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Title: Africa's "Brain Gain": Whose Shibboleth?
Publication info: Ann Arbor, Michigan: MPublishing, University of Michigan Library
December 2004

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Source: Africa's "Brain Gain": Whose Shibboleth?

no. ns 1, December 2004
Author Biography: Atieno Odhiambo is professor of history at Rice University. Toyin Falola is university distinguished teaching professor in the Department of History at the University of Texas, Austin.


E.S. Atieno Odhiambo, Professor of History, Rice University [**]

[An earlier version of this piece was posted at USA/Africa Dialogue: No. 39: The Return of African Exiles]

Editor's Note: In this essay, Atieno Odhiambo brings a strong critique to recent discussions regarding African 'brain drain' and 'brain gain'. The timing of the article is poignant, coinciding with the release of a major report of the Global Health Trust's Joint Learning Initiative ("Human Resources for Health: Overcoming the Crisis" within which the disappearance abroad of critical African talent is again raised as a profound component of the "African crisis", (see especially chapter 4):

And the devastating effect of AIDS on the workforce in sub-Saharan Africa and the push for the rapid scaling up of interventions to combat HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria have brought to the fore the urgent need to strengthen weak health systems and particularly the workforce to deliver essential interventions. In this context the "brain drain" of skilled workers from low-income to high-income countries is particularly alarming.(101)

For recent reporting on the Joint Learning Initiative report, see Celia W. Dugger. 2004. "Africa Needs a Million More Health Care Workers, Report Says." The New York Times, November 26; and Dugger. 2004. "Where Doctors Are Scarce, Africa Deploys Substitutes." The New York Times, November 23.

Toyin Falola, University Distinguished Teaching Professor, Department of History, University of Texas, Austin, offers this opening to Atieno Odhiambo's essay:

The dialogue broadens to encompass the role of African migrants in the development of Africa. Should those of us based in this part of the world return home? What should be our contribution to Africa? Professor Atieno Odhiambo challenges us in this original and provocative essay. "The hope for Africa's graduation into an era of 'brain gain' as espoused by UNESCO may be premature just yet," he asserts. "The continent has still got to deal with a 'brain drain' for those who have left, and with a 'brain hemorrhage' for those who have stayed. The summons to participate in 'nation- building' is no longer convincing, and the rhetoric of African 'development' has lost its purchase. While it is true that Africa needs its intellectuals, African universities have to deal with internal structural disorders first. Similarly African bureaucracies have to weed out institutionalized corruption before they can hope for the return of the exiles."


The hope for Africa's graduation into an era of "brain gain" as espoused by UNESCO may just yet be premature. The continent has still got to deal with a "brain drain" by those who have left and with a "brain hemorrhage" for those who have stayed. The summons to participate in "nation- building" is no longer convincing, and the rhetoric of African "development" has lost its purchase. While it is true that Africa needs its intellectuals, African universities have to deal with internal structural disorders first. Similarly, African bureaucracies have to weed out institutionalized corruption before they can hope for the return of the exiles.


Definition: The term "brain drain" is frequently used to describe the movement of high-level experts from developing countries to industrialized nations.

Article 16 - From 'brain drain' to 'brain gain'
The 'brain drain' has yet to be stemmed, since it continues to deprive the developing countries and those in transition, of the high-level expertise necessary to accelerate their socio-economic progress. International co-operation schemes should be based on long-term partnerships between institutions in the South and the North, and also promote South-South co-operation. Priority should be given to training programmes in the developing countries, in centres of excellence forming regional and international networks, with short periods of specialized and intensive study abroad. Consideration should be given to creating an environment conducive to attracting and retaining skilled human capital, either through national policies or international arrangements to facilitate the return - permanent or temporary - of highly trained scholars and researchers to their countries of origin. At the same time, efforts must be directed towards a process of 'brain gain' through collaboration programmes that, by virtue of their international dimension, enhance the building and strengthening of institutions and facilitate full use of endogenous capacities. Experience gained through the UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs Programme and the principles enshrined in the regional conventions on the recognition of degrees and diplomas in higher education are of particular importance in this respect.
World Declaration on Higher Education for the Twenty-First Century: Vision and Action UNESCO, October 9, 1998.
The 'brain drain' is one of the most widely discussed and deeply troubling phenomena, not only in the educational relations among nations, but also as an anomaly of development in the case of Third World counties. However, so far, there would appear to have been no systematic or comprehensive appraisal of this phenomenon in Africa and of its possible stranglehold on African development". [1]

I do not know who coined "Africa's Brain Gain" as a topic for discussion initially, although I have sourced the origin of the phrase in the UNESCO Declaration of 1998. I suspect that the wordsmith is possessed of a wry sense of humor, for otherwise the optimism behind the title would be hard justify or to explain. We know it for a fact that,

Out of the small, but vibrant community of scholars that Africa managed to produce [in the 1960s], many have gone overseas, forced by conditions at home to seek a better working and living condition elsewhere. This has resulted in a massive brain drain, while those who remained behind watched themselves become academically stagnated and incapacitated. [2]

