19.09.2021 Feature Article

Scholarships for Abroad Are Win-Win for Originating and Destination Countries Alike

They are a Source of Brain Gain, Not Brain Drain for Home Countries.
 SKILLS for Empowerment, Cape Coast.
LISTEN SEP 19, 2021
SKILLS for Empowerment, Cape Coast.

The author has had the immense privilege of interacting with, working with, or observing (close up or at a distance), over a period of almost sixty years, the work and experiences of numerous African Engineers and Scientists who studied and worked in the United States, many of them on Scholarships.

All in all, the preponderance of the anecdotal evidence points to the fact that, the lifetime experiences, education, and skills acquired in the Diaspora by these African Technical professionals, have been a net benefit and gain for their native countries. Many have resettled back home. Most have maintained a habit of frequent productive and impactful engagement with their home countries, even while they remain outside Africa. This article attempts to demonstrate that claim.

The paper is a brief extract from a small section of the author’s comprehensive and riveting “Book of Autobiographical Memoirs”, which is to be released before the end of this year.

During the 1970s and 1980s, in the Boston-Cambridge area in Massachusetts, there was a group of us Africans, all of us recent foreign student graduates in engineering, especially electrical, electronics, and computer science programs, from various American Universities. We saw our experience, role, benefit and future in the Boston electronics revolution and the “Massachusetts miracle” as something that would be of tremendous benefit to the future of our native countries. We would definitely “return home” to build technology in Africa, and enhance economic growth.

Massachusetts and the U.S. were going through an unprecedented rapid economic growth. This was brought about by high technology and high finance. As newly-minted engineers from Africa, we were building up skills, knowhow, and nurturing our talents, in order to go back and build our individual African countries with Science, Technology and Entrepreneurship.

There were only about 25 of us such close-nit African engineers working for High Technology Companies in the Boston-Cambridge metropolitan areas, and within 50 miles radius, mostly along the legendary Massachusetts Route 128 Electronics highway. We were working mostly in the electronics and computer industry.

Our numbers( at least the ones I knew personally) included about ten Ghanaians, four Nigerians, two Cameroonians, one from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and one from Kenya. These were a group of highly educated Engineers. Examples were Nigerians: O. Mobisson(MIT), M. Uzomaka(MIT) and A. Ozumba; Ghanaians: K. Acquah(Syracuse), R. Baafi(UConn, LeHigh U), A. Kyei-Badu(UConn), N. Quaynor(Dartmouth, SUNY Stony Brook), A. Ebo Richardson(Yale, CWRU), Y. Sakyi(WPI), W. Taylor(Lowell Tech.), S. Agyepong, K. Edzie, M. Adam(CWRU, Harvard), J.Cruickshank(U.C. Berkeley, Iowa State U.), K. Keteku(Dartmouth), K. Otieku(Northeastern U), M. Yankson(Northeastern U.); Cameroonians: S.Y.Kwankam(CWRU, Northeastern U.), B. Mbida(Princeton, Harvard); Congolese: K. Pembamoto(SUNY Buffalo).

Most of us worked for the big High Tech Boston Companies, as well as for the numerous small but dynamic and rapidly growing electronics and Computer Start-up companies. Among the companies we worked for were Polaroid, Digital Equipment, GTE Sylvania Labs, Data General, Raytheon, Analogic, Analog Devices, General Electric, Gillette, Anderson Little, IBM, Equipment Instrumentation Laboratories. The twin Cities of Cambridge and Boston with their powerhouse universities, MIT, Harvard, Boston Univ, Northeaster Univ., were in the drivers’ seat of the high tech bullet train.

Our desire to eventually go back to build technology in Africa was extremely high. Some among us even developed their own High Tech Start-up companies. O. Mobisson, M. Uzomaka and A. Ozumba from Nigeria started “Modatron Co.”, initially to design and produce state of the art FM Radios incorporating modern digital components. With the arrival of, and excitement over, microprocessors( Intel 4004, 8008, 8080) ushering in the microcomputer revolution, Modatron changed over to designing inexpensive microcomputer boards. A. Kyei-Badu worked closely with O. Mobisson at Modatron. Y. Sakyi started and successfully ran “Codatech Media Co”, for Distribution and Training for Computer Equipment and peripherals. R. Baafi formed “Codatech Systems”. S. Agyepong(Hewlett Packard) and Kojo Edzie settled in the same office in Lexington, and developed housing management software for housing agencies in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

