20 February 2007
South Africa plans to attract its expatriate academics to share their skills with the country through short exchange programmes and research projects, rather than trying only to entice them back home.
Briefing journalists in Cape Town last week, Education Minister Naledi Pandor said the government was looking at different ways of attracting South Africans back to the country, even if only for a short period of time.
“We need to look at repatriation in a flexible and pragmatic way,” Pandor said. “Repatriation does not only have to take the form of people coming back to live for good.”
Pandor said the government was also busy developing a mechanism to keep in touch with South African professionals working abroad, so that they could still contribute ideas and knowledge.
This model of skills development had worked well in countries like Singapore and Malaysia, Pandor added.
“Academics living abroad can run seminars, have six-month lecturing programmes and take part in research programmes in South Africa, without needing to stay here full-time.”
South Africa needs to increase its skills in areas such as engineering and information and communication technology if it is to boost economic growth and reduce unemployment.
The country’s universities have agreed to increase the number of engineering graduates by an extra 1 000 a year.
“If we need to import skills to this country, then we must,” Pandor said.