Brain drain: can Kenya reverse it?

Many experts in economic development and education have lamented the impact of the brain drain on the country’s economic prospects. Many cite the brain drain as one reason for the country’s slow economic progress. In the past two decades or so, large numbers of Kenyan professionals and students have left the country in search of greener pastures. While many of them hope to return, few actually return. In an increasingly globalized world, the war for talent is getting tougher. Professionals have now become the new mobile capital and, in fact, human capital is more beneficial to a country than real money itself. As the late management theorist Peter F. Drucker pointed out, this is the age of the knowledge worker. Knowledge workers are expected to be on the frontier of economic development in this age of the knowledge economy. Therefore, in a way, many experts’ calls for these brains to return home may be correct.

The brain drain begins on Form Four when students are taking their KCSE exams. In fact, many of the best students give a wide margin to our own universities. This is partly due to the deterioration in the quality of education in many of our universities and partly because they have to wait at least two years before they can enroll in college. , have already taken the SAT and TOEFL exams. KCSE is simply a test of formality and an alternative position in case they are not admitted to any of the best universities in the US Top students from Alliance, Mang’u, Starehe, Narobi School, Precious Blood, among others , have already set their sights on studying at some of the most prestigious universities in the world. In fact, the trend is just as common in some of the best schools that in a school like Alliance High School, for example, the class that was indexed one to thirty is exclusively marked as the Harvard class.

Other major schools have similar trends, although to a lesser extent. It’s also worth noting that since KCSE’s inception in 1989, all of the top KCSE students have received full scholarships to some of the most prestigious universities in the world. The only exception was Paul Bundi from kenyakine High School in 2002 and Dickens Omanga from Friends school kamusinga in 2006. Perhaps the only reason the two students never went to one of the best colleges in the USA is that they came from of the lesser known schools and therefore were not adequately equipped with information on how to apply for the scholarships. Some of the current students at top universities include John Kandie Rotich, formerly of Moi High School kabarak, top student in 2005 and currently at MIT, Alliance alumnus Antony Mabonga, currently at Harvard College, John Kimani formerly in Nairobi School and currently at Harvard and Anne wanjiku Mungai formerly of the beautiful Blood Girls Riruta and currently at Harvard. So it’s easy to see that it will be extremely difficult to keep those brains at home.

The other big brain drain concerns professionals. This is a particularly serious problem that is not unique to Kenya alone. This is a problem that manifests itself in most of sub-Saharan Africa. For example, according to estimates, there are more Malawian doctors in the UK than in Malawi.

One reason that has been cited for such brain loss is poor working conditions and wages in the country. Conditions in many hospitals are indeed dire, and sometimes it is difficult to rely solely on patriotism to keep doctors in the hospital. Meritocracy must also be maintained, as it is not uncommon to find that the person supervising you has less credentials than you.

Perhaps the global financial crisis is providing a respite, as some of the brains have begun to return home. For example, James Mwangi, after a stint on Wall Street, is now back in the country as CEO of DALBERG. Another returnee is Mr. Edward Macharia, with a degree in Biology from Amherst University who has also returned to take up a position with a non-profit company. He had previously worked for the Clinton Global Initiative Fund.