True to our aspirations, and after decades of education and practical industrial experience in the U.S, most of us made good on our goal of returning home to Africa to develop technology. O. Mobisson went back to Eastern Nigeria, and had a successful career as an academician and an industrialist. He helped found Anambra State University of Science and Technology(ASUTECH). There, he set up the Industrial Development Center(IDC) where they achieved the milestone of—the first commercially produced line of personal computers and servers in Nigeria( and possibly first in Africa). As a University Professor, he developed and manufactured microcomputers in Nigeria. Ghanaian, A. Kyei-Badu, went back to Ghana and had many decades of fruitful professional and entrepreneurial life developing computer software in Ghana, Nigeria and in East Africa. Subsequently, he joined O. Mobisson in Enugu, Nigeria, to start the Computer Science Department at Anambra State, and also to continue on the computer project. Prior to going to Enugu, Kyei-Badu was recruited by famed Ghanaian Physicist and Mathematician, Professor Francis Kofi Ampenyin Allotey, to the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology(KNUST), where he taught Computer Science. Ghanaian, S. Agyepong also later went to teach at KNUST.

Dr.S.Y. Kwankam, having obtained a PhD from Northeastern University, went back to Cameroon and had a brilliant career as Professor and Head of Electrical Engineering at the University of Yaounde. He built up a strong, practical, hands-on program at the University of Yaounde, Cameroon. After serving his country, Cameroon, for twenty-three years, he established a consulting career with World health Organization( WHO) as an eHealth expert. Serving within WHO in Geneva, Switzerland, he undertook many eHealth( telemedicine) projects to extend healthcare to remote areas in developing countries, such as Zimbabwe, Ghana and South Africa. He personally travelled to such countries to direct the projects.

Another Cameroonian, B. Mbida, having obtained an MBA from Harvard, after Engineering from Princeton, went back to Cameroon and became Managing Director of EssoCam Oil Company.

Dr. N. Quaynor went back to Ghana and built a successful start-up enterprise in Computer Networking. He founded Network Computer Systems. He is considered the Father of the Internet in Africa. He helped establish the Computer Science Department at Cape Coast University, and is currently Professor of Computer Science there.

Dr. K. Pembamoto went back to the Congo and served many years as Professor of Computers and an Industrial Consultant. R. Baafi, a Ghanaian, went to Cameroon to develop his Software Development Company, Codatech Systems. After coming back to the U.S., he still stayed engaged in supporting Science and Technology skills advancement in Ghana. He and his wife Bea, have built a very fine K-12 Science-based School named “Novastar Academy” in Accra, Ghana. For decades, R. Baafi has been a tireless and an ardent supporter of Science and many other projects at his Ghanaian Secondary School Alma Mater, Adisadel College. He helped found U.S.-based Adisadel Foundation, which has raised funds to support many projects at Adisadel.

M. B. Adam, after obtaining an MBA from Harvard(after his engineering degree from Case western Reserve University), returned to Ghana. He became Factory Manager for “Nestles Corporation”(Food Specialties Ghana Ltd). K. Keteku(Dartmouth), went to Ghana and built a successful Civil Engineering career.

And last but not least, I ( yes, yours truly), on my part, have for decades been involved in several major initiatives having to do with technology transfer and technical skills development in Ghana and Nigeria. I settled in Benin City, Nigeria, from 1982 to 1985, to develop technology on the West African Coast. I took up an appointment as a University Lecturer in Electrical Engineering at the University of Benin. The extensive and breathtaking details of my professional and family activities and experiences in Nigeria have been fully chronicled in the upcoming book.

Another project, of which I have been a part, is the push by a group of Ghanaian Scientists, Engineers, Technologists, Economists, Academicians, Management and Policy Professionals, resident in the United States and in Ghana, to form a strong Ghana-Diaspora network and a working group towards “bridging the technology gap between Ghana and the rest of the developed world”.

The project started when two Ghanaian Engineers, Dr. Joe Cruickshank( lead author) and I, co-wrote and published a paper entitled “ Ghana: Bridging the Technology Gap;

Why we are where we are and what we need to do “.(See “Mordern Ghana” Online News Magazine, March 18, 2018). The contents of the paper led to a major, one week, intensive Science and Technology Conference in Ghana, at the Peduase Lodge(Aburi), at which the President of Ghana, His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, was the Keynote Speaker.

