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Young people plan to leave South Africa as brain drain concerns grow

A new survey of more than 4,500 young people in Africa shows that the continent faces a significant brain drain in the coming years as more than half the people between the ages of 18-24 consider emigrating.

The African Youth Survey 2022, carried out in 15 countries by the South African Ichikowitz Family Foundation, shows that more than half of young Africans are considering emigrating to another country in the next three years to secure employment and educational opportunities for their future.

South Africa is seen as the most appealing destination for many African migrants – however, South African youth increasingly want to seek their fortunes elsewhere.

“It’s bigger than a brain drain. This group of people, 18 to 24-year-olds in Africa, are saying: ‘We are going to improve our lives, even if it means having to up and leave and go somewhere else,” Ivor Ichikowitz told the BBC.

A lot of the young people his foundation spoke to wanted to move to South Africa, Europe or the US. While South Africa was seen as ‘the holy grail’ for many in other African countries, those in South Africa beg to differ, and want to move to the US or Europe, he said.

South Africans told the BBC that their biggest considerations when considering emigration are the country’s high crime rate and the inability to find work. The survey data shows economic reasons (44%), such as pursuing a job opportunity, and educational opportunities (41%), such as going to university, as the two main reasons they would emigrate.

A quarter of respondents (25%) are also eager to experience something new and different by going abroad. When asked if they would be emigrating for some time or permanently, more than two-thirds (69%) said that they would only be emigrating temporarily for some time, and plan to return to their home country with the skills and experiences gained abroad.

Still, one-in-four (27%) youth who are considering emigrating plan to do so permanently, without plans to go back to their home country.

Within the African continent, South Africa stands out as by far the most appealing destination for youth across the continent looking to emigrate. Kenya, Ghana, and Nigeria are also popular emigration destinations. Outside of Africa, Europe is the most appealing region for African youth, followed by North America.


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