Return Migration and Brain Drain: The Ghanaian Student’s Experience

Akosua Akuffo Nyako, School for International Training


This case study takes an in-depth look at the return experience of Ghanaian students who study abroad and decide to return to Ghana to work. From the viewpoint that return migration is beneficial to the development of sending countries and to return migrants, this paper uses the return experience of a group of returnees to determine the nature of the return experience through the use of questionnaires, a review of relevant literature, participant observation and informal interviews. A variety of factors are analyzed including expectations before return and challenges faced upon return and then weighed against current literature to determine how it compares with findings in other research. This paper seeks to determine if the return experience is positive or negative for returnees, the impact it has on development in Ghana and to make recommendations for addressing challenges that detract from a successful return.

Findings show that there are disparities between expectations for return prior to departure and the actual challenges that they are facing. Economic factors are minor compared with difficulties from local human resource weaknesses, disillusionment with what is termed the “Ghanaian system”, as well as issues with Ghana’s development and reintegration into family and societal systems. However, the majority of returnees classify their return experience as positive. Recommendations include training for returnees and local employees, the establishment of a database of migrants abroad as well as the formation of returnee associations in Ghana to enhance communication between the two groups. The findings are applicable in all research relating to return migration in Ghana and may be of use in the formulation of policies by governmental organizations and non-governmental organizations involved with the recruitment of Ghanaian nationals abroad. It is also useful to citizens of sending countries who are contemplating returning to their countries of origin.