professionals.  As much as new ideas are helpful, those who have seen and experienced the needs of a country can also bring interesting solutions to the table. The brain drain is a multi-faceted problem that cannot be solved overnight. USCSE is making college students—future professionals and leaders—aware of the changes that need to be made in order for countries like Ethiopia to become successful.  

Rose Goldich is studying International Relations and Economics at Clark University and is the Social Media Intern at Ethiopian Global Initiative. 

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