The Ghanaian Brain Drain: The Highest in Africa?

Ghana is primarily a country of out-migration than in-migration. Nigeria used to be the destination country for Ghanaian migrants until the 1980’s. 71% of Ghanaian migrants will stay within West Africa. Ghanaian migrants can be found in more than 33 countries around the world. Ghanaian emigrant population ranges from 1.5 million to 3 million globally. After West African countries, the most important countries of destination for Ghanaian emigrants are the United States (7.3%) and the United Kingdom (5.9%).

The Bank of Ghana estimates that remittances to Ghana increased from USD 479 million in 1999 to USD 1.5 billion in 2005. Remittances to Ghana by professional skilled migrants in the UK were estimated at between USD 1,000 and USD 14,000 per annum. Remittances affect Ghana mainly through investment in housing, and indirectly through the spill-over effects on a large number of other businesses, such as restaurants, and other hospitality services, such as those for funerals.

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The bulk of remittances are mainly allocated for private consumption purposes and recurrent expenditure, such as living expenses, school fees, hospital bills, marriage, funerals, repayment of debts and repayment of cost for migrating abroad, and other social activities, such as the financing of community-level projects. Between 17 per cent and 25 per cent of remittances is used for small businesses, housing development, and other investment purposes. The extent of the impact of remittances on poverty reduction is unclear, as remittances do not necessarily go to the poorest population.

The Bank of Ghana estimates that remittances to Ghana increased from USD 479 million in 1999 to USD 1.5 billion in 2005. Remittances to Ghana by professional skilled migrants in the UK were estimated at between USD 1,000 and USD 14,000 per annum. Remittances affect Ghana mainly through investment in housing, and indirectly through the spill-over effects on a large number of other businesses, such as restaurants, and other hospitality services, such as those for funerals.

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The bulk of remittances are mainly allocated for private consumption purposes and recurrent expenditure, such as living expenses, school fees, hospital bills, marriage, funerals, repayment of debts and repayment of cost for migrating abroad, and other social activities, such as the financing of community-level projects. Between 17 per cent and 25 per cent of remittances is used for small businesses, housing development, and other investment purposes. The extent of the impact of remittances on poverty reduction is unclear, as remittances do not necessarily go to the poorest population.

Ghana is ranked as the African country with the largest cumulative loss. Lack of career development and poor working conditions seem to be important motivations for the highly skilled to migrate. At 46% , Ghana has the highest emigration rates for the highly skilled in Western Africa. The medical professions are particularly affected by emigration. 56% of doctors and 24% of nurses trained in Ghana are now working abroad.

Over 60% of faculty positions at polytechnics and 40% of those in public universities are vacant. 33.8% of emigrants from Ghana living in  OECD countries possessed medium skills, while 27.6% had high skills. 8% of Ghanaian university students studied abroad in 2006. In 2000, it was estimated that only 49% of the needed workforce in the health sector was available. Hospitals and other institutions of higher learning are struggling hard to retain staff, partly due to emigration. The pressure to migrate may increase unless employment opportunities for young labour market entrants improve. Ghana’s missions abroad have been tasked to devise strategies to mobilize the Ghanaian Diaspora and their resources for national development.

The proportion of  Ghanaians among persons who arrived in Ghana from 2000 to 2007 steadily increased from 18.6 per cent to 34.6 per cent. Among countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Ghana has been proactive in highlighting the key role that the Ghanaian Diaspora plays in national development. Through IOM’s Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration Programme (AVRRP), a total of 762 Ghanaian emigrants have been assisted to return home between 2002 and 2008. The main goal of AVRR is to enable returnees to regain a source of sustainable livelihood and thereby discourage any further irregular migration from Ghana. Business advice to enable them reintegrate into their communities.

There are some efforts to encourage both the Ghanaian and African-American diasporas to return to Ghana and contribute to development. The Migration for Development in Africa (MIDA) Ghana Health project enables Ghanaian and African health professionals residing in the Netherlands or other European countries to contribute to the health sector of Ghana by returning for up to three months to provide health services including clinical and surgical procedures in various hospitals and clinics.

What does all this mean to the development of Ghana?

Why should there be a sustainable return of Ghanaian migrants?

What does the future look like?

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