Urbanization - Our Version of Brain Drain and A Case for Devolution.

According to Forbes, 55% of America’s billion-dollar companies have an immigrant founder/CEO. Yes, Tesla, Apple, Google, and Uber are on that list.

Every year, students from all over the world move to American Universities, the prestigious Ivy League schools in search of education, world-class education that would improve their lives and their chances in the job market. Competitive advantage.

The thing that is most depressing for the home countries is, they send possibly their smartest brains to foreign nations with no guarantee of their return to apply what they have learned abroad to improve their home countries. Even as the world flattens with technology and access to resources, this move still does put the global northern countries at an advantage that tilts the scale when it comes to intellectual capacity. This in no way implies that those that are left behind do not make a significant intellectual contribution.

Rates of urbanization in countries or continents have long been celebrated as signs of development and economic growth. Every year, thousands of people move to urban areas and cities in search of education and jobs. Various villages and rural areas send their smartest brains mostly between the age of 18 and 25 to go study in the cities, where the more advanced learning institutions are, with no guarantee of return.

In Kenya, for example, the population of the capital city is seen to swell up within the age group of 20–30, an indication of a growth in students flocking the universities & colleges and in turn a great benefit to the Nairobi County in skilled labor after graduation.

While the devolved government system has tried to create some opportunities in the counties, most of these students rarely return to their home counties and this is also partly because of the larger job market and improved infrastructure within the city.

The obvious benefit of this can be seen in Nairobi’s economic growth and resource allocation since at any given time, Nairobi county has a great resource of labor and population growth; not just any labor but the top of the rural counties’ brain, during their most productive and innovative years.

Kiambu and Kajiado Counties are big beneficiaries of the brain drain due to their proximity to Nairobi County. A lot of the skilled young labor would prefer to live in Kiambu due to its affordability while at the same time closeness that affords them to work in Nairobi. The Thika Superhighway is an enhancing factor in this. This is also seen in the national data that shows that after Nairobi, Kiambu has a lower poverty rate compared to other counties. The establishment of shopping malls and gated communities in Kiambu, a good indicator of the middle-class populations, is also another good pointer.

Basically, the people make their money in Nairobi and spend it in Kiambu. The pyramid below shows how Kiambu’s population swells with the working population.

On the flip side, taking Kakamega County that has a good collection of national schools and top performers, the exodus is evident. The labor force and brains of the county make a major migration to the cities in search of education and jobs. This can be seen in the population age and gender distribution pyramid below:

Areas like these leave a population back home that is mostly only capable of unskilled labor and whose demand for development is low as demonstrated in their poverty rates that despite having the best schools, suffer the consequence of a search for better higher education.

In my opinion, counties need to start a drive of maintaining or attracting back their top students, since they will be the well trained and skilled labor that will bring forth development, innovation and demand for better and improved services & infrastructure at the grassroots.

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