Already, nations with strong healthcare infrastructure and a solid manufacturing base are beginning to take advantage of the opportunity presented by the pandemic to tap into the global medical and pharmaceutical products’ supply chain, following the collapse of China’s near monopoly in that sector. Nigeria can still benefit though, according to Dr. Blessing Ikeme, if key players in the health sector, particularly private sector players, “become more assertive, more proactive… and adopt a problem-solving mentality.”
Experts agree that, indeed, there is a need for all stakeholders, including Nigerian professionals abroad, to collaborate for a speedy recovery of the nation’s economic health post-pandemic. However, they worry that without government’s full commitment to infrastructure rebirth and institution of the right policy frameworks minimal gains will result from such collaborations.
One area they point to that must be urgently addressed is the issue of taxation. As it currently is, the tax system it would seem is too cumbersome due to its multiplicity. Former Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun, was compelled to make clarifications in 2017 to Diaspora Nigerians on some newly introduced taxes. “There is no tax for people that live, work abroad. You are already paying your taxes there,” Adeosun assured then.
Another grey area is government’s penchant to sometimes see Diasporas as cash cows that must be milked for their capital, talents, and connections. For a truly beneficial relationship, both parties must be clear on the value each is bringing to the table. According to MPI, governments must be willing to “invest in really understanding their Diaspora, maintain meaningful communications with them and find areas of mutual interest for practical collaboration.” Engagement needs to be a “two-way street,” stakeholders contend. Countries like Senegal and the Philippines have truly invested in their Diaspora. They actively sought bilateral agreements with other countries to allow their citizens legally migrate and work in those countries.
Chairman of NiDCOM, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, has however assured that the commission has mapped out robust engagement and communications strategies to ensure the relationship is a win-win for everybody.
Brain drain has definitely turned the tide. Many economies today talk about brain gain and actively sought ways to tap the gain for national development. Countries such as Indian, China, Israel, and Philippines have long rejigged their laws and policies to fit into that reality and the benefits are obvious. Nigeria may be late to the brain gain table. Thankfully, however, there is more than enough to tap from.
.Ikeme is the president of the Nigerian Association of Pharmacists and Pharmaceutical Scientists in the Americas (NAPPSA).