From Brain Drain to Brain Gain, the African Diaspora is the Answer

AUTHOR: Heaven Bereket, Regional Director – Europe

There are about 30+ million of us. When I mean us, I refer to the African diaspora scattered all over the world. The diaspora division at The African Union (AU) defines the African diaspora as consisting: “of people of native African origin living outside the continent, irrespective of their citizenship and nationality and who are willing to contribute to the development of the continent and the building of the African Union”. Its constitutive act declares that it shall “invite and encourage the full participation of the African diaspora as an important part of our continent, in the building of the African Union”.

We are a diverse group, like myself: I was born on the continent of Africa and ended up in Sweden before I turned 2 years old. I was basically brought up in Europe my entire life. There is also diaspora like my siblings and my own kids born in Europe and a lot of us also arrived to attend college or university. No matter how we arrived in our adopted country we bring an interesting perspective because we experienced both worlds and can easily serve as a bridge in between. Personally, my life embodies the interconnection. I love Europe and all it has to offer; and Africa is where my roots and passion live. There is no day in my life I actively marry these worlds in every aspect. The African diaspora are navigators like no other and have a lot to offer to the continent, and are perfect talents to boost one of the world’s fastest-growing economic regions. We are uniquely positioned to contribute to Africa’s economic growth by leveraging the skills and resources we have; let’s call it the brain gain. 

The brain gain can come in different forms. We are the ones who actively change the narrative of Africa since we all know the myths and stereotypes that are well known alive. Here is an opportunity where we as diaspora can be the brand ambassadors for African innovations to take on the world.  We can also bring our talent, skills, and technological knowledge to ignite economic progress in Africa.

At Gebeya, more than 80% of our Executive team is composed of diaspora and we all made sacrifices to return to Africa. Some of us moved back part-time and put in the work to continuously build and commit to our work. Due to our work, connecting talent with major contracts, partnering with enterprises like Microsoft, and Orange, we are often approached by other African diaspora asking for advice and insight into what’s happening on the continent. One of my beliefs is that harnessing the talents and expertise of the African diaspora will position Africa’s competitiveness and boost workforce development. 

Let me explain. When you are thinking of the fastest growing economy in the world you might think of China because they have been growing at a high rate of 6-7% per year the past several years and have become a superpower. But if you look at the 50 fastest economies in the world, roughly 48% comes from one single continent: Africa. Fair enough to say is that the African market is the most critical economic battleground in the world and the diaspora will play a huge role in shaping Africa’s future. The most visible impact within the African diaspora is in remittances and investments, not only from the outside the continent but also within the continent. For example, Benin receives over $133 million each year from Nigeria. It’s also worth mentioning that it is not only a person -to person level money flow, but also this is happening at a business level as well. A very interesting merger was for example when mPharma, a digital health startup that manages prescription drug inventory for pharmacies and their suppliers, purchased Kenya’s second-largest pharmacy chain, Haltons. Earlier this year, the Ethiopia-based Apposit was the chief technical partner of Nigeria’s leading mobile payment systems Paga. The potential that exists when Africa trades more within itself is limitless and is a sector where the African diaspora talents easily can tap into and not only contribute to the growth, but also at a higher rate of impact. 

Gebeya is highly involved in unlocking the potential of the diaspora communities within Africa and outside the continent. We truly believe in the power and the brains of African talent. There is a shift happening—from Ghana’s “Year of Return” to the Ethiopia Diaspora Trust Fund, more governments across the continent are initiating or should initiate new efforts to engage their diaspora in development strategies, not only in the West, but also within Africa as well.

If you haven’t by now, I hope you are recognizing the tremendous opportunities that exist in the African market. Maybe you are ready to contribute with your talent and to make the most of your unique position and add to brain gain. Our Vision is to be the most trusted and reliable source of talent that showcases Africa’s competitiveness. We commit to deliver exceptional value to our customers by offering skilled talent with the right mindset, attitude, and integrity. As a training center and online talent marketplace working across Africa, we welcome you to join us and contribute to the brain gain.

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