We also know from the published statistics that,

In 1998, nearly 120 doctors were estimated to have emigrated from Ghana; between 600 and 700 Ghanaian physicians are practicing in the United States alone. This represents roughly 50 per cent of the total population of doctors in Ghana. It is estimated that about 10, 000 Nigerian academics are now employed in the United States and that more than 1,000 professionals left Zimbabwe in 1997. Between 1980 and 1991, only 39 per cent of Ethiopian students returned from abroad out of the 22,700 who left. [3]

What is more, we have read from Kenya's Minister for Planning and National Development Peter Anyang' Nyong'o that,

To fill the gap created by the skills shortage, African countries spend an estimated $4bn annually to employ about 100,000 non-African expatriates. [4]

And further, we have to take serious cognizance of the fact that,

In addition to brain drain, what is called "brain hemorrhage" has become a serious challenge to the revival of scientific life at African universities and research institutions. Most scientists who stayed on in their institutions became divorced from research and development activities due to the many challenges afflicting those institutions. [5]

But rather than venture into the puns behind the elocution, or raise it as an agenda for inter-state relations as Professor Lameck Goma did in his Dalhousie University address, my presentation will be limited to a discussion of the incremental implications of the surmise: namely, that the time has now arrived for diasporic Africans to "return to the native land" [6] and to take part in the imperatives of national 'development'. In part, my cynicism is concerned with the unwarranted assumption that anyone in Africa cares for the thousands of its citizens who are dispersed in the far-flung corners of the earth.


For too long, statesmen and scholars have glibly observed that the African continent would be better off, if only all its daughters and sons in the diasporas were to return to the continent, and to participate effectively in its 'development'. [7] It is this assumption that I intend to re-interrogate in this presentation. The pertinent question is: What good would it do, if we all turned up tomorrow and reported to the various Vice-Chancellors that we are ready to teach? I approach this issue from a cynical perspective that is informed by my own age cohort. [8] I grew up, in Africa, here in Kenya to be exact, and graduated from Makerere in March, 1970. The political science that we, as Makerere undergraduates, learned from Prof. Ali Mazrui and Dr. A.G. G. Ginyera-Pinycwa included large doses of readings on political integration. We read from the edited volumes of Eisenstadt and Rokkan, and we came to value the goals of African Independence. [9] The goals of the integrative processes at independence included,

creating unity among heterogeneous groups in their polity, often referred to as the process of nation-building; and providing avenues for political participation". [10]

We understood this participation to be the very essence of democracy, and accepted Mwalimu Nyerere's prescription of the authentic model for democracy in a TANU publication in 1959 that,

The ancient Greeks lived in small towns. Each town was a complete "nation" with its own government. They did not have kings or watemi[chiefs]. The governmental affairs were considered and decided in a meeting of commoners together. Authority and responsibility did not rest with a single individual or a small group of citizens, but rested with the entire citizenry together. The Greeks called this governmental arrangement "Demokratia", that is, government by the citizens, in order to distinguish it from royal government and others. [11]

At Makerere we read from Goran Hyden's "Nation-Building Text", appropriately entitled TANU Yajenga Nchi  [12]. We learnt from Mwalimu Nyerere that ,"To plan is to choose"; and we shared the vision and ambition of the Dar es Salaam Jazz Band that

It can be done
Play your part!
Rais akasema [The President declared] it can be done
Play your part!
Yee! It can be done
Play your part!

We felt as if we were participating in making choices along a line "running from fully liberal capitalism through fully controlled state socialism". [13] We swallowed hook, line, and sinker the orthodoxies of comprehensive planning that were then de rigueur for each nation-state-in-the-making. In Kenya, we followed the debates on "development" as articulated by Minister for Economic Planning Tom Mboya; and we read the then prevailing critiques of his Sessional Paper Number 10: African Socialism and Its Application To Planning in Kenya, offered by such luminaries as Dharam Ghai, Peter Marris, and Barrack Obama in the East Africa Journal. [14]

On completing our graduate studies we could not wait, but had to return immediately to our home countries to assist in the task of building the nation. In popular culture Franco Luambo Makiadi urged us to roll up our sleeves with his rumba tune, retroussons les marches, ushering in the post-1965 Mobutu regime in Congo-Kinshasa, which we mistakenly thought of as regime ya seka or regime nouveau. [15] There was hardly any reason to tarry longer in Europe or the Americas once the examiners awarded us our much sought-after PhDs.  [16]

What happened in the decade from the mid-1970s, and into the 1980s is too well-known and needs little recycling: the atrophying of the university systems in Africa; [17] the curbing of academic freedom; [18] the onset of authoritarian regimes in each country; the destruction of our erstwhile democracies and the imposition on societies of the "ideologies of order" [19]; the damages of the Structural Adjustment Programs, leading to the deterioration in the material conditions and the morale of Africa's higher education institutions [20]; the flight into exile of the best and brightest—those lucky enough to escape the arrests, tortures and detentions—by our incumbent regimes. [21]

