Windhoek — The founder of the privately owned International University of Management (IUM), Dr David Namwandi, says one of the key challenges confronting tertiary institutions in Africa is the negative effect of brain drain caused by Africans seeking greener pastures abroad.
Namwandi, who was speaking during IUM's academic opening yesterday, said the migration of highly educated individuals from their countries of birth to countries where they anticipate better opportunities and attractive working conditions continues to adversely affect the African continent.
Reuters reports that Sub-Saharan African countries that invest in training doctors have lost about N$30 billion as expert clinicians leave their home countries to seek opportunities abroad.
A study by Canadian scientists found that South Africa and Zimbabwe suffer the worst economic losses due to doctors emigrating, while Australia, Canada, Britain and the United States benefit the most from recruiting doctors trained abroad.
Experts say the migration, or "brain drain", of trained health workers from poorer countries to richer ones exacerbates the problem of already weak health systems in low-income countries battling epidemics of infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria.
One-third of all African scientists live and work in developed countries. These figures, Namwandi says represent a significant loss of economic potential for the continent. He thus called on African governments to take drastic measures to reverse this negative trend.
"African governments can help influence the development and implementation of policies aimed at improving the living and working conditions of African professionals staff at home," he noted.
To reverse the brain drain and replace it with brain gain, Namwandi proposed greater investment in universities and research centres, to create infrastructure that facilities world-class research.
He also proposed the provision of financial support to young scientists and entrepreneurs that will conduct research that meets their home countries' development priorities.
Namwandi also called for the elevation of local institutions to the status of centres of excellence and to ensure that collaborative research is undertaken. He further encouraged diaspora participation in initiatives that address critical issues in Africa.
Namwandi, a former education minister, said governments should also invest in local institutions to create an enabling environment for skills-exchange with international institutions or persons.
IUM vice chancellor Virginia Namwandi said the university has grown in leaps and bounds, with a staff compliment of 301 full-time staff.
She said they also made some structural changes at the executive level due to staff recruitment and revealed that IUM is in the final phases of completing the construction of sports facilities, such as a soccer stadium, basketball, squash and tennis courts.
Further, she said they managed to acquire a fleet, which includes two 62-seater buses and three Iveco buses to provide transport to students.
Regarding the N$2.4 million office block in Ongwediva with a capacity to accommodate no less than 80 staff, she said, all is well and on track, including the construction of the campus at Nkurenkuru at the cost of N$23 million.
IUM management could not provide details as to how many students have registered so far, as late registration is still ongoing and ends on February 29.