Africa has over the years suffered from a continuing brain drain, with millions of highly qualified professionals serving outside the continent. It is estimated that 10 million African professionals, mostly doctors, university lecturers, nurses, technicians and engineers, have migrated to Europe and North America. This constitutes an invisible nation as populous as countries like Senegal, Libya, Somalia or Mali. It was reported a few years ago, that there are about 700 Sierra Leonean doctors in the Chicago and Illinois areas while the country itself cannot boast of 700 doctors. Indeed, one sector that has suffered tremendously from the Brain Drain is the health sector and this becomes more apparent with the large number of African doctors, nurses and pharmacists etc working in the American and British health industry. Currently, African emigrants to the United States contribute 40 times more wealth to America than to the African economy. The IMF estimates that the Africans in Diaspora could constitute the biggest group of foreign investors into Africa.
Realizing that a good percentage of these professionals are largely either Nigerians or South Africans, the two leaders of these most populous nations of Africa, former President Olusegun Obasanjo and President Thabo Mbeki, worried by the facts and figures of Africa’s brain drain problem, decided in 1999, to reverse the trend by encouraging technical cooperation amongst African Countries using African experts.
The Directorate of Technical Cooperation in Africa (DTCA) was established in 2001 under the supervision of the then Ministry of Cooperation and Integration in recognition of the fact that technical cooperation is a powerful instrument of regional economic integration in the 21st century.
DTCA’s programmes are focused to attract African experts to enhance Africa’s development. This is aimed at creating the enabling environment and opportunity for professionals in Africa and indeed those of African descent to invest their immense intellect, expertise and skills into the economies of mother Africa. It is therefore believed that:
- African professionals will be motivated even on short term basis, to choose any country in Africa in which they may invest their expertise;
- African professionals, in the process of doing (a) above, will utilize their various expertise and technology to promote development of Africa’s national economies;
- African professionals will utilize their various areas of comparative national advantages in terms of expertise, to improve their respective national economies;
- Through the activities of the DTCA, Africa would be able to raise professionals both in Africa and those in Diaspora as volunteers to contribute their skills and expertise to the African economy. So far, interactions with a good number of these professionals in Diaspora indicate that this is one programme they are eager to actualize in order that they may make their contributions to nation-building, being unable to yet, return home to Africa;
- That the process of engaging African experts in Diaspora will also begin a process of confidence building in Africa and in Nigeria in particular, especially as Africa of today needs concerted effort at reconstructing her values and economy;
- The huge sums in foreign currencies being spent in the engagement of foreign consultants, will on the long run be saved for national development;
- Given its role as leader in Africa, Nigeria will be able to advance continental cooperation and integration through the mechanism of technical assistance that is indeed the underlying factor for establishing the Directorate;
- Many African countries readily have need for human resources, including those being wasted in the name of retirement, who though retired are not tired. This group of people will also be effectively engaged.
Through the programme of technical assistance in Africa, better cooperation with member African countries will be enhanced, thus enabling Africa to realize and properly channel her foreign policies to the advantage of the African continent through cooperation and integration.