Accra, Jan 26, (Graphic) -- The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Prof Kwadwo Asenso-Okyere, has stated that Ghana can make huge economic gains from the brain drain by training more doctors,nurses and other professionals for export. “We must not look at international migration only from the negative point of view. India, The Philippines and other countries support their economies well through international migration, ”he noted, indicating that Ghana could also derive similar benefits. Prof Asenso-Okyere said currently, the country received more than $2 billion per annum through official remittances from Ghanaians working abroad and pointed out that if the country trained more professionals for export, the quantum of the remittances would increase tremendously. The vice-chancellor was briefing the Daily Graphic on the issue of international migration which came up for discussion during the first ever UN Secretary-General's Global Colloquium of University Presidents held in New York on January 18 and 19, 2005. The colloquium was at the instance of the UN Secretary-General, Mr Kofi Annan and under the joint auspices of five universities based in New York, namely, Columbia University, University of Pennsylvania, Yale University, New York University and Princeton University.
The University of Ghana was among 15 “leading research universities” in the world whose presidents were invited to join their counterparts from the five New York-based universities for the colloquium.
They discussed issues pertaining to international migration and the significance of academic freedom.
Prof Asenso-Okyere presented a paper on academic freedom, while the Director of the Institute of African Studies of the university,Prof Takyiwaa Manu,who accompanied the vice-chancellor, also delivered a paper on international migration.
Over the years,Ghana has had a high number of its professionals, especially doctors and nurses, seeking financial refuge in foreign countries, notably the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
The exodus of the medical professionals has been a major source of worry to the government because it is having a serious negative effect on healthcare delivery. Prof Asenso-Okyere advised that instead of bemoaning the brain drain and its attendant effect on the economy,“Ghana must position itself to benefit from international migration”.
He said under the General Agreement on Trade and Services (GATS) of the World Trade Organisation (WTO),member countries could trade in services and stressed the need for Ghana to find a way of benefiting from that facility.
Prof Asenso-Okyere said one thing that could help stem the tide of brain drain was to improve conditions of service and salaries so that people would find it useful to stay and work in the country.
Asked about how the universities could help to produce more doctors and nurses for export, Prof Asenso-Okyere said the University of Ghana,for instance,could admit more medical students but for the lack of laboratories and other facilities to accommodate any increased intake.
He said there was the need to expand the laboratories, acquire more equipment and attract good science lecturers to address that concern.Prof Asenso-Okyere gave a hint on plans by the university to establish a Biomedical Science Institute to admit about 500 students every year as part of efforts to train more medical professionals.
He said the university would require about $45 million for the establishment of the institute and noted that it would be the largest medical educational institution in the country.Prof Asenso-Okyere said when established,the institute would make arrangements for students to undertake their clinical programmes with the regional hospitals.