Refugee: The 1951 Convention on Refugees describes a refugee as: "A person who is outside his/ her country of nationality or residence; has a well-founded fear of persecution because of his/ her race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion; and is unable or unwilling to avail himself/ herself of the protection of that country, or return there, for fear of persecution". [22]

For many Africans of my generation and into the 1980s, therefore, the salient fact is that we moved into exile because of the failure of the post-colonial state. Hence one could not refer to exile as voluntary. There might well be the desire to have our daughters and sons return to the Continent. But the political conditions that drove us to exile initially remain the same; at any rate the best that could be said is that there seems to be no political will to right such ancient wrongs.

Much as we joined in the re-democratization euphoria of the 1990s, cheering and urging for change in the political systems, the new millennium has offered no consolation. True, there have been regime changes, but the practices of governance remain very much in place everywhere in Africa, and particularly so in Kenya [23]. A recent conclusion on my part, informed by events in Kenya, namely that the political elites are determined to maintain Mahmood Mamdani's "centralized despotism", [24] not even yielding to the minimum irreducible demand for constitutional change, serves to bear me out in this contention. [25]

So, once again I am led to ask: whose optimism induced the choice of this conference theme? Why should any sane African, driven into exile by various forces satanic and secular, imagined and real, want to come back to Africa in a reverse migration? To what avail? What has changed, for whom, and where? Apart from our extended and immediate families, who depend on us for remittances, and on whom we depend emotionally, who really needs us back home?

The Developmental Imperative

It requires little reminder to recognize the fact that the recent calls for Diaspora Africans to return home is motivated by the desire to get involved in "development' after the destruction of the post colonial state. The idea of "development" may indeed retain its viability or purchase, but not without qualifications. Let us see how.

Irene L. Gendzier reminds us that "development" speaks to the aspirations of people throughout the world for a life of meaning and dignity. [26] And that is precisely the beginning of our problem. All of us, wherever we are on the surface of the earth, wish to pursue lives of meaning and dignity. Who in Africa seeks to provide the returning scholar with a life of meaning and dignity? Which Kenyan would be impervious to the recently reported humiliation of her most celebrated novelist Ngugi wa Thiongo, on his return to his native land, by a person or persons unknown? Who would submit to his wife Njeeri's humiliation again? [27]

But to return to the wider issue: when does the "development" imperative become so compelling that those of us in the diaspora would begin yearning to participate in it? When does it begin to really benefit our people? What happened to the ingredient of people's participation in development that under girded our enthusiasm for it in the 1960s?

The historiography of "development" in Africa is instructive in this regard. Goran Hyden, among others, provides a useful summary of this literature, and so provides our entry into the debate. [28] The first phase of the development discourse coincided with the Independence Era, 1955-1965. During this era (which Hyden labels as The "Big Push"), Africa's leaders were anxious to accelerate development so that people could see the benefits of their newly-won national sovereignty. Development was seen by these leaders as coterminous with modernization, and the intent of its trajectory was to follow in the footsteps of the western industrialized countries. Central planning for development was seen as mandatory, and the "top-down" approach was adopted, with the government as the engine of change, and people's participation was seen as secondary. Kenya's much-lauded if under-theorized Harambee effort was part of this agenda, in so far as the Harambee effort was seen as a supplement to the government's technical expertise.

This phase was followed by the era of the Basic Needs Approach (1965-1975), following the realization that development was not merely a linear economic model; together with the realization that its alternative, "underdevelopment", was an equally possible outcome. During this period, development was being advocated on the premise that it must address the individual's basic needs. In Kenya, the period was marked by the "integrated rural development programs", and the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Nairobi generated considerable of literature on this approach to development.

In turn, this phase was replaced by the Structural Adjustment Programs that dominated the thinking of the international lending institutions, including the World Bank and the IMF, between 1975 and 1985. The main objective of these reforms was to reward rural producers and eliminate subsidies to the urban consumers, and to free (rural) individuals from the shackles of government regulations, thus placing responsibility for development on individuals rather than governments. Especially heralded during this period was the notion of the "rational peasant", fortified with local knowledge, values and institutions. Development of or for the people was being replaced by the notion of development with the people.

A further paradigm shift occurred in the period 1985-1995, this time with a growing emphasis on the nurturing of an "Enabling Environment" and development by the people. And by the beginning of the millennium we are being confronted not with the entity of "development", but rather by other shibboleths, including: "the crisis of development", "new social actors" and "new social movements", as well as "alternatives to development". [29]

This brief excursion is not meant to be exhaustive. Rather, its heuristic value lies in the conclusions to be drawn from it. One of them, a salient one, nevertheless, is that neither the social scientists, nor the governments in Africa, know what the end results of development" might be. It follows logically therefore that neither the home-based scholars, nor the governments in Africa, are in a position to blithely invite the diaspora scholars to "come and help us develop Africa". We can no longer merely resonate to Franco Luambo Makiadi's retroussons les marches. As the Kenyan Economist Silvano Ogessa Wambakha once asked in his novel, the march towards "development" entails a safari on The Long Road to Wapi [where]?

