The ‘japa’ wave and the rise of Nigeria’s diaspora assetsDecember 26th, 2023
by Similoluwa Ifedayo
Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa and the seventh largest in the world, has seen a large number of its citizens emigrate in recent years, in what is popularly known as ‘japa’, a Yoruba term for ‘flee’.
The emigration wave is gathering steam amid mounting socioeconomic challenges in the country. Nigeria was the fifth largest source of immigrants to Canada in 2021, moving up eight places in five years, according to Statistics Canada.
The economic downturn, terrorism, insecurity and political challenges faced by Nigerians at home have led millions to seek better prospects abroad. The number of “Workers” visas issued to Nigerians in the United Kingdom shot up by 399 per cent when the year 2019 is compared with the year ending September 2022, according to data from the UK Home Office. In doing so, they have formed a substantial and influential diaspora.
The Nigerian diaspora is a diverse and expansive community that has spread across the globe. Its origins can be traced to historical events, including the transatlantic slave trade and post-colonial migrations.
Today, Nigerians have established vibrant and vital communities in countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and South Africa, among many others. These vibrant communities also serve as support systems for Nigerians abroad. The demographics of the Nigerian diaspora are as diverse as the countries they have settled in. They comprise professionals, students, entrepreneurs, and labourers, contributing to the cultural tapestry of their host nations. Many have excelled in various fields, achieving global tribute and recognition.
The Nigerian diaspora has a profound impact on their homeland. Remittances, the money sent back to Nigeria by expatriates, play an integral role in the country’s economy. These remittances serve as a lifeline for many families and contribute significantly to national income. However, financial support isn’t the only consequence of migration and the diaspora’s influence.
The influence births brain drain. Brain drain remains a challenge, as Nigeria loses some of its best and brightest minds to opportunities abroad. This exodus deprives the country of valuable human capital. This calls for the governments to create policies that encourage the diaspora’s active involvement in Nigeria’s development. Initiatives to attract skilled professionals back to the country and provide them with the necessary support can help mitigate the brain drain. These policies should also ensure that remittances are channelled efficiently to areas of need, such as infrastructure and education.
Nonetheless, the diaspora also fosters cultural exchange and knowledge transfer. Nigerian expatriates bring back experiences and expertise that can contribute to the country’s development when they choose to return to Nigeria. The impact of the Nigerian diaspora extends far beyond the nation’s borders. The Commonwealth, a voluntary association of 56 member states, benefits from the contributions of this diaspora. Nigerian expatriates have played a significant role in shaping the cultural and economic landscape of several Commonwealth countries.
Their economic contributions cannot be overstated. Nigerian entrepreneurs and professionals have established successful businesses and practices in Commonwealth nations, contributing to local economies and forging strong ties. Diplomatic and political connections between Nigeria and other Commonwealth countries have been strengthened through the presence of the diaspora, facilitating dialogue and cooperation on various issues.
However, the Nigerian diaspora faces several challenges, including issues related to identity, integration, and discrimination in their host countries. These challenges can impact their ability to contribute effectively to both Nigeria and the Commonwealth. However, opportunities for collaboration and engagement abound. Governments and organizations can play a crucial role in supporting the diaspora’s initiatives and projects.
The interplay of remittances, brain drain, cultural exchange, and economic contributions shapes the dynamic relationship between Nigeria and its diaspora. While challenges exist, the potential for collaboration and engagement remains vast. The future of Nigerian migration and its implications for the country and the Commonwealth will undoubtedly continue to evolve in a rapidly changing world.
By recognizing, acknowledging and harnessing the power of the diaspora, migration can lead to shared prosperity and growth, benefiting all parties involved. Also, Nigeria should look into the root of migration such as insecurity, poverty, unemployment and address these problems to avoid brain drain. Migration, as a global phenomenon, underscores the importance of embracing diversity and harnessing the strengths that come from international mobility.