Drain, Gain and Waste – African Brains ::: #graphAfrica

We hear a lot about the waves of phenomenon happening to the African brain. The two biggest ones being the Gain and the Drain.

Brain Gain:

an increase in the number of highly trained, foreign-born professionals entering a country to live and work where greater opportunities are offered 

Brain Drain:

a loss of trained professional personnel to another company, nation, etc., that offers greater opportunity – NOT in Africa’s favor and sometimes turns into Brain Waste

A really good friend/neighbor of mine just passed her boards a few weeks back as an RN. She already had a job offer at one of the prestigious hospitals in Washington DC waiting for her and when she found out we celebrated by going to the Smithsonian folk life festival and having a gloriously therapeutic and relaxing walk almost all the way home from the National Mall. The only thing that needed to happen was for her to get a certain type of visa that would permit her TO work. Fast forward to this weekend and she was denied it. When she told me I asked what her options were and it seems of those available there is not enough time permitted for those things to first be done nor to guarantee her getting the visa. She texted me earlier today that she is leaving next Friday. I had to not respond to it in order to deal.

Later today, I came home and relaxed a bit, watched the sun set and had some quality solo-dolo time. On my way back to mine I stopped at her place to finally face what her text means and I almost cried when she opened the door because she was so cheerful and there were boxes strewn all over. Evidence of her impending departure. There were some other friends there and it turned out to be a really good hangout taking pictures for craigslist and figuring out what we are buying from her. More than anything there are so many opportunities waiting for her in the islands [admittedly more so simply because she’ll be an i-just-got-back] that she couldn’t even have imagined with her own previous plan. I left there having such a good feeling about her future I was almost envious.

I’m home now and I was thinking, what if ALL the BRAIN DRAIN and sometimes consequential waste from Africa was reversed voluntarily by Africans deciding to go back en masse or forcibly through a mass deportation?! The latter alternative is a little harsh I know, but hear me out. We spend so much time planning for opportunities and routines that our limited imaginations are capable of yet there is so much more out there in the world and sometimes life has a way of throwing us into the deep end where we realize we knew how to swim after all. In some of the places where some African’s can’t imagine living because they can choose not to, what is they were forced to go there and make things happen? How many people have the story of coming to America with $20 [or whatever paltry amount] in their back pocket and cleaning toilets and working fast food to make ends meet? If all those people with the skills and life experience they have since gained, what a dramatic impact they would have on the labor market in their respective countries or whatever other they chose? I like to think what a wonderful world it would be.





FINALLY read The Alchemist ::: #graphAfrica


The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I finally read it.

These are the parts I highlighted:

  1. “Treasure is uncovered by the force of flowing water, and it is buried by the same currents.”
  2. “If you start out by promising what you don’t even have yet, you’ll lose your desire to work toward getting it.”
  3. “The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world, and never to forget the drops of oil on the spoon.”
  4. “It’s called the principle of favorability, beginner’s luck. Because life wants you to achieve your Personal Legend,”
  5. “We have to take advantage when luck is on our side, and do as much to help it as it’s doing to help us.”
  6. “I’m afraid that if my dream is realized, I’ll have no reason to go on living.”
  7. “…every blessing ignored becomes a curse.”
  8. “How do I guess at the future? Based on the omens of the present. The secret is here in the present. If you pay attention to the present, you can improve upon it. And, if you improve on the present, what comes later will also be better.”
  9. “Every day was there to be lived or to mark one’s departure from this world.”
  10. “Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure.”
  11. “Men dream more about coming home than about leaving.”
  12. “They were seeking the treasure of their Personal Legend, without wanting actually to live out the Personal Legend.”
  13. “Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.”
  14. “Later, we simply let life proceed, in its own direction, toward its own fate. But, unfortunately, very few follow the path laid out for them – the path to their Personal Legends, and to happiness.”
  15. “When you possess great treasures within you, and try to tell others of them, seldom are you believed.”
  16. “And anyone who interferes with the Personal Legend of another being never will discover his own.”
  17. “Everything that happens once can never happen again. But everything that happened twice will surely happen a third time.”


My spirit and my soul came together, bowed their heads and said Amen. My heart watched me read what it has been trying to tell me all along. Am I just a shepherd minding my sheep because it’s what I’m doing now and good at or am I somehow on my path to my reserved treasure – my Personal Legend?


I know THE whole world has read this book and for all the books I’ve read, this one is deserving of all the praise. To say this is a good book is simple yes, but enough. It is. Like faith, no one can convince another into faith because it’s something that happens to us. I’ve seen this book too many times in too many places. That treasure which, for some reason, I never picked up. Maybe I wasn’t ready. I don’t know if I was now. I’m grateful for it either way.





Bright Ideas like Bright’s (GH) ::: #graphAfrica

Picking a theme to go with and challenging oneself to write on it every single day for a month is…challenging! What with said writing needing to happen between a demanding day job and the body and mind’s demand for rest.

I decided to start #graphAfrica on July 1st and today on the 9th, this is my 6th post :/ …. I really struggled on the long 4th of July weekend as I was hardly home. I’ll make up for it though. One simply does not call oneself a writer/blogger if they do not do it now do they?