The Relevant Questions

The role of institutions in creating an enabling environment has long been recognized by scholars of "development." [30] These discourses on development have long recognized that the choice of the environment is a political act. [31] Here, I would first turn to the locus of my habitus, namely the University, for a period of extended interrogation. For it is still a truism that "African universities are major movers and shakers when it comes to determining the intellectual, scientific, and scholarly direction and developmental agenda of their respective countries". [32] This is particularly true of the public universities.

What good would a return to Africa do? The initial question here has to do with whether the universities and research institutions in Africa have the capacity to absorb and retain the expatriate manpower were we to return to our respective countries.

Much has been made of the fact that there are enough openings in our respective universities and research institutes to absorb all the returnees. Nevertheless, the issue is not one of openings per se. What is more pertinent has to do with those habits of work that we have got used to in the diaspora, and the state of the physical plant or laboratory at home to which one returns. At least in North America we have become used to the software that makes life livable, computers and e-mail systems that work, administrators and secretaries that are responsible and responsive to the researcher's individual needs, availability of funds to attend national and international conferences, arrangements wherein one's Sabbatical and Study Leaves are part of the initial contract one signs with the host university, and where Chairs and Deans are supportive of one's work. Can one simply assume that these aspects of the physical plant will be in place? Also, since we are dealing with a "graying professoriate", such issues as Medical Benefits become urgent. What happens if one does get sick? Does the individual assume that she or he will get attended at the nearest hospital, and does the individual assume the employer's capacity to foot the bill afterwards? If not, how does one learn to improvise, particularly from a hospital bed? Where does one start: with the Chairman of the relevant Department, the Dean of the Faculty, or the Principal of the College?

Our discussion here hinges on institutional inertia particularly observable at Kenyan public universities. With a fixed number of "established posts" at each level , and with the clamor for seniority at each level, it becomes difficult to envisage a situation where there would be created multiple professorships, with individuals appointed as and when they are ready to "profess" their subject, rather than because there are openings at the next tier. Furthermore, as we are focusing on the upper echelons of the professoriate, it might be obligatory to open up the higher echelons of appointments, if only to limit the potential rivalry between established dons and their former students clamoring for promotion in the same departments.

Of equal significance within the university systems is the need to recognize the pressures of expansion [33] and "massification" [34] that have added large numbers of students to most African academic institutions and systems in the past decade. The upshot of this turn of events are the very large classes that individual faculty have to instruct, making it impossible to run meaningful tutorials and to exercise effective supervision of graduate students. The ramifications of this situation are several; among them is the need to recognize the fact that the students are getting lower quality of instruction than the senior faculty received as undergraduates. Even the Association of African Universities admits that there has been "a general drop in the quality of higher education in Africa" since the 1980s.  [35]


At the University of Nairobi, only 40 percent of the teaching force hold Ph.D. degrees; 33 percent of the faculty at Kenyatta, 32 percent of the faculty at Moi, and 19 percent of the faculty at Egerton have Ph.D.s. Although the possession of a Ph.D. degree is often a benchmark qualification for most university lecturers internationally, the converse seems to hold for Kenya. [36]

Put simply, the vast majority of present-day lecturers should be pursuing higher degrees instead of occupying academic posts. This detail has relevance for the returning scholars.

Should one return home to become a mere classroom teacher? Quite often African states see professors as mere teachers rather than producers of knowledge, and therefore as irrelevant to "development" and policy issues. Indeed policy matters are often reserved for "experts", many of them our fellow colleagues coming from the West, and who for a niggardly stipend engage us as 'consultants'. [37] "This is particularly the case where the local professionals have superior qualification to the so-called "international experts" yet they are answerable to them", Planning Minister Anyang' Nyong'o has had the temerity to add. [38] What are the implications of this situation for one's own research and publishing? Indeed what institutional mechanisms are in place for research and publication in such an environment? "In the increasingly global world that is largely shaped by knowledge and information, establishing a strong research infrastructure has more than ever before become a sine qua non in this highly competitive world," Teferra and Altbach rightly assert. [39]

What are the implications of these numbers for one's own scholarship? What can one do without the handmaiden of scholarship, a well stocked research library, or failing that, an efficient Inter-Library Loan System? This service, more than any other, has made life tenable for most of us even in the remotest corners of the United States. Without it, perhaps there would be a rush to, and concentration of, African scholars at or near the major African Studies Centers and nowhere else; with its accessibility, one can work anywhere from Hawaii to Alaska, and from Oklahoma to Miami.

