Earlier, the organizers of this Pan African Conference gave me a note containing eleven questions.
The first was: Do skilled Africans have the moral obligation to remain and work in Africa?
I believe those with skills should be encouraged and rewarded to stay, work, and raise their families in Africa. When that happens, a large middle class will be created, thereby reducing the conditions that give rise to civil war and corruption. Then, a true revitalization and renaissance will occur.
The second question was: Should skilled African emigrants be compelled to return to Africa?
I believe controlling emigration will be very difficult. Instead, I recommend the United Nations impose a "brain gain tax" upon those nations benefiting from the "brain drain."
Each year, the United States creates a brain drain by issuing 135,000 H1-B visas to "outstanding researchers" and persons with "extraordinary ability."
The U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS), working in tangent with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), could be required to credit one month's salary, each year, to the country of birth of each immigrant.
Already, the IRS allows U.S. taxpayers to make voluntary contributions to election funds. Similarly, it could allow immigrants to voluntarily pay taxes to their country of birth, instead of to the United States.
The third question was: Why don't we encourage unemployed Africans to seek employment abroad?
Put differently, if all the nurses and doctors in Africa were to win the U.S. visa lottery, who will operate our hospitals?
If we encourage 8 million talented Africans to emigrate, what will we encourage their remaining 800 million brothers and sisters to do?
The fourth question was: Should we blame the African Diaspora for Africa's problems?
Yes, the Diaspora should be blamed in part, because the absence it's created has diminished the continent's intellectual capital and thus created the vacuum enabling dictators and corruption to flourish.
The likes of Idi Amin, Jean-Bedel Bokassa and Mobutu Sese Seko would not be able to declare themselves president-for-life of nations who have a large, educated middle class.
The fifth question was: Should we not blame Africa's leaders for siphoning money from Africa's treasuries?
It becomes a vicious circle: the flight of intellectual capital increases the flight of financial capital which in turn increases again the flight of intellectual capital.
Leadership is a collective process, and "brain drain" reduces the collective brainpower needed to fight corruption and mismanagement.
For example, the leadership of the Central Bank of Nigeria did not call a news conference after Sani Abacha stole $3 billion dollars from it.
The bank's Governor-General did not go on a hunger strike. He did not report the robbery to the police. He did not file a lawsuit.
Had they the intellectual manpower to counter corruption, the results would have been very different.
The sixth question was: Is it possible to achieve an African renaissance?
Because by definition, a renaissance is the revival and flowering of the arts, literature and sciences, it must be preceded by a growth in the continent's intellectual capital, or the collective knowledge of the people.
The best African musicians live in France. The top African writers live in the United States or Britain. The soccer superstars live in Europe. It will be impossible to achieve a renaissance without the contributions of the talented.
The seventh question was: For how long has the "brain drain" problem existed?
A common misconception is that the African "brain drain" started 40 years ago.
In reality, it actually began ten times that long. Four hundred years ago, most people of African descent lived in Africa. Today, one in five of African descent live in the Americas. Therefore, measured in numbers, the largest "brain drain" resulted from the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
Contrary to what people believed, Africa experienced a brain gain during the first half of the 20th century. Schools, hospitals and banks were built by the British colonialists. These institutions were the visible manifestations of brain gain.
At the end of colonial rule, skilled Europeans fled the continent. Skilled Africans started fleeing the continent in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. The result was the widespread rise of despotic rulers.
The eighth question was: Is "brain drain" a form of modern slavery?
By the end of the 21st century, people will have different sensibilities and will describe it as modern day slavery.
In the 19th century, which was an Agricultural Age, the U.S. economy needed strong hands to pick cotton, and the young and sturdy were forced into slavery.
In the 21st century, which is an Information Age, the U.S. economy needs persons with "extraordinary ability" and the best and brightest are lured with Green Card visas. Africans who are illiterate or HIV-positive are automatically denied American visas.
The ninth question was: Do you believe that the "brain drain" can be reversed?
As I stated earlier, "brain drain" is a complex and multidimensional problem that can be reversed into "brain gain."
India is now reversing its "brain drain," and turning it into "brain gain;" I believe Africa can do the same. But unless we reverse it, the dream of an African renaissance will remain an elusive one.
The tenth question was: Can we blame globalization as a cause of brain drain?
Globalization began 400 years ago with the trans-Atlantic slave trade that brought the ancestors of 200 million Africans now living in the Americas. It has accelerated because the Internet and cell phone now enable you to communicate instantaneously with any person on the globe.
Overall, globalization is a force that is denationalizing the wealth of developing nations. Economists have confirmed that the rich nations are getting richer while the poor ones are getting poorer.
We also know that the globalization process is increasing the foreign debts of developing nations, accelerating the flight of financial and intellectual capital to western nations.
The economics of offshoring will force multinational corporations to outsource to developing nations where lower wages prevail.
To remain competitive and profitable, companies will be forced to reduce costs by hiring five-dollars-an-hour computer programmers living in Third World countries and lay off expensive American programmers that demand $50 an hour.
In the long term, offshoring will reverse the flight of financial and intellectual capital from western nations to the Third World.
The eleventh question was: Why have I lived in the United States for 30 continuous years?
Africa has bitten at my soul since I left. My roots are still in Africa. My house is filled with Africana - food, paintings, music, and clothes - to remind me of Africa.
I long to visit the motherland, but I must confess that when Africa called me to return home, I couldn't answer that call.
The reason is that I work on creating new knowledge that could be used to redesign supercomputers. The most powerful supercomputers cost $120 million each and Nigeria could not afford to buy one for me. I created the knowledge that the power of thousands of processors can be harnessed; this knowledge, in turn, inspired the reinvention of vector supercomputers into massively parallel supercomputers.
New knowledge must precede new technological products and the supercomputer of today will become the personal computer of tomorrow.
And so to answer your question: even though I reside in the U.S. the knowledge that I created is now materializing into better personal computers purchased by Africans.
Finally, millions of high-tech jobs can be performed from Africa, but may instead be lost to India. We must identify the millions of jobs that will be more profitable when transferred from the United States to Africa.
Doing so will enable us to create a brain drain from the United States and convert it to a brain gain for Africa.
Thank you again.