• Thursday, April 25, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Nigerians contributed £1.9bn to UK’s economy in 2021

Hope Healeth

Nigerian students and their dependents contributed an estimated sum of £1.93 billion to the United Kingdom (UK) in 2021, a new report by SBM Intelligence shows.

The report titled ‘The Empire Strikes Back? How Britain is Handling the Japa Wave’ illustrates the net contribution that immigrants make to the UK economy contrary to present political rhetoric.

This contribution is a net addition to the UK economy, says Ikemesit Effiong, head of research at SBM Intelligence, an Africa-focused geopolitical research and strategic communications firm.

“With rising living costs, a shrinking labour force, escalating pension and health costs, the UK needs to constantly attract new immigrants into the country in order to be able to keep key aspects of its economy, particularly in the healthcare sector,” Effiong further said.

Further findings from the report showed that out of the total £1.93billion, the students spent £680.6 million on school fees followed by £408.4 million for rent, £151.3 million for national insurance, £54.4 million for tax of working spouse, £41.8 million for National Health Service and £41.7 million for visa fees. (Please note that these values may not give the total of £1.93billion as they are conservative estimates).

“Apart from school fees paid by Nigerian immigrants to British schools, the UK gains from Visa Fees, NHS Payments, Rent, Economic productivity, Income taxes (in the instances where the students work), etc.,” the report stated.

It also added that this does not deny the costs of assimilating legal immigrants into host communities.

Read also: Kwara, Chevening explore UK scholarship opportunities for youths

Nigeria’s large and cheap labour and also intelligent minds makes it an attractive destination for the UK who are currently battling with an aging population and large skills gap.

In 2019, the UK updated its International Education Strategy. The update reaffirms the government’s goals of increasing the value of its education exports to £35 billion ($48 billion) and to hosting at least 600,000 international students per year by 2030.

The strategy commits to previously established goals for foreign enrolment growth which have been replaced by new immigration routes and work opportunities for foreign students. It intends to create clearer pathways to immigration.

Some of the ways in which this growth is to be achieved is the Graduate route which was launched in July 2021. The route will allow eligible students to stay in the UK to work or look for work, for two years (three years if studying at PhD level) after they have completed a degree in the UK.

Others are High Potential Individual visa, Global talent visa and Scale-up visa. For Nigerians, especially the youth who don’t have enough job opportunities, this has created an opportunity for them to immigrate to the UK, fuelling a huge brain drain.

According to the British government, the number of Nigerians granted student visas by the UK increased by 222.8 percent to 65,929, the highest in four years in June 2022 from 20,427 in the same period of 2021.

“For Nigeria, it evidently represents a net drain on its talent and skills pool, albeit one somewhat remediated by attracting remittance flows from a large and growing diaspora,” Effiong said.

Last month, The Telegraph, a national British daily broadsheet newspaper revealed that the UK government was considering tightening visa rules.

Suella Braverman, the then UK Home Secretary before she was forced to resign on Wednesday, told The Telegraph that there were too many students coming into the UK and need to be cut down. “There are structural pressures that mass and rapid migration poses to our country.”

Analysts at SBM say the comments of the secretary come from a desire for racial or cultural homogeneity that some consider under threat by the influx of international students who bring a more cosmopolitan dimension to society, and that while this desire is natural, they must remember that instincts do not always lead to profitable economic outcomes.

“As the UK deals with the loss of its Monarch, and sees former colonies such as India become economically stronger than it in several ways, it has to come to terms with a diminishing global profile.

“It is possible that embracing immigrants could provide a way to regain something close to its reach when it was an Empire on which the Sun never set,” they concluded.