In Africa, many of the continent’s economic powerhouses, countries such as Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa, are now witnessing unprecedented brain gains, fuelled largely by the returning diaspora keen to be a part of their countries’ success stories and economic growth. In South Africa, the Homecoming Revolution, an non-government organisation dedicated to engaging with diaspora in key developed countries and encouraging them to return home, has built up a network of more than 20,000 expatriates, while a recent survey commissioned by Reconnect Africa, an online business news portal aimed at Africans overseas, showed that one-third of African professionals currently working in the West see better opportunities for career progression in Africa.
The stories behind each country’s mass repatriation are varied, but a common driver is the realisation that ambitious young professionals can progress their careers far more rapidly back home than abroad. Many top young graduates leave already lucrative and promising careers in the West with the realisation that they can become CEOs of successful nascent companies and other organisations in their home countries by the time they reach 30.
Better prospects Across the Atlantic Ocean, Latin America’s prospects also appear to be brightening. The region’s largest country, Brazil, will come into the global spotlight over the next four years when it hosts the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and then the 2016 Olympic Games. The staging of these two world-class events are set to symbolise the broader energy and promise of what is now the world’s largest economy. In 2011, research conducted into top executive pay by the Association of Executive Search Consultants revealed that CEOs and directors of businesses based in Sao Paolo typically command higher salaries than their counterparts in New York, London, Singapore and Hong Kong. As such, talented Brazilians who once saw the traditional commercial centres of the US, Europe and Asia as their best routes to a prosperous career are now seriously reconsidering their options. East to West to East Previously, many talented workers came to take jobs in the UK and elsewhere in Western Europe for which they were overqualified – for example, stories of Polish graduates and even junior white-collar careers. The economic benefits of such brain gains are clear to see in many emerging markets. Renewed confidence among the Polish diaspora in the country’s economic prospects also appears to correlate with foreign investor confidence in the country; last year, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development predicted that Poland will be the leading FDI destination in the EU between 2011 and 2013. The prediction was based on the number of times a multinational company stated that Poland was a top FDI priority. Nurturing talent The same applies to Africa. While parts of the continent are displaying promising signs of economic development and talented workers continue to return in their droves, Africa’s overall FDI performance is yet to pick up. Inflows to Africa continued to decline in 2011, albeit at a slower rate than in 2010. One of the key challenges – and opportunities – facing countries such as Nigeria is to ensure that the entrepreneurialism and innovation being injected into the economy by returning expatriates becomes a catalyst for broader investment in education, research and innovation. This way such countries can capitalise not only on returning talent, but also on emerging home-grown talent.