Kenya: African industrialisation severely devastated by brain drain, warns think-tank

Nairobi, Kenya (PANA) - The Harare-based African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) warned on Friday the African Union member states ability to industrialise has been severely affected by brain drain, which is almost like subsidising the rich world from Africa's best trained brains.

In a new report, the ACBF warned the continent was at risk of not achieving its broader development targets because of the inability to invest in science and technology.

In the report detailing the status of science and technology investment across Africa, the ACBF, which was recently designated as a specialised technical agency of the African Union, said Africa's capacity to industrialise depends majorly in its ability to utilise innovation.

The ACFB report blames massive brain drain as particularly limiting the capacity of the continent to achieve its industrialisation goals.

According to the ACBF, the call to industrialise and modernise Africa has become popular in recent years and the AU’s Agenda 2063 and the Common African Position on Agenda 2030 identify science, technology and innovation (STI) as key enablers.

However, the ACBF says most African countries fail to achieve their development targets partly as a result of underdeveloped and underused science and technology.

The report also talks of limited invention and innovation by both the private and the public sectors.

For most African countries, the major proportion of domestic contribution to research and development (R&D) activities is provided by the government, with little from the private sector.

The findings of the Africa Capacity Report 2017 (ACR 2017) show the underdevelopment in Africa is closely linked to the limited capacity to deploy STI for inclusive sustainable development and transformation.

"The Report helps policymakers draw conclusions critical to STI issues and derives policy recommendations that strengthen the policy formulation, implementation, and impact of STI," the ACBF said in its report.

The ACR 2017 is based on a survey of 44 African countries profiling the STI dimensions in Africa.

It examines the status of STI, delving into initiatives, challenges, and capacity gaps for African countries, regional economic communities, the African Union, and nonstate actors to pursue STI-driven activities.

And it puts forward several policy options for institutions of higher learning, governments, the private sector, the civil society and development partners to integrate STI into Africa’s growth and build the required capacity in STI as a key enabler to achieving Africa’s development targets.

Africa accounts for about 5 percent of global gross domestic product, but is responsible for only 1.3 percent of global expenditure on Research and Development (UNESCO 2015). The continent has been slow to develop its science and technology sectors and to commercialize its innovations.

Only about 0.45 percent of Africa’s GDP is allocated as expenditure on (R&D), far from the global average of 1.70%.

Science, technology and innovation refers to all systematic activities concerned with generating, advancing, disseminating, and applying scientific and technical knowledge in all fields of science and technology.

Only 12 African countries of the 141 countries surveyed for the 2015 Global Innovation Index were ranked among the top 100 innovation achievers, according to ACBF.

Africa’s performance on the 2016 Network Readiness Index ranking was very poor.

Only one out of the 31 African countries surveyed was in the world’s top 50 network-ready countries.

In particular, Africa has poor STI infrastructure, a small pool of researchers, low patronage of science and engineering programmes, weak intellectual property frameworks, and low scientific output relative to the rest of the world.

The Africa Capacity Report 2017 shows that STI capacity is the biggest challenge in Africa.

The limited STI capacity is a result of numerous facilitors largely within the control of African governments and other key stakeholders.

Overall, Africa lacks the required capacities to develop effective STI policies and strategies and to implement them.

The annual survey of 44 African countries undertaken by ACBF in 2016 to produce the ACR 2017 showed that African countries consider training as a High or Very High priority area in STI, so institutions of higher learning should tailor-make their training approaches to meet Africa’s STI needs.

African countries take a short-term approach in developing STI skills development, evident in low public spending on research and development and visibly poor scientific infrastructure.

Patent rights and trademarks need to be developed and that production of scientific papers increased.

Yet, African countries have weak capacity to retain their few qualified scientists and engineers, and mass migration of African skilled scientists and other experts—called the “brain drain” -has further depleted Africa’s STI capacity.

For instance, from 2007 to 2011, the number of tertiary-educated African migrants from the continent who had migrated was estimated at 450,000, exceeding the number of equivalent Chinese migrants (375,000).

Africa incurs a net loss in skilled human capital with the critical technical skills required to foster Africa’s sustainable development.

Zimbabwe (43 percent), Mauritius (41 percent), and the Republic of the Congo (36 percent) recorded the highest proportions of educated persons living in OECD countries.

Burundi, Algeria, Mauritania, Chad, and Guinea are the top five African countries least able to retain their top talent.

In essence, Africa’s training institutions are somehow subsidising other developed regions, which are benefiting from brain drain.

Another challenge in Africa is the lack of accurate data to enable targeting of STI policies and strategies due to the multi-sector nature of STI.
-0- PANA AO/MA 29Sept2017

29 september 2017 19:02:30

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