Let me hasten to add that the majority of us are not involved in cutting-edge research, on cancer, on HIV/AIDS, nor are we at the celebrated Walter Reed Army Hospital, the Centers For Disease Control, the National Institutes of Health, nor in cutting-edge theoretical physics, "dark energy" cosmological research in astronomy, or in nanotechnology research in expensive laboratories. Many of us are involved in mundane "research", in the humanities and repetitive social sciences. But the point is that the few African scholars in the diaspora who want to publish have both access to the relevant journals, and the intellectual capacity to do so while overseas. Even without lauding the merits of a knowledge-based economy, [40] it is now obvious that there is special merit to be attached to research and publications. At the very least, the increasing numbers of African paper presenters at the African Studies Association Annual Conferences has given me much food for thought over the sixteen years I have been in forced exile in North America.

An added pressure emanates from the need for "Community Service", as evidenced by the involvement of the public university systems in "Parallel Degree Programs" in such countries as Kenya and Uganda. There is undoubtedly merit in these extension programs; but they come at a cost, to the individual faculty, regarding how much time one can spare for genuine original research and writing for publication in "refereed, reputable, international, mainstream journals" that the academic tradition demands.

Let us now turn our gaze to the civil services in our respective countries, where the majority of our baccalaureate degree holders would be employed in the first instance. The prevalent literature suggests that without an enabling environment in the corridors of power, not much is to be expected, even from well-intentioned bureaucrats. [41] In fact one should start this aspect of the discourse with a caveat: can any bureaucracy be presumed to be "developmental"? Given the traditional tendency of bureaucracies to conserve rather than to experiment, [42] the question becomes: who does one turn to when you run against the impervious walls of bureaucracy? To the Permanent Secretary or to the relevant Minister? And supposing she or he does not belong to your "ethnic group", what does one then do? [43]

Let us narrow down the discussion to reflect the recent experiences from Kenya. Sometime in the 1990s, as President Daniel arap Moi sought to salvage his KANU regime from outward criticism, he did allow in a "dream team" of experts, some of them recommended to him by the World Bank, and whose salaries were to be paid by that body. What confronted some of these individuals on assuming office in Nairobi were a series of stumbling blocks symptomatic of bureaucratic inertia. Some of their fellow Permanent Secretaries complained that since these individuals were doing the same job, there was no need for them to retain their World Bank salaries. Some civil servants questioned why they were allowed to work beyond the mandatory retirement age of fifty five years. Some members of the "dream team" had to forgo their late evening work habits, being forced out of their offices by 5 pm in the interests of "national security". In the end, the experiment came to naught as the President dismissed them over the radio at 1 pm in the afternoon, as was his wont with all other offices in the land anyway. This narrative serves to demonstrate the incompatibility of the entrenched work ethic within the Kenya nation with the practices obtaining elsewhere, with civil servants working late, unafraid about their personal security.

Lands of Hope, Lands of Oz?

Aesopic Definition.

Brain Drain: "The emigration of a large number of a country's highly skilled and educated population to countries where they can expect to find better economic and social opportunities."

A common fallacy informs the literature on African refugees and needs to be debunked forthwith. This trajectory assumes that those of us who are highly skilled, particularly the intellectuals, have any wish to stay in the lands of our first refuge. Nothing could be further from the truth. Anyone who has had the opportunity to return home after a fifteen-year sojourn in a foreign land knows, from the time you step back in your country, that your time overseas has been wasted; that your generational cohort has been developing while your homestead has remained stagnant, or suffered untold dilapidation. The idea of foreign lands as the lands of hope and opportunity calls for a reappraisal.

The anxiety of exile does not lessen with the passing of years; quite the contrary. There is nothing as bad as the experience of dislocation in a foreign country for reasons that are not of one's own choosing. The willing immigrant scholar who has chosen where and when to go in the recent past does not share this anxiety with those of us who literally had to flee from our own motherlands in the 1970s and 1980s. For many of us, the site for research remains the home countries, while the former might well choose to be citizens of the globalization era and anchor their researches in some "postcoloniality" [44]. For the majority of us, however, the location of our research remains the home countries, and yet with extended exile our research can only suffer because we are three or four airplane connections removed from the day to day local experiences that inform the practices of everyday life. The adage may well be true for my generation that east or west, home is best.

The New Optimism

A Google search on the internet indicates that there is some renewed hope at the global level involving such diverse institutions as the World Bank, African governments, external donors, UNESCO, the African Economic Research Consortium, and the Task Force on Higher Education and Society. [45] In part, this has come about because the external donors have "rediscovered" [46] higher education in Africa after nearly two decades, during which period the Bank in particular stressed the need for primary education at the expense of higher education. Such hope, however, is tempered by the fact that sufficient harm has been already done. There are fewer than two million students enrolled in higher education in sub-Saharan Africa out of a population of approximately 627 million. [47]

This means that Africa needs to go back to the drawing board and "involve herself in capacity building in human resources and infrastructure development, including infrastructure such as roads and communication facilities, and institutional infrastructure, such as financial institutions, courts, democratic structures, and educational systems". [48]

