Is the Algerian brain-drain really decreasing?

The Algerian minister of higher education and scientific research, Mr. Rachid Haraoubia, proudly announced yesterday that 100% of the Algerian students and university teachers who received a state sponsorship during the past five years have returned to Algeria at the end of their studies.
He unfortunately didn’t give any details on these  people. What specialities they followed, how long they stayed abroad, etc.? But I believe most of them were university teachers as this has been the trend for the past years. And this might explain the high (perfect) return rate.

Bouteflika decided in 2005 to stop sponsoring the top Algerian students in the baccalaureate exams since only a tiny minority returned home after they graduated. These students were indeed sent to the UK, France and Tunisia with annual costs going up to £20k/year/student in the UK. The laureates are now directed to the newly created Preparatory Classes for the National High Schools (a copy of the famous French CPGE) where they prepare admission exams to the transformed National High Schools. This system does also exist in Tunisia and Morocco with the difference that the Moroccan and Tunisian students are allowed to take the French High Schools exams.

The ministry still sponsors some graduate students to prepare PhDs, and these also rarely go home after they get their diplomas. Signing a binding contract didn’t change the situation, which pushed some officials to consider the Egyptian and Syrian examples: use the families’ properties as mortgages. But this was never implemented.
There are also more and more students who decide to pursue their education abroad and use those own financial means. And most of them don’t go back to Algeria either. I know of sponsored and non-sponsored PhD holding people who rather work in restaurants or as taxi drivers in Canada than teach in the Algerian universities. I must say this is something I don’t get.

The brain-drain is not only an academic phenomenon. Many highly skilled professionals leave Algeria for a better life abroad. We can mention the engineers working with Sonatrach who move to multinationals working in Algeria before leaving to the US or the Gulf, or take the opportunity of a training in Houston to stay there. The same goes for Air Algerie’s crews (pilots and stewards alike) or some of the Telecom engineers who don’t go back to their jobs after training periods in Europe or Asia. And the Algerian medics’ situation  in France is telling: they prefer to stay there despite the French medical system which is unfair to foreigners.

Reports say that the Algerian university has lost around 40000 teachers and researchers during the 90s and it’s clear that Algeria must encourage the Algerian doctors abroad to go back and teach in the university. This should be relatively feasible especially with the young ones who face unemployment abroad or keep moving from a post-doc to another. The ministry should improve the way it deals with the “equivalence” and reduce the applications processing times.

Regarding the other categories, I am not convinced that Algeria must try to get them back at any cost. Priority must be given to those who are in Algeria so that no more would leave the country. Providing decent jobs and pays, and encouraging creativity and entrepreneurship are some of the many serious actions the Algerian authorities must do.
Those abroad will be more useful in a collaboration relationship, like we already see with some associations such as the ACA or REAGE.

The examples above show that the few hundreds who returned are far from changing the trend. And bigger efforts are necessary to convince the Algerians in Algeria that a decent and happy life is possible in the country.

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4 thoughts on “Is the Algerian brain-drain really decreasing?

  1. So nobody comes and talks to me about the mythical algerian NIF again please.

    The only change we need is a change of the entire population.

  2. Changing the population would be a solution were it realistic. But thinking that the situation will improve thanks to the Algerians (xxxxo-Algerians) abroad is stupid. The people in Algeria are the only ones who can change things.

    • From my understanding of the Algeria market, in order for candidates to be successful they still require local knowledge of how business is conducted, an understanding of the culture & language, and a face that fits. In addition, to be suitable for multinational global clients, they need an international perspective with preferably experience outside the region. Therefore, the best fit are usually Algerians outside the country today (or in the past) who have not lost their network and links. As Algeria has in essence been a closed market, they has been a definite lack of developing local talent, e.g., sending high potentials abroad for expatriate assignments by both local Algerian and multinational companies based in Algeria. Therefore, today a gap exists, but I am please to comment that this gap is closing but still is a long way from being complete.

  3. To be straight forward in answering the question as per the main title, Algeria brain drain is not cutting down at all, it’s rather increasing as pointed out in the main article, but equally what is true is that R&D budget has been increased recently and this is a good step forward which sensibly reflects a recent commitment of Algerian officials. But, this is only part of the key issues. Objectively amongst the main concerns remains in how to spend effectively this money in the right place to outfit Algerian R&D actual demands. Moreover a substantial contribution from Algerian industries is more than necessary, to build up an objective industry-university partnership. And seduce Algerian expatriate to return back to their homeland and take part into building Algerian R&D structure, by bring up their expertise and skills gained in the western countries. And YES Algeria has certainly taken the right decision towards the right direction. But, according the recent statistics figures of Algeria brain drain, we are still only at the very beginning of the right tunnel. Hopefully thing are getting better.

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