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27.06.2004 Feature Article

Brain Drain –Killing Ghana Softly – Revisited

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I am writing to you in relation to the article Brain Drain-Killing Ghana Softly that appeared on Ghanaweb of 19 June 2004. I share some of the views expressed by the writer but for different reasons. I agree that the brain drain is an unfortunate reality for the nation and that it represents a crippling loss to the country, depriving the nation of the very people who are vital to its development. Indeed in my article Charity Begins at Home: Stemming the Brain Drain (Ghanaweb 12-12-2003), I raised the urgent nature of the problem and outlined a number issues that needed to be addressed. I also agree that the nation bears the cost of raising and educating its professionals in their unproductive years before they go to seek greener pastures or receive those offers of scholarships for further study or jobs, but I do not agree with the view that all who leave Ghana are unpatriotic. Indeed the writer failed to realise that the brain drain is not only external and that there is also internal brain drain, which has nothing to do with patriotism.

On the issue of patriotism, I do agree that Ghanaians in general, even those who are still in the country, lack the loyalty that the nation needs at this time of its development. We steal, misuse or abuse state property or divert state funds into individual accounts. Our leaders spend hard earned foreign exchange on unnecessary trips. Ministers and Parliamentarians who should set the example send their own children overseas for education while the education system is allowed to run down. We get to work at 11.00am, take an hour's lunch break and leave at 3pm and still get a day's wage. Some people are known to have used their influence to amass wealth yet nothing has been done to them.

Brain drain is usually associated with skilled persons but the situation in Ghana is such that even semi-literates/unskilled persons are looking for opportunities to leave the country. This is because the country does not offer much hope to its people especially those who are not prepared to engage in corrupt practices and the youth.

There are Ghanaian professionals who have returned home but have lasted only a few months and have packed up and gone elsewhere. If there are some professionals who are 'patriotic' enough to return only to pack and go again then we have to eliminate loyalty and look for the root causes of the brain drain elsewhere.

There continues to exist institutions and structures that have resisted change over the years. The society has lost a lot of its traditional values. We seem to 'worship' the rich even those whose wealth have been acquired through illegal or immoral means. If you are not wealthy you have very little respect and so everyone is looking for opportunities to make money, even churches are being set up for this purpose.

With these issues in mind it is my view that various policies can be introduced ranging from bonds for professionals, travel restrictions and offering attractive salaries to those prepared to stay or return to stem the flow of the brain drain but these will have relatively little impact unless the systemic issues in Ghana are addressed. One can therefore rant endlessly about loyalty, patriotism and nationalism and Dan Lartey can talk about domestication but it must be noted that patriotism/loyalty alone does not put bread on the table.

The systemic issues that need to be addressed include the high incidence of corruption in high and low places, fanned in a lot of cases by bureaucratic red tape and avarice. Corruption is sometimes at the root of many of the society's problems eg a newly constructed road is of sub standard because the contractor had to pay 10 percent to get the contract, there is no money to give incentives to professionals because the custom official has pocketed revenue that should go into government coffers or has taken a bribe to allow cocoa to be smuggled across the border.

The other systemic issue relates to the rule of law. We seem to rely on custom and tradition rather than laws and regulations as the guiding principles to our conduct. The Government and for that matter Ghanaians need to work harder so as to be able to address these concerns and establish the rule of law (not the rule of a few unelected people who govern Ghana only for the welfare of themselves, their families and their cronies) in all facets of Ghanaian life.

The other issue that is relevant is the attitude of persons in various positions of responsibility in Ghana. There are a number of Ghanaians who would like to return to contribute to the development of the country but are frustrated in their efforts. I am aware of some lawyers admitted to Bars in Commonwealth countries who have written to the Registrar of the Ghana Law School enquiring about admission processes and Post Qualification Examination (post qual), some of the letters, I understand have been hand-delivered, so there is no issue of non receipt, but these persons have not even been given the courtesy of a reply. The same goes for the Attorney General's Department and some of the Universities and other institutions. Yet the country needs some of these professionals.

The real solution, perhaps, is to recognise and address the structural and physical issues in society, expand livelihood options in the national economy, reduce unemployment and put in place programs and strategies to improve the lot of people.

Ultimately, the solution to the brain drain would depend on the ability and willingness of our governments to significantly and dramatically lift the standard of living and welfare of all Ghanaians and the application of the rule of law in an open and transparent manner to all Ghanaians without fear or favour – governments ruling for all and not for a select few. Ebenezer Banful Canberra Australia Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Ebenezer Banful
Ebenezer Banful, © 2004

The author has 21 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: EbenezerBanful

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