By Jimoh Babatunde
African leaders have been urged to learn from India by putting in place programmes that support African medical doctors in the diaspora to connect back to the continent.
President of African Development Bank, AfDB, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, made the call at the event, on Development Without Borders: leveraging the African Diaspora for inclusive growth and sustainable development in Africa organised by the bank in collaboration with the African Union Commission, the International Organization for Migration, and the African Continental Free Trade Area Secretariat, weekend.
Adesina said that the African Union estimated that 70,000 skilled professionals leave Africa every year, “among them, are doctors, nurses, and scientists.
“In 2015, it was estimated that the number of African-trained medical graduates practicing in the United States alone reached 13,584. The Mo Ibrahim Foundation assessment “Brain drain: a bane for Africa’s potential” found that “In 2015, 86.0% of all African-educated physicians working in the US were trained in Egypt, Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa.”
While noting that Africans in the diaspora are critical for Africa’s economic development, the AfDB President said the India example should be adopted
“I saw the power of investments by the diaspora at work in India. In 1989 when I started my international career in Hyderabad in India, I noticed several mega hospitals in the city, with their entrance halls filled with mural walls of names of hundreds of physicians, many of them Indians in the diaspora.
“I could not imagine how they got to build such massive and well-equipped hospitals that have turned India to become a destination for health care.
Adesina added “I got my answer in 2017, now as President of African Development Bank, when I visited with the Prime Minister Modi of India, when the Bank held its Annual Meetings in India.
“He told me that the government provided incentives to Indian physicians in the diaspora to invest back in India, with fiscal incentives including tax free status, repatriation of profits, relaxation of foreign exchange restrictions, provision of land to build hospitals, and many more.”
Adesina said “clearly, Africa must learn from India. We must put in place program that support African medical doctors in the diaspora to connect back to Africa.
“I am delighted to let you know that the African Development Bank and the World Health Organization will partner on what we call “Africa Connect” initiative to strategically tap into Africa’s physicians in the diaspora to invest in quality health infrastructure in Africa, including for the establishment of first-rate medical facilities.
“This will be part of the African Development Bank’s plan to invest $3 billion in quality health infrastructure for Africa.”
The AfDB boss noted that while remittances have helped to meet financial, food, education, and health needs, as well as serve as counter cyclical sources of finance and social protection, much can be done to better tap into these remittances for Africa’s development.
“We must eliminate the “Africa-premium” charged on remittances, as the cost of remitting funds to Africa is twice what it is for South Asia.
He added that Africa should tap the massive opportunities offered by diaspora bonds, as “Diaspora bonds are effective instruments to harness remittances for the development of Africa.
“But despite its great potential, only four African countries ,Ethiopia, Kenya, Ghana, and Nigeria, have successfully issued diaspora bonds, often with mixed results.
“Because the flow of remittances to Africa is high, rising, and stable, it offers huge opportunities to serve as collateral to secure financing for African economies. Africa countries should securitize remittances to promote investments, especially for infrastructure on the continent.
The diaspora can offer a lot more than remittances and investments. They have skills, knowledge, know-how, exposure to the world of business and investments, science, arts, and technologies, that can help boost the human capital for Africa’s development. They can help build world class universities, and they can be mentors for the new generation of Africans.