Wole Soyinka: "Reversing Brain Drain is Key to Africa’s Development"

25/10/2010
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The first African to win the Nobel Prize in literature, Wole Soyinka, has said that the reversal of Africa’s brain drain is key to the continent’s development. The Nigerian literary icon and civic activist made the statement at the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group’s Sixteenth Eminent Speakers Programme on Monday, October 25, 2010, in Tunis while addressing AfDB staff, members of the diplomatic corps, media practitioners and development experts on the theme: “The Role of African Intellectuals in Africa’s Development”.

Prof. Soyinka regretted that the continent’s best and brightest had fled their homelands in search of greener pastures out of the continent. He also pointed out that it was necessary to get back some of these brains as many of them were effectively contributing to development efforts in other parts of the world.

He however cautioned that attracting Africa’s Diaspora back to the continent should be a well planned and deliberate action. He stressed that wooing Africa’s best and brightest back to the continent did not just imply providing good salaries, but also creating an enabling environment for the professionals to do their jobs.

Focusing on the lecture’s theme, Prof Soyinka questioned if it was really appropriate to carve out a specific role for the continent’s intellectuals. He stressed that Africa was in dire need of development and its intellectuals had a key role to play in the efforts.

He underscored that the human mind was the first developmental constituency and given that intellectuals were a factory of ideas, they could help expand the human mental horizon. He however stressed that intellectuals were not magicians, noting that genuine development could not be founded on lies and falsifications. Truth, he said, was key in the entire development equation, given that it impacts on vision. Africa’s future cannot be sustained on lies, he stressed.

He highlighted efforts made by African intellectuals within and in the Diaspora to ramp up the knowledge base for the continent’s development, stressing the need for such efforts to continue until prosperity, equity and peace were fully realized on the continent.

Speaking to the media shortly after his lecture, Prof. Soyinka underscored the role good governance plays in development. He pointed out that aid was a donation to the people and not to the leaders. He regretted the failure of some intellectuals who have had the opportunity to implement their vision, adding that though intellectuals were incubators of ideas, some of them had been the brains behind certain ideas that had brought untold hardship to their people.

He decried dictatorship, stressing that the subjugation of man by man was a crime against humanity.

The event, presided over by the AfDB President, Donald Kaberuka, provided an excellent platform for participants to ask questions and share experiences on a wide range of African development issues.

The AfDB Eminent Speakers’ Program was launched on March 2, 2006, and it is part of a framework to enhance the Bank’s visibility as a knowledge institution. It is designed as a platform on which African leaders and world renowned persons can share views on daunting development challenges facing the continent. While providing opportunities for Bank staff to interact with distinguished thought leaders and exchange ideas on how the continent’s development agenda can be achieved in the near term, eminent personalities can set out, through the program,  their visions for posterity; visions that may inspire current and future African leaders.