The pertinent question remains, however. Is Africa now attuned to define its own purposes for development, or are we simply to remain on the track of "catching up with the global economy" [49]? What are Africa's own endogenously-defined goals in this checkered drawing-board of globalization? [50]

Let me get back to my habitus, the University system, and perhaps end where I began. What do African universities need? It is obvious to me and to others that:

(1) "There is an urgent need in sub-Saharan Africa to build the capacity of academic staff to meet the growing demand for education. This involves more than simply pushing more graduate students through the education pipeline and into teaching and research positions, which in itself is a major problem", given the reality of the prevalent brain drain. [51]
(2) The greater challenge is to attract and retain an academic corps competent in the transition from current economies and government practices to ones competent to compete in a knowledge-based society. "These skills include problem solving and the ability to produce knowledge in the context of applications in real-life situations." [52]

To which I would add:

(3) The need for dexterity at multi-disciplinarity and intra-disciplinarity. This will often mean retooling, the ability to learn new methods and techniques of acquiring knowledge. The Americans have a word for it: they say one is a "quick-pick" if you learn fast, and quickly.

Certainly the old idea of being stuck in the same groove, teaching the discipline one learned as an undergraduate until retirement will not suffice in the new circumstances. As William Saint observes:

Tertiary education in the future will be based much less on academic disciplines and more on transdiciplinary study. Great emphasis will be placed on one's ability to learn independently, communicate effectively with others, collaborate productively in teams and groups, show cultural and social sensitivity, demonstrate flexibility, accept social responsibilities. Media competence will become a universally required skill. [53]

Article 9 of the World Declaration on Higher Education for the Twenty-First Century similarly reiterates:

The acquisition of skills, competences and abilities for communication, creative and critical analysis, independent thinking and team work in multicultural contexts, where creativity also involves combining traditional or local knowledge and know-how with advanced science and technology. [54]

Similarly, at the leading universities in the West there is a renewed emphasis on initiating and deepening next-generation interdisciplinary programs. [55]

(4) Next, as observed by Saint and others, "The role and function of the University Library must be given particular attention during any strategic planning process." They add, correctly,

For this transformation to occur, tertiary institutions managers and library administrators will need to understand and support the evolution of the role of the library from handmaiden to full partner in the academic enterprise. . .This implies a significant change in the job descriptions, employment qualifications, and professional status of African university librarians. [56]

(5) Much more needs to be known by the general run of the academic faculty about what already exists in the field. Certainly the Association of African Universities has to cease being an exclusive club of Rectors, Vice-Chancellors and Presidents who arrogate to themselves the title of "the stakeholders", and aim at letting the ordinary faculty know about what it already can do for them by way of academic exchanges, fellowships and scholarships, regional networks for training and research, multidisciplinary and subject conferences, all aimed at endogenous capacity building in Africa.

(6) New forums like the African Economic Research Consortium must learn to communicate with individual faculty, especially with those based in Africa and at the beginning of their research careers, instead of constituting themselves as committees of experts.

(7) There is still a need to cultivate a critical mass of academics in the African continent, not just in terms of numbers but in terms of attitudes, discourses and ultimate concerns. We need to cultivate within Africa an academic culture that sustains "a life of the mind", and that encourages what Kwame Nkrumah used to refer to as a culture of intellection. [57] In keeping with the new Strategic Plan of The Association of African Universities, the African University must "aspire to the strategic role of a catalyst for analytical thinking". [58] This aspiration is not that self-evident in African universities at present. A visit to the Faculty Clubs and Senior Common Rooms in Africa is none too edifying in this regard. The visitor to these popular haunts quite often runs into mundane bar-type gossip quite unworthy and unbefitting these presumed centers of excellence. It is at this juncture that academics in the diaspora become relevant, for they can provide important means of linkage and support for the development of an academic culture back in Africa.

(8) The situation is made worse by the practice of political patronage at our public universities. For many senior administrators there is an explicit patronage with regard to employment that extends from the Vice-Chancellors to the lowliest cleaner. It is about time that appointments, at the senior levels at least, were open to talent and not limited to the few who are deemed to be "politically correct" or politically connected. Among other things these politically correct people misappropriate the meager resources of the universities with impunity. For evidence from the newest public Kenyan university, Charles Ngome writes:

During the 1995-1996 financial year, Maseno University lost over US$ 666,667 most of it through rip-offs and false allowance payments. This same culture of corruption is partly responsible for the stalled projects that were begun in the mid-1980s in most of the Universities. . .In spite of such rampant corruption and the availability of evidence documenting it by the Auditor General[s'] Office, vice-chancellors, principals of university constituent colleges, and other senior government operatives[commonly referred to as "politically correct people"] are never arrested and prosecuted for blatant theft from the public and the government. [59]

Need one say more, especially about some of our friends in high places? Suffice it to reiterate that "merit and respect for professionalism should be paramount in the employment and utilization of highly trained manpower. . .and that our governments and countries should be guided by these requirements as part of their armament for the fight against the 'brain drain'." [60]

(9) Above all, the challenge facing the African university is how to retain its academic faculty in face of the challenges offered by the international financial institutions, research consortiums, as well as the piece of mind (the sine qua non for any academic reflection) that even very junior North American community colleges are bound to offer the African academic. Given the path we have traveled in the past thirty years, we must end with Chinua Achebe, for "The lizard that jumped from the iroko tree said it would praise itself even if no one else would". [61] How did we survive, almost intact, through that long nightmare of humiliation, detentions, exile and social death [62]?