The idea of a full one week conference to explore further, and in detail, the ideas in the paper, and to develop concrete, actionable strategies for their implementation, was the brainchild of Ghana’s Elder Statesman and renowned Economist, Mr. Kwame Pianim. More importantly, he was able to get Master Card Foundation to sponsor the conference. Full expenses were covered for certain designated, key invited conference participants, especially those of us who travelled from outside Ghana, most from the United States. The conference was then organized by the Ghana Institution of Engineering(GhIE). Ing Dr. Kwame Boakye( former president of GhIE) and Ing Akwasi P. Osei, both of them based in Ghana, worked assiduously with GhIE to plan, coordinate and execute the conference. It was flawless.

The “Peduase Conference” was a major success. It brought together about one hundred Ghanaian Science and Technology experts, about one quarter of whom were invited from outside Ghana. For the first time in the history of Ghana, and in Africa, a strong network of Africa-Diaspora Scientists and Engineers was established. This network would champion the idea of creating manufacturing hubs for commercializing Ghana’s scientific and technological inventions, prototyped gadgets, and equipment from Ghana’s educational institutions. In furthering the long overdue concept of a strong global network of Ghanaian Technical professionals, GhIE and MESTI(Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation), under its Minister, Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, planned to develop a global database of Ghanaian Technology experts and professionals.

Another positive outcome of the conference was the opportunity that the Conference offered Ghanaian High Educational Institutions, and even some Secondary Schools, to strengthen their bond with Diaspora-based experienced Ghanaian professionals and academicians. For example, through targeted interactions at the conference, all three of Ghana’s premier Universities, namely, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology(KNUST), University of Ghana Legon, and University of Cape Coast(UCC) were able to develop ways to collaborate more effectively with Diaspora Ghanaians.

For example, KNUST College of Engineering has a World Bank-sponsored, five-year “Engineering Education Program”( for improving postgraduate enrollment for Masters and PhD students, and for upgrading research so as to more heavily impact the industrial, technological and economic advancement of Ghana). The project is officially designated as, “KEEP”(KNUST Engineering Education Program”). KEEP has established an Industrial Advisory Board(IAB) and an International Scientific Advisory Board(ISAB). Both Boards recruited some Ghanaians from abroad ( who happened to be at the Peduase Conference) to serve on the Boards. In the case of ISAB, I was invited to be the Chair of that Board, and two other Ghanaians on that Board are U.S.-based Ghanaians who attended the Peduase Conference! The two others are Dr. Joe Cruickshank ( the lead author on the “Ghana: Bridging the Technology Gap” paper), and Ing. Dr. Richard Okine. For the IAB, at least one of the Board members was a U.S. resident Ghanaian who attended the Peduase Conference. That is Dr. Victor Atiemo-Obeng.

KEEP ISAB has accomplished a great deal guiding the project through ZOOM Virtual meetings with the official team members of KEEP on the ground in Kumasi, Ghana. About eight Virtual Meetings have been held in two years, in which ISAB members participated from California(ISAB Chair Prof. Richardson), Wisconsin( Dr. Cruickshank), Michigan( Prof. Asumadu), Delaware(Dr. Okine), Norway( two members, Prof. Kleppe and Prof. Adaramola), and in Ghana( Prof. Nyarko, Prof. Kponyo, Provost Prof. Adom-Asamoah, Mr. Marfo, other Profs and Lecturers)

The Peduase Conference similarly provided a perfect opportunity for several of us attendees from the Unites States to reconnect and deepen our collaborative efforts with the School of Engineering Science, University of Ghana, Legon, as well as with College of Sciences at the University of Cape Coast. The AYASPAU team of Atiemo-Obeng, Koram, Osseo-Asare and Richardson’s have Legon projects, where they donated more than two hundred brand new engineering textbooks for a reference library, and have fully sponsored a Masters Degree student in Biomedical Engineering.

The author’s upcoming book of ‘Autobiographical Memoirs” will include extensive narratives covering the topics in this paper , along with the personal and family life story of the author.

  • O. Ebo Richardson, PhD
  • Professor Emeritus, Electrical and Computer Engineering. September 18, 2021

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