In quick review look up the “afropolitaine” and “graphAfrica” and enjoy yourself. Thank you for reading and I’ll keep them coming. I haven’t been feeling well for the last 3 days and am basically functional because of an unrecommendable amount of Advil which brings me to what I’d like to briefly spotlight today.

Bright Simons is a Ghanaian (based there) social innovator who developed an sms based program/app called mpedigree to detect counterfeit drugs in circulation around the continent at the point of purchase. Many of you may have heard of him already as I have, but I’m finally getting to write about him. His invention/innovation was addressing the problem of fake/expired medication in circulation and the resulting drug resistance that strains of several conditions/diseases, especially malaria, were developing. In essence some of these pills, even according to conservative estimates, were killing 1000s of people.

From being a western educated astrophysicist who left that to study and work with refugees, at some point Simons decided to return home to do something PRACTICAL.

“I realized I needed to become an entrepreneur. And I had no money. So I needed to find an area where I could make an impact without a lot of money. And that is where technology came in.”

What I like and find highly motivating here is that money was not the motivation and the absence of it did not stop his practical and useful idea from coming to fruition. By sending a simple text message containing the code on medication/pills, one can find out if it’s real or not. In turn, manufactures protect themselves and their product by being able to determine if a shipment has been compromised.

His idea was adopted the first from the continent to demonstrate south south knowledge exchange. Not only is it used in 6 African countries (east and west), but also in India and Bangladesh. It’s so simple and easily transferable and requires very little to operate and be successful. You don’t even need a smart phone (don’t get me started on how smart phones are anything but) and it can be applied to so many other unregulated industries. In the absence of visible and active government agencies like FDA (US Food and Drug Administration), perhaps more low capital and cutting edge ideas like mpedigree can fill that gap.

Come to think of it, mpedigree would be a great idea even here in the US to simplify or completely replace antiquated institutions and the bureaucracy therein when it comes to authentication/classification/verification of goods and even services. That would be too easy now wouldn’t it?! This is a country that prefers inches and feet to centimeters and meters, calls football soccer and sells “real” orange juice with no pulp.

I digress.

Literally #graphAfrica ::: Data Don’t Lie, but It’s Biased

In reviewing a lot of data [completely unrelated to Africa or even international relations] lately I was thinking about some of the alarming and inspiring statistics we hear about ourselves as Africans. Whether in the days of the dark continent or now of the Africa Rising narrative or paradigm shift, where does the information driving this come from? We hear numbers that, depending on who we are and our interests are actionable. Take for example that Angola’s life expectancy at birth is at 51 in 2013 from 48 in 2004 compared to the rest of sub-Saharan Africa of 56 from 52 (World Health Organization). Who collected the data and why assuming it was collected so something could be done or because something was being done to affect that number? After the data was collected who decided what those numbers meant?

How can we be in control of our development and positive or negative indicators to be able to do something about the lists of things on Africa’s to-do list if we haven’t measured for ourselves what is lacking or doing well?
Most of the numbers used to indicate a positive change or regression are collected by NGOs who specialize in addressing a specific topic. In other countries there are visible govt agencies aggregating the data whether routine or nonroutine. The most notable for every single person being the Census Bureau. The layers of raw data they collect is analyzed and turned into information that in turn informs the decisions made in employment, housing, education, health etc etc.
Who is doing this in Africa? Yes there are international NGOs and more importantly local ones who do manage to collect some data, BUT their capacity is limited. Funding drives what is measured and by whom and why.
Anyway, whoever they are collected by – numbers don’t lie! Based on the numbers available that indicate development gaps, let’s turn that into information that informs action! Maybe through measurable action on our parts as Africans we’ll be able to make enough progress to eventually collect our own.

“When is 4th of July in Africa”? ::: #graphAfrica

The title of this post is a real question that has been asked in real life. Real talk. Really. The easy answer, or in someone’s dry sense of humor, is that 4th of July in Africa falls on 4th of July as it does in any other continent/country. The people who ask this kind of question are the same as the ones who ask if you speak African and don’t know Africa is a continent with more countries than America has states. That’s ok though because I learnt a long time ago if I wanted to live long on this earth with low blood pressure levels that those people couldn’t anger me. They exist and most times the reason they ask questions like that isn’t their own fault. I don’t blame them. There are systems and institutions that come together to shape what information we not only have access to, but we end up giving a damn about. These shapers go back generations and are really hard to undo and unlearn.




So I was asking myself if there is in fact a holiday that is celebrated continent wide in Africa and the closest is Africa Day on May 25. It marks the founding of the Organization of African Unity in 1963 when 30 Independent African nations signed on in Addis Ababa. So yes it is a continent wide holiday, but it’s only observed by about 5 countries – Zimbabwe is one of them. Growing up in Zimbabwe I don’t remember ever celebrating it though.  Even though we are a relatively young “country” – independence was gained in 1980, Mugabe is the kind of African visionary who would ensure its observance.


In short we do not have a 4th of July, we have May 25! HOWEVER, given the non-unity within and across borders, perhaps the OAU has a long way to go. What with new countries forming, old ones falling apart and others just lingering in non-progressive obscurity.


Not yet UHURU!