Talent partnerships: Balancing African and European needs

Written by ADEPT

1 February 2021

Talent partnerships: Balancing African and European needs

This is the second of three pieces of analysis produced by ADEPT on the new EU Pact on Migration and Asylum published by the European Commission (EC) in September 2020. While the first one provided an overview of the Pact, we will now focus on the potentially adverse impact of Talent Partnerships – a legal migration scheme aiming at filling skills and talent gaps in the European Union – on Africa and measures to prevent it. The third and last piece will put proposals forward regarding the African diaspora’s role in this scheme.

Talent Partnerships are one of the innovations of the proposed European Union (EU) New Pact on Migration and Asylum, a comprehensive framework encompassing the external and internal dimensions of EU migration and asylum policy. This instrument is coupled with the EU Talent Pool, an EU-wide platform for the international recruitment of skilled workers. As explained in ADEPT overall analysis of the Pact , this package is noteworthy in many respects. Firstly, it translates EU willingness to respond to the challenges resulting from its fast shrinking and ageing workforce. Secondly, designed to make the EU more attractive to non-EU talents, these schemes will ease their recruitment from third countries. Thirdly, the partnership-based approach between the latter and the EU relating to the proposals implementation –  as presented in the Pact – is to be praised.

The implementation modalities of these instruments, which could for instance be modelled after the International Organisation for Migration’s Skills Mobility Partnerships, will be critical for success and need therefore to be pondered over. However, ascertaining Talent Partnerships’ potentially negative long-term effects on developing countries in general and on Africa in particular is primordial. While the Talent Partnerships and Talent Pool offer evident advantages for countries of destination and migrants alike, the benefits for origin countries remain unclear – in particular from a development perspective. Increased remittances, albeit largely beneficial to developing countries, are unlikely to fully compensate for the ensuing brain drain. Hard-hit by COVID-19 economic impact, Africa will probably see its pre-pandemic developmental trajectory disrupted in the future. Against this backdrop, the risks associated with these labour and skills mobility schemes for a continent already plagued by skills shortages will have to be anticipated with a view to managing, eliminating, or reducing them to an acceptable level. As a case in point, this will be all the more important in the health sector – in the event of future pandemics notably.

“Ascertaining Talent Partnerships’ potentially negative long-term effects on developing countries in general and on Africa in particular is primordial”.

This calls for a concerted and upstream approach between Europe and Africa, and this well before the implementation stage. There is a window of opportunity as the implementation of Talent Partnerships lacks clarity so far. Extensive reflection should thus be conducted on how to leverage them for Africa’s structural transformation. In this regard, the scheme should make provision for two distinct and complementary measures: a core measure and an accompanying one. The former, the skills and knowledge transfer implemented in the context of skilled migrant workers’ reintegration into their origin countries and/or circular migration, aims to ensure mutual benefits. The latter should take the form of large-scale and intensive training or upskilling programmes targeting local communities for the direct benefit of African countries. The partnership forged in December 2020 between the European Union and the Tony Elumelu Foundation in order to, among other things, train and mentor 2500 young African entrepreneurs, illustrates the acute need for African population’s empowerment as a key driver for growth and job creation.

“Extensive reflection should thus be conducted on how to leverage them for Africa’s structural transformation”.

For Africa not to be on the losing end, Talent partnerships will have to be guided by two major imperatives. On the one hand, the necessity to favour long-term vision over short-termism. On the other hand, the necessity to factor into the same equation EU demand, Africa’s supply and its needs in terms of skilled manpower. In order to meet both requirements and to shy away from Africa-focussed initiatives unilaterally conceived by the EU such as the Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investments and Jobs, innovative and coordinated actions  must be carried out. Albeit a lengthy process, having systematic joint ex-ante impact assessments conducted by European and African sides appears of particular relevance as these exercises aim to scrutinize policies or programmes potential effects, notably socioeconomic ones, through prospective analysis. Wherever pertinent and feasible, these assessments will be carried out at the following levels:

  • National level by an African country and a European one considering forging such a partnership together;
  • Continental level by the African Union Commission (AUC) and the European Commission.

Having ex-ante impact assessments done by the AUC and the EC would add value inasmuch as these organisations may have a better overview of African and European countries likely to be interested in entering a Talent Partnership and may be able to present Talent Partnerships’ impact on a much larger scale. Regardless of the level, the availability and reliability of data will determine the quality of these impact assessments.

“Albeit a lengthy process, having systematic joint ex-ante impact assessments conducted by European and African sides appears of particular relevance”.

Talent Partnerships should therefore be seen at the same time as an opportunity and a test for the strengthened partnership between Europe and Africa. An opportunity for both sides to jointly respond to their respective needs  and a test as regards their ability to do so.

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