France beat Croatia to lift the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia. While many observers lauded Didier Deschamps’s coaching tactics, many saw the stellar contribution made by francophone African-origin players. Now former US President Barack Obama seems to have backed that theory. While talking about the importance of accepting “diversity”, Obama made a reference to the French football team during a lecture marking 100 years since the birth of South Africa’s first post-apartheid president Nelson Mandela.
“Embracing diversity delivers practical benefits since it ensures that a society can draw upon the energy and skills of all… people. And if you doubt that, just ask the French football team that just won the World Cup because not all these folks look like Gauls to me, they are French, they are French,” Obama said, according to a report. The 23-member French squad had 14 African-immigrant players, including the teen-age sensation Kylian Mbappe.
Apart from this, Obama had advised talented African youths to drive change at home rather than emigrating, and urged their governments to do more to curb a brain drain. Obama, whose Kenyan-born father studied in the United States but later returned home to work as an economist, described the phenomenon of the best minds leaving for global centres abroad as “a real issue”.
“More and more not only are we seeing concentrations of wealth, we are seeing concentrations of talent in various global centres, whether it is Shanghai or Dubai,” said Obama, who is on his first visit to Africa since leaving office in January 2017. Obama told young African business people and activists at a gathering in Johannesburg that opportunities could be greater in their own countries. “Precisely because there may be less of a concentration of talent, … your chances of being transformative are going to be higher,” he said.
His non-profit organisation, The Obama Foundation, runs a leadership programme aimed at helping aspiring Africans to solve pressing problems on the continent. “If we have African leaders, governments and institutions which are creating a platform for success and opportunity, then you will increasingly get more talent wanting to stay,” Obama said. “Once you reach a tipping point, not only will you stop the brain drain, then it will start reversing,” he said.