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Diaspora from “brain exodus” to “network of global expertise” for economic development and innovation

– By Anila Hyka Smorgrav

Although during the last 30 years, the country has experienced a significant loss of experts and intellectuals, the other side of the coin is the Albanian Diaspora today, which it counts a generation with strong economic, intellectual and social capacities. Without entering into different figures and statistics, we are all aware that a good percentage of Albanian population lives outside the country, where in the last two decades young people dominate.
A considerable number of them are graduated with a bachelor’s degree or a postgraduate degree, as well as those who are managers or professionals in the private sector, or those holding important academic positions or scientific research. Meanwhile in Albania we have an economy with lower development indicators in the region and higher unemployment. There are fragmented innovation initiatives oriented in “start-ups” enterprises that have as primary objective finding financial opportunities to transfer the business to the foreign market.
What percentage of this category participates in programs for economic and technologic growth not well known?
Why does the country need a development of innovation in an economy that continues to float for three decades in the waves of post-communist transition?

European countries and neighboring countries have innovation as one of the main indicators of economic development. The opening of EU negotiations makes the innovations as one of the main axes for reducing the gap with other countries, including our neighbors.
Albania still has a low level of products competition in the domestic and international market. Innovation is a key factor to increase the competiveness of Albanian products and services in the international market.
The innovation serves to improve productivity, procedures, simplification of procedures and living conditions.
Thanks to the advanced technology and innovation, the society will benefit from knowledge exchanges, increase of professional skills, creation of new expertise and finally a stable labor market.

The technological gap in the public education system has created disparities in different levels of society.
The involvement of the education system in the innovation development increases the educational level and prepares the basis for a competitive education system among other countries.
What should be the role of the Diaspora in economic development and innovation?
To have an efficient contribution of the Diaspora in the sustainable economic and innovation growth, it must be participatory in defining the “Strategy of innovation and technologic development of Albania for the next 10-20 years.”
This strategy should address four key aspects: talent mobilization, governance and regulatory framework, infrastructure and competition, and funding and support at home and abroad.

For its implementation, in addition to dedicated state structures, various programs should be launched which partners from the private and academic sector as well as other international organizations, such as: The creation of a virtual platform dedicated to innovation, with the aim of creating an actors network of various fields in the area of innovation inside and outside the country.
Such platform can be a basis of information on companies for professionals, investments and job opportunities as well as can serve as a table for establishing partnerships between economic actors, universities and with the Diaspora.
The creation of platforms and technologic infrastructure for the development of start-ups, the stimulation of innovative initiatives of entrepreneurs, laboratories in schools and the promotion of co-operation in business.
Such mechanisms will increase the opportunities for many young talented people graduated in the Western universities to come back to their homes, bringing knowledge and new contacts which can turn into a great potential in economic development and international co-operation.
Launching initiatives to encourage the Diaspora to be directly involved in the strategic development of Albania, such as: the Competency Mobilization Program addressed to professionals willing to share their expertise, experience and knowledge for the benefit of their country’s development; “Diaspora Invests”, to attract investments for Albanian companies; the promotion of “success story” of the cooperation of Diaspora groups with locals. It is a critical moment for Albania to turn this “brain exodus” into “brain absorption or exchange”, as Diaspora can play an important role in Albania’s economic development by promoting foreign investments, starting businesses, knowledge exchanges, as well as promoting technology and innovation.