(BACKPAGE) The economics of migration



Uba Group

Nigeria’s “japa” generation are mostly youths who are daily becoming economic migrants in First World nations because their energies and talents are not being harnessed by the Nigerian political elite, who are practically ill-prepared and ill-fitted for the assignments they have forced upon themselves.

In addition to a grand failure to come up with pragmatic macroeconomic policies, they also initiate policies, like multiple taxations and the Land Use Act that hold back the hands of investors and labour.

Nigerian economic migrants, now called Diasporas, and for whom Nigerian Diaspora Commission, headed by Abike Dabiri-Erewa, was formed, have become a recognizable community anywhere they are.

Before this flood of Nigerians abroad, Nigerians, who stayed out of Nigeria for any length of time were students. And they returned back to Nigeria almost immediately after they were done with their studies.

Those who overstayed earned the stigma, “ero ya,” Yoruba approximation of the lost, many of whom were found in Liverpool, which probably has the 10th generation of African or Caribbean migrants. The Yoruba derisively referred to lost Nigerian menfolk as “Baba London.”

By the way, the first significant wave of migrants, apart from the dispersal of the Jews into most of Europe, were the French émigré, aristocrats who fled France after the bloody 1789 French Revolution spearheaded by the intellectual Jacobins, led by Robespierre, who was eventually consumed by the revolution.

An older friend, the Chairman of a fast-moving consumer goods manufacturing company, thinks that Nigerians, indeed citizens of South or Third World countries, who migrate to First World countries, will eventually become nuisances.

Because the First World economies, the usual destination of Third World economic migrants, will be less welcoming of the “japa” horde. And the Golden Fleece sought by the fleeing economic migrants will become a mirage because the promises assumed will fail to manifest. That is the grim reality of 2023– as hinted at by this gentleman.

The economic migrants will so overwhelm the labour market and stretch the old, dilapidated and inadequate infrastructural facilities of the more developed economies that their hosts will turn against them, like dogs unleashed after days without being fed.

“In addition to medical personnel who first made the move, mostly to Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Middle East in the 1980s, other Nigerian professionals have found their way to practically every part of the world, thus depriving Nigeria of the manpower it has paid for to be used for its own economic development”

Though Brexit, the exit of Britain from the European Economic Union, was expected to reduce the wave of migrant workers from Europe to Britain, the opposite is the case for Nigerians and other African economic migrants, who are willing to take less dignifying jobs or accept wages lower than what European migrant workers would accept for the same jobs.

Those who still intend to become economic migrants should note that Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, has hinted that 2023 will be difficult for the global economy in general. She claimed that one-third of the world economy will be sliding into depression.

This means that even America, Western Europe and even faraway China, the destinations of economic migrants from Third World countries, like Nigeria, will experience declining growth, while, (guess what?) African countries will experience an increased growth rate.

The emergence of Nigerian professionals, willing to migrate to First World economies for relatively lower pay is a reversal of the practice in America to export ICT jobs to India, which had a huge hi-tech community that was willing to work for less. They called it, “outsourcing,” in those not-so-far days of the 1980s.

If you receive a one thousand dollars salary per month for working and living in Nigeria in those days, you can go home with a lot of Indian rupees. This conveniently puts you in the league of well-paid Indians.

Even if you are paid lower than your counterparts who are based in America, you can live better than them because you are not spending the dollar, like those who are residents abroad have to do for their daily upkeep.

African countries, like Nigeria, with their very young, talented, energetic and ambitious youths, are a significant part of the emerging market that promises huge returns and profit for daring entrepreneurs, because of their huge population, vast primary resources and huge consumer goods deficit.

Apart from the stigma of what Afrobeat musician, Femi Anikulapo-Kuti, described as Second Slavery, the brain drain that accompanies the “japa ” syndrome is not exactly compensated for by the remittances from Diaspora Nigerians.


The rate at which the North American and Western Europe economies attract and absorb Nigerian professionals of all cadres amply demonstrate the capacity of Nigeria’s educational and training infrastructure to produce high grade personnel.

In addition to medical personnel who first made the move, mostly to Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Middle East in the 1980s, other Nigerian professionals have found their way to practically every part of the world, thus depriving Nigeria of the manpower it has paid for to be used for its own economic development.

America, and lately, Canada, introduced the visa lottery to attract experienced and high-quality professionals to augment their rapidly depleting inventory. Of course, those high-quality professionals, who were getting a raw deal within their own countries, jumped at the opportunity.

It is instructive to note that a lot of the monies stolen from public coffers in Nigeria end up in real estate or in the bank vaults of the metropolitan economies. The recent serial remittances of monies said to be recovered from the late maximum ruler, General Sani Abacha, are evident enough.

In the comedy of errors of outsourcing their jobs to where they can get cheaper labour, and then turning around to import the cheaper labour to complement their labour markets, while they reserve ownership of the equity of transnational companies to themselves, denizens of the metropolitan economies further consolidate their firm hold on the resources of the world.

Following is another perspective to this grand design: To promote their businesses globally Western Europe imports outstanding (and, sometimes not so outstanding) football players from the Southern economies, like Nigeria, to play in their highly advertised football leagues.

The primordial motivation to watch one of their own in the English Premier League, Italy’s La Liga and other European football leagues ensure that audiences in the Southern economies who watch those leagues present themselves as potential markets for the consumer that are advertised during the football matches.

That is how ordinary products, within the economies of North American and Western European economies, get to be designated as global brands. Usually, more expensive global brands deliver on aspirational values, unlike products that only deliver utilitarian satisfaction.

Ironically, those youths, who form the bulk of Nigeria’s migrants to the greener pastures of the metropolitan economies, have now become the bulk of registered voters in Nigeria. Youths between the age of 18 and 49 are a little more than 75 per cent of the 93 million registered voters for the 2023 general elections.

Maybe these youths can turn the economic fortunes of Nigeria around with their votes that can become the critical mass of the 2023 elections that people think should be the vehicle to turn the Nigerian economic space around.

If the Nigerian economy experiences a turnaround and engages the talents and energies of the Nigerian youths, the dreadful “japa” brain drain to other climes may be substantially reversed for the advantage of everyone

This may be the respite for those who already think that Nigeria is a lost cause.