The Brain-Drain Panic Returns

NEW YORK – While developed countries are angst-ridden over mostly illegal immigration by unskilled workers from developing countries, a different set of concerns has surfaced in Africa, in particular, over the legal outflow of skilled, and even more importantly, highly skilled, people to developed countries. This outflow is supposedly a new and damaging “brain drain,” with rich countries actively luring away needed skills from poor countries.

This fear is misplaced. At the outset, we have to distinguish between “need” and “demand.” Yes, many African countries need skills. But they are unable to absorb them, owing to several factors associated with economic backwardness.