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15 July 2024

95% of Arab students who study abroad do not return home

Mohammed Gawdat, Professor Hashim Sarkis and Dr Fadlo Khuri during the panel discussion at World Government Summit in Dubai last week (Supplied)

By Staff

Arab governments need to create the opportunities for young people to fulfil their aspirations if they are to reverse the brain drain which sees 95 per cent of students who study at universities in the United States and Europe stay overseas.

According to Mohammed Gawdat, Vice President - Business Innovation at Google(X), the Arab brain drain is the result of two major factors: lack of resources and instability in the region.

“It is not about money. It is about taking the right decisions to allow young people to succeed. Once the right decisions have been taken, we can provide the resources,” Gawdat said at the recently-concluded World Government Summit in Dubai.

Participating in the ‘Brain Re-Gain’ panel discussion, on the second day of the summit, Gawdat said that the brain drain could be positive, as those who emigrate from the Arab world gain skills and experience which could be useful in their home countries.

“Our problem is that we do not attract these people back to the Arab world,” said Gawdat, citing China’s experience in reversing its brain drain. “Those Chinese who emigrate return after gaining skills and experience overseas. This benefits China’s development. This is not happening in the Arab world. Arab governments need to create the right environment to attract people back.”

Gawdat was joined on the ‘Brain Re-Gain’ panel by Professor Hashim Sarkis, Dean of the School of Architecture and Planning at MIT, and Dr Fadlo Khuri, President of the American University, Beirut.

Dr Khuri said it was important for Arab governments to engage with young people in the development process. Highlighting the Marshall Plan, put in place by the United States at the end of World War II to rebuild Europe, Dr Khuri said Arab governments need a similar long term plan to involve young people in the development and reconstruction of the Arab world.

“In order to ensure development we need young people to be engaged with society. Unfortunately, Arab governments have not allowed young men and women to have a role in government and the development process,” Dr Khuri said.

Professor Sarkis said that in a globally connected world, there is a need to redefine emigration. It does not need to be a one-way street. “When it comes to the brain drain it is not always negative. There are positive aspects and Arab governments must take advantage of them by creating opportunities for people to return.”

The World Government Summit convened over 3,000 personalities from 125 countries.