By Zaid O. Olanrewaju
Proper preparation prevents poor performance. Nigeria missed the golden opportunity from the discovery of oil. Adequate planning should, therefore, be adopted, so that Nigeria does not miss out of the vast potential of the migrant population abroad. National development and good governance involve interaction, orientation, and knowledge transfer for economic growth.
A lot of countries are realising the advantage and capacity of the contributions of diaspora population, hence Nigeria should not be an exemption. The Tokunbo population are valuable in every facet of life including development in education, technology, tourism and ready image promotion. The different structures and arms of government should be the champion for this synergy.
The current economic recession in Nigeria is an opportunity to tap into the large Diasporas in building national frameworks with the aim of strengthening governance and achieving the SDG. Informally, as of now, Nigerians in diasporas are involved in good governance, community development and economic activities through numerous network outreach such as the various Igbo village meetings, Edo community association, Yoruba development association and numerous online groups (WhatsApp, facebook ).
There should be concerted effort to tap into the Global database of Nigerians in diasporas GDND for a more robust and efficient use of this reserve of Nigeria human capital. At the moment few of the intended targets are registered users on this database. The onus is on governmental agencies and partners on this project to create more awareness to facilitate visibility for a more efficient use of this tool. During the course of this write up less than 15 from a random selection of 200 within the United Kingdom was aware of this great tool.
The national population commission, national identity management commission and Nigeria’s foreign missions must rise up to proper data management for improvement of the relationship between Nigeria and the diaspora population. According to the World Bank, an average African migrant supports between 10 to 100 people in the home nation, Nigeria is no exception to this fact.
At the moment residential areas in foreign countries are a cluster of money transfer agents, in addition to privately run trusted online transfer services. The big picture reveals that Nigeria is Africa’s largest receiver of remittances, 6th in the world with a remittance of $21 billion in 2015 and $34.8 billion in 2016. The US and UK diaspora remit 90% of this remittance at the moment, although there is likelihood this changes in the near future.
Nigeria needs to relate more strongly to the population abroad by creating a business friendly environment to encourage more investment in business and economic activity. There should be more practical monitoring of the recent policy framework.
The Asian economies of China, Korea and India are good examples of countries that the Diasporas have contributed immensely to economic transformation. Lessons should be learnt from their country-driven approach which enabled shared vision. Presently, it is very easy to engage Nigerians living abroad for the country’s development through diplomatic networks. The government should improve existing channels and set up a legal framework for Diaspora policy. This framework should include engagements schemes that essentially target children of the initial migrants. The engagement schemes should provide these second-generation diasporas with the chance to learn about their ancestral origin they may become potential vectors for economic and commercial ties with their country of birth.
Credit should be given to the never say over until it’s over Nigerian spirit; it is a marvel that Nigerians have made different countries their place of resident. An estimated 15 million Nigerians live abroad with about 2.5 million of these people in European countries, although the UK and USA remain the major concentration of Nigerians in the diaspora. These include countries of the West Africa coast mainly in Ghana, Ivory Coast. Nigerians abroad can be categorised into permanent and temporary residents. Nigerians who live permanently abroad are broadly grouped into economic migrants, those born in foreign countries that usually have dual nationality and persons fleeing persecution.
The temporary diasporas population include government or private sector workers on assignment for a short period of years and students who stay for 1-7 years. Of this number, the student group is a major one. It is a known fact that many Nigerian students engage in economic activities while studying. A number of these students settle permanently in the host countries after graduation. The major destinations of Nigerian students are the UK, Ghana, United States, Malaysia, Canada, South Africa, Australia, the UAE, Hungary, Russia, Egypt, Turkey, Sudan, India and Germany.
The 300 educational institutions within the country can only admit about half of the nearly 2 million yearly school leavers in Nigeria. A 2014 research by British Council published in Guardian UK forecasted that Nigeria will overtake India to become the UK’s second-biggest source of international postgraduate students by 2024.
There is a compelling need for Nigeria to engage the host countries to manage the migration for her development potential. The national policy on labour migration is a welcome development if wholly implemented. A big question is how to stop the brain drain and skills flight. There must be enabling an environment for value chain investment and entrepreneurship opportunities.
In 2017, Nigeria took a cue from Ethiopia, the first Africa nation to issue diaspora bond for its abroad communities in 2008. The positive response to the Nigerian diaspora bond is a welcome development; the good news is that this highlights the swing of distrust in government investment markets. Although a number of economists see this as a patriotic driven decision, there are clear indicators that it is a value-based investment given the coupon rate of 5.625%.
Nigerians abroad are fiercely patriotic; this writer is of the opinion that majority will happily engage in any activity once there are clear signs that their rights and interest are adequately protected.
Numerous debates have been thrown up, but the agreement is that the relationship between home nations and migrants abroad is about development and poverty reduction which is the responsibility of every stakeholder. Expatriates should be viewed as better business ambassadors. They are worthy intermediaries that can facilitate international business between the host country and Nigeria. They have one foot in each country, thus they understand the business climate and culture of both countries.
The planned diaspora vote is a big step for improved governance. All stakeholders comprising government bodies, political parties and diaspora bodies must design and drive feasible action plans.
In conclusion, diasporas should be regarded as Nigeria’s development partners who are incidentally to our economic growth. A strong strategy to inculcate the diasporas into the national plan is urgent and appropriate. Any constituency that contributes 7% of the GDP deserves a slot in national goals.
There is a need for the government to facilitate a catalytic connection for mutual benefit, much leadership is necessary to give the desired result. There must be a policy commitment to imbibe a pool who is contributing massively to national life through sports , entertainment, science, education, health, finance etc. We cannot fail to plan for the days ahead.
Zaid O Olanrewaju
Harrow , Middlesex , UK