The African continent is not taking full advantage of remittances as a source of funding.   This is according to Executive Secretary at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, Dr. Carlos Lopez, who spoke at the 27th African Union Summit in Kigali, Rwanda.

The continent’s skills gap has been exacerbated by brain drain and a recent United Nations report revealed that one in every six university graduates left their country of origin.

Dr Lopez did not think the brain drain could be stopped, unless economies were transformed. On the other hand, Africa could take advantage of educated migrants going outside the continent.

“[Migrants] have been contributing a lot in terms of remittances, so much so that right now remittances are surpassing, by far, official development assistance and even foreign direct investment,” the doctor said, adding that the amount was over 4 per cent of the continent’s combined GDP.

“We have to create the conditions for them to stay and for that it is necessary to look into the broader picture which is transformation because a lot of these graduates are not finding opportunities appealing enough in their countries of origin, so they migrate.”

                                                                                                                            “There are countries that are very cautious of the effect the remittances have in their macro-economics and they have very proactive policies to try to mobilise productive activities. But many do not and so you have a use of remittances that is very diverse depending on the countries and I must say that most of the African countries are not really taking advantage of this source of funding,” he said.

Migration patterns

Approximately 250 million people live outside of their countries of origin with about 8.5 per cent of them being from the African continent.  The numbers from Africa are not that significant in relation to countries like China.

“Normally migration has nothing to do with growth, ” said Lopez, adding that Africans have accelerated the pace of migration into countries with a deficit, which was amplified by an aging population.

“It’s a normal trend everywhere in the world and also, historically, when you have a specific country with a certain standard of living and quality of life, it attracts people who see opportunities here while they may not find jobs in their own countries.”

He said the reasons why the majority of African migrants moved to other African countries were beyond ambition, and often driven by conflict and terrorism.

“So we really have to master the conflict in such a way that the reason that people migrate is just about ambition and nothing else,” he concluded.

CNBC Africa