** I want to thank Professors Kennell Jackson, Jr.(Stanford University), Magbaily Fyle(Ohio University) ,Ali A. Mazrui (Binghamton), Francis Nyamnjoh (CODESRIA), Theodora Olunga Ayot (North Park), Robert M. Maxon (West Virginia University) , William Robert Ochieng' (Maseno University), Norma Kriger (Ohio State University), James Ogude [University of the Witwatersrand), Fred Owino (African Academy of Sciences), D.A.Masolo (University of Louisville) , Elias Bongmba (Rice University), Gregory Maddox (Texas Southern University, Houston) and John Oyaro Oucho (University of Botswana), and Dr. Ed Rege (ILRI), for their hearty responses to earlier drafts of this paper.

1. Lameck Goma. 1989. "The African Brain Drain: Investment in and Utilization of Human Capital." In Alexander A. Kwapong and Barry Lesser, eds., Capacity Building and Human Resource Development in Africa. Dalhousie University: The Lester Pearson Institute for International Development, 95.

2. Damtew Teferra. 2003. "Scientific Communication and Research in African Universities: Challenges and Opportunities in the Twenty-First Century." In Damtew Teferra and P.G. Altbach, eds., African Higher Education: An International Reference Book. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 129.

3. Teferra, 129-130.


5. Teferra, 130.

6. Aime Cesaire. 1956. Cahier d'un retour au pays natal. Paris: Presence Africaine.

7. For a typical output from a statesman, see Thabo Mbeki.1997. "The African Renaissance: Myth or Reality." Address to the SAIIA, Jan Smuts House, Johannesburg, 21 October. For scholars, see for example, Nick Gatheru Wanjohi, in 2004: "Africa would be far beyond most developed countries had its sons and daughters who fled for greener pastures and politically safe havens abroad been given the right employment opportunities, renumeration and a secure socio-political environment." Speech Given by Prof. Nick Gatheru Wanjohi, Vice Chancellor of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture at the Africa's Brain Gain Press Briefing Luncheon at the Nairobi Safari Club (Lilian Towers), August 24, 2004, 1-2.

8. For a rationalization of my type of cynicism, see Lameck Goma, 97.

9. S. N. Eisenstadt and S. Rokkan.1973. Building States and Nations. 2 vols. Beverley Hills: Sage.

10. J. Isawa Elaigwu and Ali A. Mazrui.1993. "Nation-Building and Changing Political Structures."In Ali A. Mazrui, ed. UNESCO General History of Africa. Berkeley: Heinemann, 446.

11. Sauti Ya TANU, No. 47: "Msingi Ya Demokrasi." As reprinted in E. B. M. Barongo.1966. Mkiki Mkiki wa Siasa Tanganyika. Dar es Salaam: East African Literature Bureau. As cited in Steven Feierman.1990. Peasant Intellectuals: Anthropology and History in Tanzania. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 226.

12. Goran Hyden.1969. Political Development in Rural Tanzania. TANU Yajenga Nchi. Nairobi: East African Publishing House.

13. Robert J. Berg. 1998. "Models of Social and Economic Development." In John Middleton, ed., Encyclopedia of Africa South of the Sahara, vol 1. New York: Charles Scribner and Sons, p.430.

14. E.S. Atieno Odhiambo. 2002. "Bethwell A. Ogot and the Crucible of African Scholarship, 1964-1980." In Toyin Falola and E.S. Atieno Odhiambo, eds. The Essays of Bethwell Allan Ogot: The Challenges of History and Leadership in Africa. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, xv-xvii.

15. Gary Stewart. 2000. Rumba on the River. London: Verso.

16. One of us, Abraham John Nkinyangi, left Stanford University on the same day he defended his thesis in 1980 to return to Nairobi University's Institute of Development Studies!

17. Kilemi Mwiria.1993. University Education in East Africa. The Quality Crisis.Nairobi: Kenyatta University [mimeo].

18. For Kenya, see D. C. Savage, and C. Taylor..1991. "Academic Freedom in Kenya." Canadian Journal of African Studies 25 (2), 308-320.

19. E.S. Atieno Odhiambo. 1987. "Democracy and the Ideology of Order in Kenya." In Michael G. Schatzberg, ed. The Political Economy of Kenya. New York: Praeger, 177-201.

