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Creating stronger Diaspora bond for rapid development post-COVID-19 (Part 1)

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Diaspora Nigerians are increasingly desirous to play an active part in the developmental aspirations of their homeland. Such desire has been most noticeable in the willingness of many foreign-based Nigerians to return home and take up employment, establish a business, take up government appointments or go into politics. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Obafemi Hamzat, Oscar Onyema, Don Jazzy, Hakeem Kae-Kazim, Afam Edozie, and John Fashanu are a few notable examples.

Where they are not predisposed to returning home, at least not in the near future, they have, nonetheless, pitched in to ensure socio-economic growth in their homeland, as individuals and as a collective. For instance, the Nigerian Association of Pharmacists and Pharmaceutical Scientists in the Americas (NAPPSA), founded in 2006 and representing over 7,000 pharmacists, pharmaceutical scientists, pharmaceutical educators of Nigerian origin, has over the years been very active in helping to shape the future of the country’s pharmaceutical industry through collaborations with local professional bodies such as the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria. Chimamanda Adichie is one individual that continues to devote time, effort and her knowledge to help nurture and mentor budding writing talents in the country through her yearly creative writing workshop here in Nigeria.

Through direct or indirect participation, as individuals or as groups, there is no denying the fact that Nigeria diaspora are contributing immensely to the socio-economic development of the country, through remittances, knowledge-sharing, investments, international influence and marketing of opportunities. Figures by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed that in 2019, Nigerians living abroad sent home $17.57 billion. PriceWaterHouseCooper estimated that the remittances represented 6.1% of the country’s GDP even as it sees the inflows rising to about $35 billion in 2023. While figures for diasporas’ investments in the homeland may be patchy, the capital and money markets, real estate, agriculture, education, and healthcare are among the key sectors to have benefitted from direct investments by Nigerians residing abroad. The Migration Policy Institute (MPI), in a Policy Brief document, said, “There is mounting evidence that diasporas do indeed play important roles in promoting the development of their countries of origin or ancestry.”

Indeed, it is in recognition of this fact and to better harness and utilise the potential by Nigeria diaspora to contribute that government has continued to craft policies aimed at proper engagement and mobilisation of this important group. “It is my sincere belief that the diaspora community if well-coordinated can lead to even better impact, not only on individual family units but also on the society at large,” says Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the Nigerian government.Government has suddenly realised that the tide had turned on what was considered brain drain in the past to brain gain now and is desirous to attract “both the talents and resources of emigrants and their descendants.”

Since the dawn of democracy, successive governments had sought to tap into this promising group for their nation building agenda. The Olusegun Obasanjo administration leveraged on the talents and global knowledge and experience of diasporas like Okonjo-Iweala, Oluyemi Adeniji,Leslye Amede Obiora, Obiageli Ezekwesili, and also established the Nigerians in the Diaspora Organization (NIDO) “as an umbrella organization of all Nigerians abroad and a vehicle through which Nigerians in the diaspora could be mobilized to participate in the development process.” The current administration has gone a step further by establishing the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM) to rally diaspora support for its developmental plans. It also designated July 25 as Diaspora Day, among other initiatives to woo Nigerians living in the West.

The Diaspora Day celebrations for this year was held last Saturday. It was an opportunity once again for President Muhammadu Buhari to rally diaspora support for the fight against the coronavirus pandemic as well as their support in the rebuilding of the economy post-pandemic. “It is, therefore, my sincere hope… that Nigerians in the Diaspora will rise up to the occasion of not abandoning their country of origin, but be active in our post-COVID-19 economic recovery efforts,” President Buhari said during the commemoration of the 2020 Diaspora Day.

Many diaspora professional groups had taken up government’s clarion call for support and collaborations. Notable among these are the Association of Nigerian Physicians in the Americas, the Association of Nigerian Engineers & Scientists in the Americas, the Nigerian Association of Pharmacists and Pharmaceutical Scientists in the Americas, among others. NAPPSA, for instance, has demonstrated leadership, particularly in its efforts to help Nigerians come to terms with the ravaging coronavirus through its regular updates on the scourge. And only recently donated COVID-19 items to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), in line with its stated objective to facilitate “efficient healthcare delivery systems and strategies” across the world, including Nigeria.” At the donation, NAPPSA called on the government to as a matter of urgency invest in building a strong health infrastructure in Nigeria even as it promised to lend a helping hand. The association’s spokesperson, the President, Dr Anthony Ikeme, encouraged the NCDC and other stakeholders in healthcare delivery to use their positions to “facilitate the creation of a national strategy for medical and pharmaceutical manufacturing in Nigeria.” The association was of the opinion that COVID-19 has revealed the systemic weaknesses and vulnerabilities in the nation’s healthcare sector that must be fixed immediately if Nigeria must play a leading role in the global health and pharmaceutical enterprise.

Blessing Ikeme

.Ikeme is the president of the Nigerian Association of Pharmacists and Pharmaceutical Scientists in the Americas (NAPPSA)

 

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