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Nigeria’s terminal Japa wave
Is a recent wave of skilled migration from Nigeria all hype?
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“From my immediate University clique, another person is leaving Nigeria for America at the end of this month, with her family of three.”
When Tunde Leye published this article in 2017 on why more people were leaving Nigeria, it felt understandable yet not relatable. Most of my close friends who graduated from the University in 2010 were only thinking about leaving Nigeria; nothing was set in stone. A few outliers were classmates and acquaintances who had moved to Canada or the U.K from around 2013-2015. Today, it’s a struggle to list, on one hand, the number of my friends still living in Nigeria without one leg out.
Granted, the Buhari administration kicked off by plunging us into an economic recession, yet, it has felt like only in the last two years has the pace of migration from Nigeria increased. From 2019 to date, Nigeria’s headline inflation and food inflation only continue to increase. Everyone is feeling the crunch.
As the economy suffered, unemployment rose, and Covid happened. Meanwhile, Nigeria’s internal security is fragile. Today, even if you live in a bubble, it is impossible to deny that we seem like a country on the brink. Did the Lekki and Mushin massacre of October 2020 contribute to the increasing scale of Japa that we saw this year? Was it our imagination that everyone seemed to be moving to a new dispensation?
Eric decided to seek out answers and the data to find an accurate picture of what seems like a Japa epidemic. He sent out a Google form with questions and got 212 responses which have now been analyzed to form some theories about why more people are leaving Nigeria. But first, does data show an increase in migration?
Data shows the number of Nigerians going to Canada has been on the rise since 2017
The U.K is now popular for Nigerians once again, showing a massive jump in sponsored study visas in the last year
The U.K and Canada are the most popular travel destinations for Nigerians migrating because of clear pathways for immigrants. Canada has a Permanent Residency process, and the U.K gives students a two-year extension after completing their degrees to find permanent jobs.
But what other countries are Nigerians moving to? According to Eric’s survey, the top 10 countries are The United Kingdom, Canada, United States of America, Ivory Coast, Netherlands, France, Germany, United Arab Emirates, Turkey & Ireland.
At what salary range are people most likely to Japa?
One of the most familiar arguments on Nigerian Twitter is about average salaries and how much it costs for people to migrate. The data shows that people who earn between N100,000-N250,000 are the most likely to leave the country. At the N1 million income band, people seem a little less likely to leave. However, this may point to the fact that only a handful of people in Nigeria earn above N1 million monthly.
Monthly income before migration
What sectors are seeing the most significant exits when considering these salary bands? If you guessed healthcare, you’re pretty close. The financial services, healthcare and technology sectors are seeing some of the biggest exits. While entry-level workers in these sectors aren’t leaving—presumably because they cannot afford it— workers with three to ten years of experience are leaving in their numbers.
“But often not talked about is Nigeria's lack of skills problem. Our education is simply not fit for purpose, and if the current trend continues, we will simply have no doctors (for example) to fill the gap created by those leaving. The excellent trainers who trained the current crop are all either old and retired, or ageing and retiring, or tired and are leaving like their students. At some point, we simply won't have lecturers to train enough new doctors, and the Saudis will stop organising medical fairs to recruit Nigerian doctors.” -Cheta Nwanze
Why are people leaving mid-way into building their careers?
According to this BBC article, the reasons for migration can be classified into economic, social, political & environmental. For this survey and the sample size, the reasons have been streamlined to economic & social. Economic Migration is moving to find work or follow a career path while Social Migration is pushing for a better quality of life or being closer to family.
Nigeria’s working population is leaving in droves. No one explains this better than Cheta Nwanze. “Since independence, #Nigeria has witnessed four great periods of mass migration. The first one started in 1966 and ended in 1973...the second wave, under Buhari, was driven by an economic collapse. The third wave started under Abacha and it was caused by suffering, pure and simple. This meant that rather than being middle class-driven, it was driven by the lower classes, and as a result, saw the advent of a huge number of illegals.”
“2015 happened, followed by the fourth wave, which, as I said earlier, is arguably the most dangerous for Nigeria. It's called a terminal decline, and it's affecting all sectors in the country, not only the health sector.”
Nigeria’s fourth Japa wave isn’t about lower-middle-class people leaving to find greener pastures. It’s about a disillusioned middle class that are leaving to escape the worsening economic conditions. Yet, a disillusioned middle class isn’t entirely new. What’s new is a world where remote work is now relatively easier to find for Nigeria, and where the tech and financial services sectors are snapping up talents from here. Unlike the previous waves of migration which didn’t allow for migration of young 20 and 30 somethings, the fourth wave has a big bearing on Nigeria’s future.
Already, certain sectors are finding it difficult to hire talent, and one tier-one bank had to deal with an entire department getting hired by a Canadian firm. Covid-19’s pressure on the healthcare system is accelerating demand for Nigeria’s poorly paid health workers in the U.K. And the tech sector, which is experiencing a boom, has shown workers that the standards and salaries to aim for are global.
How is Nigeria preparing for a future which will inevitably have a short supply of skilled workers in critical sectors?
WHAT I READ THIS WEEK
Everyone knows Jeff Bezos, but Andy Jassy, Amazon’s new CEO is a lesser-known name. Here’s a really good feature story about him
This 2017 article on why people are leaving Nigeria is more valid today than it has ever been
Jack Dorsey stepped down as Twitter CEO this week; here’s a fascinating long read on some of the struggles Twitter continues to face as a business.
I’m generally meh about the Nigerian Stock Exchange a.k.a the NGX, but this article on the companies that paid the most dividends in the past year is interesting. Also, are you snapping up some MTN Nigeria shares? Tell me your thoughts in the comments.
Here’s some homework before you run off…
What does this chart tell you? Be sure to let me know in the comments!