20. B.K. Campbell and John Loxley, eds. 1989. Structural Adjustment in Africa. New York: St. Martin's Press; Adebayo Olukoshi. 2003. "Structural Adjustment Programs." In Paul Tiyambe Zeleza and Dickson Eyoh, eds. 2002. Encycopedia of Twentieth-Century African History. New York: Routledge, 533-536; Silvia Federici, George Caffentzis and Ousssenia Alidou, eds. 2000. A Thousand Flowers: Social Struggles Against Structural Adjustment in African Universities. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press.

21. E.S. Atieno Odhiambo. 2002. "Hegemonic Enterprises and Instrumentalities: Of Survival: Ethnicity and Democracy in Kenya." African Studies 61 (2), 223-249.

22. Joanne van Selm, 2003. The Refugee Convention at Fifty: A View From Forced Migration Studies. New York: Lexington Books.

23. E.S.Atieno Odhiambo. 2004. "Ethnic Cleansing and Civil Society in Kenya 1969-1992." Journal of Contemporary African Studies, 22 (1), 29-42.

24. Mahmood Mamdani. 1996. Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

25. E.S. Atieno Odhiambo. 2004, 41.

26. Irene L. Gendzier. 1985. Managing Political Change: Social Scientists and the Third World. Boulder ,CO: Lynne Rienner.

27. Editor's note: see associated article on this event.

28. Goran Hyden. 1998. "Development." In John Middleton, ed. Encyclopaedia of Africa South of the Sahara. Vol. 1. New York: Charles Scribner and Sons, 424-429. See also Lyn Ilon. 2003."Foreign Aid Financing of Higher Education in Africa." In Damtew Teferra and Philip G. Altbach, eds. African Higher Education: An International Reference Handbook. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 61-72.

29. Arturo Escobar. 1994. Encountering Development. New Haven: Princeton University Press.

30. Robert Bates. 1989. Beyond the Miracle of the Market: The Political Economy of Agrarian Development in Kenya. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

31. Bates.

32. Damtew Teferra. 2003, 128-142.

33. Joel Samoff and Bidemi Carrol. 2004. "The Promise of Partnership and the Continuities of Dependence: External Support to Higher Education in Africa." African Studies Review, 67 (1), 67-200.

34. Richard Fehnel. 2003. "Massification and Future Trends in African Higher Education." In Damtew Teferra and Philip G. Altbach, eds. 2003. African Higher Education: An International Reference Handbook. Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 73-81.

35. Association of African Universities. 2003. Strategic Plan, 2003-2010: Final Draft. Accra: African Universities House, 1.

36. Charles Ngome. 2003. "Kenya." In Teferra and Altbach, eds. 2003, 369.

37. Lameck Goma, 97.

38. Anyang' Nyong'o, 2.

39. Teferra and Altbach, eds. 2003, 9.

40. William Saint, 2003."Tertiary Distance Education and Technology in Sub-Saharan Africa", in Teferra and Altbach, eds. 2003, 93-110.

41. David Leonard. 1991. Africa's Successes. Four Public Managers of Kenyan Rural Development. Berkeley: University of California Press.

42. Steven Feierman. 1990. Peasant Intellectuals: Anthropology and History in Tanzania, Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press.

43. E.S. Atieno-Odhiambo. 2004. "Hegemonic Enterprises and Instrumentalities of Survival: Ethnicity and Democracy in Kenya." In Bruce Berman, Dickson Eyoh and Will Kymlicka eds. Ethnicity and Democracy in Africa. Oxford: James Currey, 167-182.

44. Achille Mbembe. 2001. Ways of Seeing: Beyond the New Nativism." African Studies Review, 44 (2); and 2001. On the Postcolony. Berkeley: The University of California Press.

45. Fehnel, 73.

46. Association of African Universities. 2003. Strategic Plan 2003-2010: Final Draft. Accra: African Universities House, i.

47. World Bank 2000. Little Data Book. Washington, DC: World Bank.

48. Fehnel, 74.

49. Fenhel, 74.

50. Noam Chomsky, 2004. "Reflections on Power and Globalization." In Henry Veltmeyer, ed. Globalization and Antiglobalization. London: Ashgate, 139-153.

51. Fehnel, 79.

52. Fehnel,79.

53. Saint, 108.

54. UNESCO. 1998. World Declaration on Higher Education For The Twenty-First Century: Vision and Action. Paris, UNESCO.

55. Rice University. School of Humanities. Case Prospectus. 09/20/04.

56. Saint, 100.

57. Kwame Nkrumah.1964. Consciencism: Philosophy and Ideology for Decolonization and Development With Particular Reference to the African Revolution. New York: Monthly Review Press.

58. Association of African Universities. 2003. Strategic Plan 2003-2010. Final Draft. Accra: African Universities House, 2.

59. Ngome, 370.

60. Lameck Goma, 99.

61. Chinua Achebe. 1996. Things Fall Apart. London: Heinemann.

62. Orlando Patterson. 1982. Slavery and Social Death: A Comparative Perspective. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

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