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Saturday, November 20, 2010

The dilemma of Africans students living in North America or Europe

Every year, millions of young men and women from Africa, Asia and Latin America increasingly move to North America and Europe in order to further their education. For some, their parents expect them to return home and take care of the family business upon completion of the programs. For most, they contemplate the prospects of establishing themselves in their host countries since the latter offer them a better future. 

Staying abroad or Going home?


Currently, very few students from African countries are eager to return in their home countries even if they will shy away from admitting it. One can understand their dilemma: why would you return to an environment that is hostile to your personal development? No job prospects, bad economy, totalitarian governments, civil wars, high prevalence of AIDS, poverty to name a few obstacles as they cross the frontier. 

Therefore, studying abroad for students from the developing world may appear as both a personal investment and a sacrifice they chose to take to ensure a better future for themselves and their loved ones.

 Some critics argue that developing countries are currently experiencing a “drain of brains”; young Africans leave their home countries and never come back. Consequently, African nations are losing one of their most important capitals: human resources. 

Those in favor of young Africans’ immigration claim that the process will eventually be beneficial to African nations. These young adults will someday and somehow use their knowledge and skills to develop their countries.

Around the 1950s, a similar phenomenon took place in Africa during the colonial period. European colonial powers selected a handful of young people to study in their respective countries in order to prepare them to govern the colonies and later on, to be future leaders for their countries. 

The selected few, who received a formal European education, quickly constitute an elite group; their special social status in the colonies came with various privileges and benefits. Upon their return home, some of them use their European education to demand their people’s freedom and the movement of independence was created in Africa. 

Most African countries are virtually free from any sort of external influence. Therefore, the return of thousands foreign students educated in Europe and North America will technically have a positive impact in the development of their countries.

 If this statement may sound true for some Asian countries like China and India that have been sending thousands of its youth in the U.S., a strong reservation should be made for African nations. In fact, the young African nations are still struggling and/or battling to recover from their colonial past, recent civil wars or the devastating effects of diseases such as malaria and AIDS.

The other crucial question is whether North America and Europe should close their borders to young African students. Of course, not. No doubt, North America and Europe surely reap various socio-economic benefits from this immigration. 

However, the topic on benefits collected by North America and Europe is another discussion in itself and will not be addressed in this article. Certainly, the United Nations and numerous international organizations are investing millions of dollars and countless hours toward the development of Africa. 

However, I wonder whether young Africans studying and/or living abroad will chose to be involved in this revolutionary process: will they be willing to join the world in this battle against poverty in Africa or will they selfishly look the other way and let themselves be absorbed by the demands of life?