Dakar- Senegal (PANA) -- The poor living condition of African intellectuals remains a major factor propelling brain drain on the African continent, a former head of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has observed.
"Our academics, our intellectuals are extremely poorly paid," ex- UNESCO director General Amadou Mahtar Mbow told an inter- generation discourse convened on the sidelines of the first conference of intellectuals from Africa and the Diaspora holding 6-9 October in the Senegalese capital Dakar.
Thursday's meeting between "elders and youths" to share knowledge and experiences was attended by African Union Commission chairman Alpha Oumar Konare at a local university here.
Responding to a series of questions from the youths on brain drain in Africa, Mbow lamented the poor atmosphere in which intellectuals fare, coupled with the lack of freedom of expression and means for researchers to pursue their work.
The former UN official, who once served as minister of culture in Senegal, summed up that these factors contributed to the reasons that push the African intelligentsia to seek greener pastures for their material and intellectual development.
Mbow said when Western countries spot the potential of African intellectuals, they offer not only possibilities to earn more money, but also opportunities to pursue research and reach higher heights.
In the early 70s, Mbow, then deputy-director of UNESCO for education devoted a number of studies to brain drain issues, seeking to address causes for the flight of human capital from Africa.
He said it was a sad state of affairs for African countries to fund the education of their nationals only to see them end up contributing to the growth and development of Europe, America and other industrialised countries.
"The African farmers, through their work and taxes, are those who fund the studies of these Africans who later stay and work in Europe or in the West instead of returning home to contribute to developing their countries," Mbow stated.
Today, as conditions in African countries were yet to improve, even though they are better than the 1970s, Mbow said the continent lacked the attraction to stem the rising brain drain or lead students back home at the end of their studies abroad.
He said while strict immigration policies could help check, if not stop, the massive flow of African intellectuals to Europe or America, it was worth noting that the West would "always chose the best to pull into to their countries.
" "But it also rests with us to set conditions so that the best remains in our countries," he countered.