Nigeria pays steep economic price as high-skill citizens flee abroad

The continued loss of high-skill citizens to developed countries means Nigeria is paying a steep economic price and endangering future local productivity required to sustain the economy.

Recently, Nigeria has witnessed an uptick in the number of trained skilled workers migrating to other countries, particularly to the so-called Western economies in Europe and the Americas.

Many of these emigrants are graduates trained in Nigerian universities, which are subsidised by the government. Many of these migrant workers take with them years of training and skills in foreign countries.

“When good doctors leave the country, mortality rate increases. And the people that are leaving the country are also leaving with their families, which is another pipeline of the talent pool,” Funbi Matthew, business management and human resource professional said.

“Both in the immediate, you are losing talent and for future production, you are also losing talents.”

Matthew further added that there is going to be a shortfall in the quality of leadership that will help to make the Nigerian system better, since talents that study abroad end up staying back and do not import the knowledge there.

Similarly, Jennifer Oyelade, director of Transquisite Consulting, an international human resource consultancy said rising insecurities is also one of the biggest stumbling blocks stopping Nigeria from retaining its best talent.

“Ultimately it will also affect foreign investment into Nigeria; if there are no capable hands to see it through to completion; investors will take their business to other countries such as Ghana where their infrastructure is more favourable to their needs,” Oyelade added.

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Africa’s biggest economy may be amongst the poor counties in the world but it is known to have the best young and bright minds. And many of these bright minds have considered leaving the country or have left for better education, jobs, and security

According to a survey of 1,600 adult Nigerians conducted between April 26 – May 10, 2017 by Afrobarometer, a pan-African research network, more than one in three Nigerians (35 percent) say they have considered emigration.

Also, nearly half (45 percent) of adults say they plan to move to another country within five years, by far the highest share among 12 countries surveyed across four continents, a 2018 Pew Research Center survey shows.

Most of these talent fights are usually from the technology, science, engineering, and the medical field, known as jobs of the future.

In a recent tweet, @jajaPhD, a Nigerian self-funded Master’s of Science (MSc) student of nursing decided to take up an M.Sc course as it would guarantee him higher chances of getting a job as a nurse.

“My friend advised me to take a detour – study nursing so that I’m guaranteed a job, work for a few years to repay my loan, and then return to study whatever I really wanted when the stakes are not so high. It was the single most valuable advice I received in 2018,” he tweeted.

Nigeria’s unemployment challenges may continue to worsen as it has been predicted that its workforce will double by 2050.

According to US Census Bureau International Data Base (IDB), a global demographic data provider, the estimated working age (15-64) population of some developed countries like South Korea, Japan, Spain, Germany, China, Russia, and Italy will reduce by 27.3 percent, 26.3 percent, 25.4 percent, 21.0 percent, 19 percent, 18.3 percent, and 14.4 percent respectively in 2050 while Nigeria’s own would increase by 120. 8 percent.

“The policies within the large environment that these talents live in and the culture of the organisation within which they work impacts or influences how people are happy about their work,” Matthew said.

A recent United Nation (UN)’s World Happiness Report 2021 showed that Nigerians are sadder than ever as its ranking dropped by 31 places to 116 positions.

And it is no surprise with the country’s current realities such as high inflation at 18.17 percent as of March 2021, unemployment at 33.3 percent, from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), and two recessions in five years.

“It is going to be very costly for us because of our sit down and look attitude. Other countries are creating incentives to increase the demand of these young talents from Nigeria for survival mode abroad,” Ayodele Shittu, a Lecturer, Department of Economics, University of Lagos said.

Shittu also advised that these talents are the country’s most important asset and the earlier we began to appreciate and rejig our thinking and investment mode, the better for us.

Canada has been a popular destination for those wishing to emigrate, but recently, countries like the U.K, U.S, and United Arab Emirates have announced incentives to attract young immigrants.

Also, last month, a document titled” PATHWAYS”, compiled By Magaji Riwani, John Afam-Osemene and Ronald Kelechi Ikpe attracted attention on social media. It contained information on how to go about the relocation process, what exams to take, the possible cost implications, what life looks like over the intended country, the culture shock, and generally what to expect.

To avert these negative implications of brain drain to the economy, experts have called for intentional investment in human capacity building and development tailored to the country’s objective to be a sustainable economy.

“As a nation, we need to take innovation seriously, and leverage technology to open the door to global opportunities. Some of the best professionals are Nigerians and they are doing amazing things abroad,” Oyelade said.

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