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The Challenge Of The Youth Bulge In Africa And The Middle East 

Migration And The Brain Drain

Surely one of the greatest challenges emanating from the African continent today is how to ensure that the burgeoning youth population, or "Youth Bulge", can be directed towards becoming positive demographic dividends. The alternative, that such an explosion in the youth population caused by countries achieving reduced infant mortality while maintaining high birth rates, might worsen the socio-economic environment and even lead to radicalisation and violence, which is a scenario most would agree is to be avoided with the utmost of effort. For this reason, the NSD-S Hub embarked on a tri-paper project tackling three fundamental aspects of the Youth Bulge.

This paper deals with indisputable fact that a Youth Bulge exacerbates the issues of migration and the brain drain, as unemployment threatens African youth and rampant poverty and inequalities still cloud the perspectives of those living where sound structural change has yet to take place. The lack of good quality job opportunities represents a severe challenge for Africa and the Middle East and, since many states fail to absorb the increasingly large youth population, more and more young people are resorting to migrating abroad permanently, since intra-Africa migration is often hindered by regional regulations on worker mobility. As many young people migrate towards Europe and America in search of better prospects, the "brain drain", namely the migration of engineers, physicians, scientists and other very highly skilled and educated professionals, becomes a particularly compelling issue.

While on the one hand, this greatly damages origin countries by removing the very people who could most help stimulate economic growth from local productive capacities, on the other hand destination countries rarely pay for the cost of training of the workforce they recruit and also offer subpar work contracts and conditions to those joining them. This imbalance hampers structural change and stunts economic development. It is, however, mitigated by the fact that diaspora communities regularly send home parts of their remuneration and acquire new skills while abroad, both of which have the potential to enrich origin country value chains.

Against this background, this report was jointly produced with Ms. Amal El Ouassif of The Policy Center for the New South (PCNS) and identifies three feasible strategies to tackle this phenomenon. While mandatory service in sensitive sectors is a viable option to deter early migration, networks for knowledge transfer and investment facilitation schemes should foster diaspora contributions to origin economies. Also, investments from donors should aim at job creation and labour productivity, thus facilitating the repatriation of those who have emigrated by fostering employment and increasing wages back home. Finally, in the cases of extreme brain drain, systems of quota for selective migration could be jointly considered by origin and destination countries.


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