For many years we have talked about the need to have a critical mass of well trained professionals to run certain aspects of the government/ economy if Africa has to realize any meaningful development. The talk is so rife that to demonstrate our seriousness, there is always a session in most conferences where organizations showcase what they have done in capacity development. No one can quarrel with that. The only problem is that the equation just does not balance. These same organizations extract more professionals from Africa than they train. Some only extract and do not even train. Many African governments are struggling to educate their people, but then find it difficult to retain their top performers just because these are marketable elsewhere, and the level of remuneration at home just cannot compete with what they get offered in the more developed parts of the world. Whereas patriotism is good, it is no good if it does not put food on the table.

Yes, I feel proud when I see my own Africans in international jobs because I say to myself: Grey matter is grey matter; it does not matter where it came from. In fact grey matter can be found in some of the very remote areas of the world, parts of Africa included, where there are no roads, there is no electricity; and a supply of modern healthcare and clean water are not assured. In Kenya I have taught students at the University who have come from secondary schools I have not heard of before (yet I consider myself a very well informed Kenyan). Kenya’s examination system as in many African countries is extremely competitive in that less than 10% of those who score minimum university entry actually get space in the public university system. I cannot make excuses for our government here; I have no reason to. Many times it is due to lack of planning and poor management that the country cannot accommodate more in the more affordable public education sector (especially at the tertiary level), that many well qualified professionals including doctors cannot be absorbed immediately by the system and that even when they get absorbed, they ask themselves: so what was I going to school for? Or “ what was the good brain all about?” At the continental level, we must continue to strive for better remuneration and more balanced salary structures that do not abuse and make a mockery of the good brains Africa has and of the heavy investment in education our countries, communities and parents have made.

I can tell you that one of the areas I addressed during my time in the Kenyan Parliament was salary harmonization and work incentives alignment; I was not very popular for that. This was in the realization then which is even more so now, that Kenya is one of the most unequal societies in the world. The widening gap between the haves and have-nots is a major worry as it depicts a form of injustice that is inexcusable. Recent data have revealed andexistence of the disparity in the private sector as well where corporate executives earn more than 400% than the next person in the hierarchy.

Let me now turn to the international community. As far as I know, there have been great and noble efforts over the years to train high skilled African professionals in the hope that they could then go back home to help develop the continent. There are many cases where this has worked but there are also far too many where it has not. We appear to be going backward on capacity development. More resources need to go towards capacity development and it would help if such efforts included the revamping of facilities in our institutions of higher learning and public research centres. Many of these institutions were well equipped at independence or at first construction but now the facilities are run down and could benefit from face lifting support.

So what is the message in this editorial? We need to step up capacity building in all its forms. This is only possible through partnerships. With child malnutrition and related deaths on the increase, serious efforts need to go towards training and skills development and transfer. We have known for a long time that investing in wowen and girl education is investing in child survival. What serious well resourced programs have been put in place as a response to this? But then it is also important to get fathers to take up their responsibilities in child upbringing and general family care. In Kenya, we are experiencing an upsurge in maternal deaths and one in every five children born is unlikely to live past 5 years. Such statistics are unacceptable, to say the least. If only we can imagine hunger pangs in a child, and what a mother feels when she loses a child and the devastation for a family which loses a mother at child delivery, sometimes with the baby and sometimes leaving a young infant? It is important that we step us advocacy for the CHILD and for maternal survival. Surely this would go a long time way towards strengthening family health and social stability. Surely these are basic requirements for development of any country. Again as pointed out in the previous editorial, partnerships are required to step up capacity development to save mothers and children.

Ruth Oniang’o
Editor-in-Chief, AJFAND

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