New diaspora portal aims to turn brain drain into gain

An academic diaspora portal has been launched in Mauritania in a bid to address the loss of local scholars and expertise in a country marked by serious brain drain.

The portal, launched on 28 May, aims to translate the Mauritanian brain drain into brain gain and brain circulation by accessing the knowledge held by Mauritanian experts from all fields and utilising such knowledge in the interests of the country and its higher education system.

To achieve this, it will mobilise the Mauritania academic diaspora to support teaching as well as scientific and technological research in national universities and strengthen the linkages between Mauritanian academics in the diaspora and local higher education institutions.

Mauritania ranked 103 and 129 out of 138 countries in its capacity to retain and attract talent respectively, according to the 2017 Africa Competitiveness Report, titled “Addressing Africa’s Demographic Dividend”.


The portal, which seeks to build partnerships with local universities and Mauritanian scholars and their universities abroad, was launched in cooperation with the UN Migration Agency, or IOM, according to a local news report.

Developed with funding from the IOM Development Fund, the portal is in line with IOM’s diaspora mobilisation strategy that centres on the 3E’s for action: Enable, engage and empower transnational communities as agents for development.

The portal will be managed and updated by officials of the Ministry of Higher Education in Mauritania and seeks to strengthen relationships and enhance cooperation between the foreign higher education institutions where Mauritanian academics are based and local universities.

Access to resources

The portal will provide virtual and physical fora and accelerate access to resources that foster partnerships and knowledge sharing between the academic diaspora and national higher education institutions and associated research centres.

This diaspora portal will set up a database of academic Mauritanian nationals abroad and facilitate the mobilisation of their skills, knowledge and expertise through the actual return of skilled diaspora members on a short- or long-term basis. Transfer of knowledge can also take place ‘virtually’ through online support.

The portal will be accessible for the project known as Connecting Diaspora for Development, a Netherlands-based initiative which connects diaspora experts with their countries of origin and supports the development of targeted sectors, including education, by strengthening the capacity of key institutions through the engagement of Mauritania's diaspora communities in the Netherlands.

Cairo-based higher education expert Magdi Tawfik Abdelhamid described the portal as “only one step in the long and rocky road to facilitating the engagement of academic diaspora and enhancing opportunities for educational and research collaboration with them for the transformation of higher education institutions and universities".

Safety and security challenges

He said safety and security as well as political and economic stability must be improved in Mauritania, along with the provision of facilities and infrastructure to facilitate high quality education and research.

To enhance the benefit of the portal in promoting the role of Mauritanian academic diaspora in the development of the national higher education sector, Abdelhamid called for the portal to be linked with the Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program, a fellowship programme in terms of which African institutions host an African-born scholar to work on educational projects.

Abdelhamid also suggested the creation of a North African academic diaspora alliance which could benefit from national, regional and international best practices in using academic diaspora communities, as well as diaspora-centred initiatives.

He said the proposed alliance could include organisations such as the International Diaspora Engagement Alliance, the African Diaspora Network, Global Somali Diaspora, the Society of Egyptian American Professionals, the Association of Moroccan Professionals in America, the Algerian American Scientists Association and Sudan Knowledge – a platform that seeks to exchange knowledge and information about Sudan and promote the potential of the Sudanese diaspora across the world for the benefit of Sudan.