James Christoff, Canadian High Commissioner to Nigeria has revealed that Nigerians are very successful in Canada, contributing “tremendously” to the country’s economic, cultural and social life.
Speaking at a special visit to Lagos Business School on Tuesday, Christoff said many Canadians are becoming more curious about Nigeria because their co-workers, neighbours and friends are Nigerians.
“Nigeria’s greatest asset is its human talents particularly, its entrepreneurship spirit. And that is what I am impressed with. I spent a lot of my career in Africa and I can tell that there is an abundance of entrepreneurship skills in the country,” he said.
He said one major opportunity that can be expanded through Canada in Nigeria is education and that the country is the fifth largest source of students for Canada as there are close to 14,000.
“Nigeria is Canada’s largest trading partner in Africa. The value is about a little over two billion dollars yearly. But it should be much more. That is why my team and I are focused keenly on acknowledging areas where there’s opportunity for both countries,” he added.
Canada’s aging population and lower birth rate has been shrinking its labour force, forcing the country to intensify its efforts to attract large, young and vibrant immigrants by offering immigration-friendly policies.
Last year, the Canadian federal government announced an aggressive plan to take in 500,000 immigrants a year by 2025, with almost 1.5 million new immigrants coming to the country over the next three years. In 2022, the country landed 437,120 Permanent Residents (PRs), a nearly eight percent increase from the total number of PRs in 2021.
In the first half of 2023, the number of Nigerians moving to Canada surged to the highest in nine years. Data from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada shows that it recorded 10,180 PRs from Nigeria in H1, a marginal increase of 0.74 percent from 10,105 in the same period of 2022.
Higher education and work are the major principal conduits of permanent emigration. But Nigeria’s current realities such as high inflation, unemployment and fragile economic growth have now made it a major reason why its citizens emigrate to other countries for greener pastures.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the country’s inflation, which measures the rate of increase of commodity prices, quickened to a 18-month high at 25.80 percent in August.
Last year, the NBS put the number of Nigerians living in multidimensional poverty at 133 million, compared to 82.9 million considered poor in 2019 by national standards.
“There are certain economic challenges in the country, but those challenges are best solved through private sector solutions. Some of the opportunities that Canada can offer are agriculture, infrastructure, green and clean technology and education,” he said.