Two years ago, the Ministry of Education in Zambia unveiled a four step plan aimed at curbing the country’s scientific ‘brain drain’. This plan mainly targeted the country’s two public universities – University of Zambia and the Copperbelt University. It was expected to be implemented starting from the 2008 budget.
The four steps included in this initiaative were as follows:
- Reintroduction of retention allowances for academic staff — particularly at the country’s public universities.
- Increased grants for academic research for funding the publication of journals at the University of Zambia and the Copperbelt University for the first time.
- Reintroduction of a home-ownership scheme — giving academic staff a loan for home buying dependent on their salary, repayable over five years.
- Adjustment of salaries to make them competitive with other scientists in the sub-region.
Steps 1 and 3 show that members of staff in Zambia’s public universities were enjoying these facilities in the past. Why did they stop? Maybe, my Zambian friends will answer this question.
Even though only step 2 and 4 seem to be new in this plan, I like the Zambian government’s initiative because it acknowledges that there is a need to make the salaries at its universities competitive with other scientists in the sub-region. A look at the list of some amazing, highly qualified Zambian-born professionals living outside Zambia shows that the likes of Botswana, Namibia and South Africa are home to a good number of Zambian professionals. If salaries in Zambian institutions become competitive, I am sure these sons and daughters of Zambia would find it easy to go back home. After all, east or west, home is best.
Now that the year 2009 is almost over, two years have passed since the government of Zambia proposed this important plan. I, therefore, would like to know the results so far. If Zambia’s initiative proves to be a success, it can act as a model for other countries facing similar problems.