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Between hope and uncertainty: a no returning journey of African graduates from the United States of America to their home countries.

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International Migration is steadily growing and has become a global phenomenon that is unavoidable. In Africa, there are thousands of people who move to Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries such as United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France, and Germany to name a few and they are made up of highly skilled migrants from their respective home countries. Migrants who are considered highly skilled not only consists of occupation professionals but also students who have completed their university education in their home countries and decided to further their studies abroad with the hope to come back and better their lives and that of their families. However, after the completion of their studies, most of them decide to stay behind in the host country. Therefore, the aim of this study was to investigate the reasons why Sub-Saharan Africans; South African, Kenyans and Nigerians in particular are reluctant to go back home upon completion of their studies and decided to stay in the U.S. The appropriate research paradigm that was used in this study is pragmatic because it accepts a mixed and multimethod research. Therefore, the investigation consisted of mixed methods; quantitative and qualitative research methods whereby data was collected by means of online surveys which had 224 respondents under quantitative data collection and 21 respondents under qualitative research methods who completed their university education in their home countries and decided to pursue their graduate degree in the U.S. The data was collected in two distinct phases; first the quantitative data, followed by the qualitative data collection which informed the quantitative results. The students were sampled using non-probability sampling namely snowball which included purposive sampling and the same individuals were included in both data collections. The eligibility criteria in this study were that the participants had to be citizens in their country of origin, have graduated from any accredited university in their home country, have graduated with a master’s or doctorate degree from any accredited University in the U.S. and have stayed a year or more in the U.S after completion of their studies. Additionally, the researcher identified four individuals who fit the criteria and were willing to participate. These individuals also knew other relevant willing participants who fit the criteria and helped the researcher to locate them. Those participants too referred the researcher to other individuals and so on and forth. Since the relevant participants were difficult to locate, purposive sampling helped the researcher to find the potential participants through internet recruitment. These participants were chosen according to the criteria that have been set. The theories used in this research study are World systems theory and Rational Choice theory as they are suitable to evaluate the reasons why African graduates do not return to their home countries after completing their studies abroad. Based on the analysis of both quantitative and qualitative data of this study, opportunities that include employment, better wages compared to their home country, higher standard of living compared to their home country, research training opportunities and scholarships have contributed to the African graduate’s decision to stay in the host country. Thus, Economic factors have strongly been identified as contributing to their decision to stay in the U.S after completing their studies. The findings revealed that they first decide to migrate to acquire a high level of qualification with the hope that it results in advancement of their careers and when offered opportunities where they are currently living and the opportunities are better than that which can be offered in their home countries, they decide to stay. This study also examined their experiences after deciding to remain in the U.S and despite acculturative stress such as perceived racism, loneliness, and stress; they have had positive experiences which entailed being offered employment and better salary. In addition, this study examined their attitudes and perceptions after deciding to remain in the Unites States, majority of them consider it as land of opportunities. It can be concluded in this research study that even though brain-drain analysts have not settled the debate of whether it is beneficial or detrimental to the sending countries as countries experience it differently, it is evident from the previous literature that the negative impacts of the brain drain outweighs the positive ones. The inequality of economic, political, and social levels between developing and developed countries determine the flow of migration. Without a doubt highly skilled individuals will always gravitate to countries that offer them opportunities to use their skills and can better their lives and that of their families resulting in sending countries losing professionals needed for development. Therefore, it is recommended that origin countries should look inward and address the brain-drain by implementing policies that will make improvements in their countries to attract them back or create channels that will assist in them contributing their knowledge and skills even when they are abroad. Finally, this study has contributed to the body of knowledge on international student-migration and a no return of African graduates specifically from South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria who decided to remain in the U.S upon completion of their studies. Additionally, it has contributed to the body brain-drain knowledge in academia and higher education, African graduates’ communities/countries, stakeholders and most importantly, policy makers as it has shed light on the nature and implications of the emigration of highly skilled/educated professionals. Key words: international students, migration, international migration, study abroad, brain drain, African graduates, human flight capital, globalization.


Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.