Many of the world's least developed countries are losing large parts of their already shallow pool of skilled professionals - hindering their ability to pull themselves out of poverty, a report by the UN said yesterday.
A decade ago, Uganda lost nearly $10m after the EU banned the import of its fish due to poor sanitation facilities and a lack of basic infrastructure. A large injection of funds to educate businesses and new facilities to meet health and safety standards saw the ban lifted, and Uganda's fish exports surged to $86m (about £45m) in 2003 from $28m in 1997.
Though the report stressed the importance of expanding employment opportunities outside of agriculture, it added that productivity in this sector through science-based development needed to be boosted. Agriculture accounts for 70% of the workforce yet donor commitments to agricultural research, education and training in the LDCs halved between 1998-2000 and 2003-2005.
Economists usually argue that greater openness to international trade and investment brings new technologies to poorer nations, but UNCTAD says that progress needs to come from within the developing country itself. For instance, in Africa most foreign direct investment is focused on mineral extraction and spillover to domestic firms and joint ventures is limited. Similarly in poor Asian countries, rapid growth in garment manufacturing has not led to a corresponding development of domestic firms' technological capabilities and knowledge. Investment also tends to be highly concentrated in countries rich in commodities. Oil-producing Angola, Chad, Sudan and Equatorial Guinea received more than half the total foreign direct investment in the 50 least developed countries in 2000-05."