May Kosba discusses brain escape from Egypt with Jakob I. Myschetzky
Between belonging and letting go, only a fine line, separates a man who leaves his country in pursuit of a successful career, and a man who flees, thinking, he abandoned a world doomed to live decades on a galaxy of the unknown. The common factors between both individuals might be “escaping” reality and the opportunities landed. Opportunity a word inspires controversy and endless debates, whether or not, opportunity is created or found or fought for or hunted. The sound of it invites unfolding sense of hope for; success, money, power, dreams and achievements, and so on. Opportunity is limitless and is no citizen of a certain land, yet it remains the child of bigger opportunities, growth or death is only determined in what climate opportunity is nurtured or squashed.
Scarcity of opportunities, a false statement often heard and read, it is rather a delusion invented to create an epidemic of unemployment functions as a living ghost around the country for decades. As much as it is combated by the Egyptian government, the latter persists to revert rapid growth of the population as the source of the problem, and therefore, the solutions provided are inefficient for casting out the knowledgeable elites. It is the lack of creativity in filling in the cracks that result in a chronic rising tendency to escape, not to mention a nation increasingly submerge in ignorance beyond decades of standing as a knowledge lighthouse.
Before Egypt became a republic, belonging to one’s land was part of the Egyptian’s honor. For all the right reasons “pack and leave” easily and smoothly called for among modern-day Egyptians, especially the youth. They seem to believe less in Egypt and expect more of the outer world. Migrating has become prevalent among many categories in Egypt despite the challenges and ordeals of those whose immigration attempts fail to pay off.
In an overpopulated country, breeding capitalism, perhaps losing a few thousands of average or less than average Egyptians seeking opportunities won’t hurt, inspite of how ugly this maybe. Yet when a country has its bright minds “draining” its where development and reform are hit at the core.
After all, “brain drain” might come across too extraterrestrial to the majority and too impractical to control for the rest. Despite, the broadness and heaviness of the issue, it is scarcely addressed, but only by few Egyptian scholars and articles.
“Migrating Minds” a research study conducted by Jakob I. Myschetzky, founder and managing director of Inklusion Danish NGO & former researcher in AUC. His research studies why highly skilled migrants escape Egypt. He says “Brain drain signifies an exterior factor is draining a country’s brain power” while “brain escape is being pushed out of the country for domestic issues” the latter is what seems to prevail and cripple development. Myschetzky believes that “brain escape in Egypt is qualitative rather than quantitative for well-educated migrants holding international certificates, coming from wealthy background, speaking different languages have the potential to go abroad and make a living.”
Without a serious harp on past its worth mentioning that the image is to a great extent reversed. Egyptians firmly believe, Mohammed Ali Pasha stands as the authentic founder of modern Egypt. He was concerned with economic and military growth for a stronger country and thus invited foreign experts from Europe (Italy and France) to benefit from their expertise and help develop the country. Later, he sent missionaries 1809 to Europe to study, perfectly selected candidates representing Egypt in a series of education missions, nearly all to Paris. He created a huge translation movement, whereas students delegated to learn French language and western techniques so that on their return they could translate important texts into Turkish and Arabic and take part in teaching in schools (such as the Alsun school). This was to serve reform schemes for the long term.
Additionally, Myschetzky assures “highly skilled migration (escape) is quite interesting for two reasons, first: long time ago, Egypt was the first country in history to establish an actual policy to attract foreign talents and geniuses in order to create growth, second: compared to other countries in the region Egypt has a large share of highly educated people with enormous potential for development in Egypt.”
Unemployment mounting pressure
For so long, population explosion card has been waved as an obstacle to development and a major reason for unemployment. A reality can not be escaped, however, cleverly benefitted from, for many are allowed to escape to ease the pressure and leave a room to breathe. Breathing means unemployment is chronic but hopefulness is possible. Myschetzky adds, “Egypt has for many years encouraged immigration of all kinds in order to ease the pressured labor market, however, skills are not considered high on the agenda when encouraging people to leave in order to ease unemployment.” He continues “Some countries, like the Philippines, have special policies for ‘brain export’. They educate more doctors and nurses than they need and these are recruited abroad. It has been calculated that the money they send back to their families supersede the investments in education. As a strategy for Egypt however this raises questions of the quality of education, and whether the standard is internationally applicable.”
But do we really want to question the quality of education or shall we rather investigate if Egyptians abroad can participate to development. The Lebanese education system like many other in the Mideast, the size of the actual population is round three and a half million and the approximate size of Lebanese diaspora ranges between 4-5 million. It is however, overwhelmingly pleasant to hear a regular Lebanese citizen boast about how the diaspora population manages to keep this country going. Are Egyptian diasporas interested in participating in development? “Egyptians abroad are very eager to participate to the development of their home country in case schemes of ‘circular migration’; knowledge sharing, efforts and other measures are developed, migrating minds could participate to generating jobs in Egypt for the long run.” Jakob adds.
Amidst the global brain escape phenomena, Jakob points at the global brain battle – “the search for talents is global and there is a risk that developing countries will lose in the knowledge based economy if focus is not increased on how to compete and engage their talents in generating growth.”
Finally, as many may be eagerly questioning what would possibly bring “bright people” home? Jakob’s final note “Egyptians are characterized by a very strong passion for their home country, the Oum El Dounia, and while many are already engaged in bringing back knowledge and development, improved conditions for returnees could potentially accelerate this process. Today it is possible to live a mobile life and use technology to be active in different places simultaneously, whereas thoughts of ‘returning the knowledge, not the person’ could also generate positive impact.”