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Labour | Society

Cameroon hit hard by brain drain

afrol News, 16 March - Cameroonian emigrants stream into neighbouring Gulf of Guinea countries, Europe and the US, mostly representing the country's most educated citizens. Far more Cameroonian medics now work abroad than in Cameroon.

A migration profile of Cameroon released today by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) shows that current migration flows continue to be mostly internal from the countryside to the cities, with increasing numbers of skilled and unskilled Cameroonians emigrating to neighbouring countries and beyond to Europe and to the United States.

According to the report, Cameroonian emigrants were estimated to number 170,363 in 2007. France, with 38,530 migrants, remains a preferred destination, followed by Gabon (30,216), Nigeria (16,980) and the United States (12,835).

Cameroon's Ministry of External Relations estimates that up to 300,000 Cameroonians lived in the Gulf of Guinea states between 2000 and 2004, essentially because they belong to the same ethnic groups and geographical area, but also because immigration is mostly unbureaucratic in neighbour countries.

"Migration from Cameroon continues to contribute to the brain drain," the IOM report warns. According to the Organisation for Economic C-operation and Development (OSCE), 42.3 percent of the 57,050 Cameroonians working in Europe are highly qualified.

According to the Cameroon Medical Association, 4,200 Cameroonian doctors, mostly specialists, are working abroad. Only 800 - that is 1 for 10,000 to 20,000 inhabitants - are left in the cities, with 1 for 40,000 to 50,000 practising in the rural areas.

The study notes that the majority are long-term migrants, with 40 percent residing in their country of emigration for ten years or more and 16 percent for a period of between five to ten years.

But also Cameroon is destination for skilled and unskilled immigrants from neighbour countries. The IOM study underlines "the fact that Cameroon's political stability and socio-economic potential remains relatively attractive to migrants from neighbouring countries, such as the Central African Republic, Chad, Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria."

Meanwhile, emigrants are also a source of revenue for Cameroon. Remittances sent by Cameroonian migrants have increased from an estimated US$ 11 million in 2000, to US$ 103 million in 2004 to a record high of US$ 167 million in 2008, which represents 0.8 percent of the country's GDP.

"Remittances are used to pay for medical care, school fees, rent or for the purchase of consumer goods," the report notes. It adds that these transfers "stimulate the country's economic activity by replacing credit and other financing methods and facilitating the initiation of projects and other income-generating activities."

Furthermore, the report finds that the increase in the transfer of funds has led to the expansion of the banking system and the multiplication of banks and money transfer companies, thus generating thousands of jobs.

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