Nigerian ‘Japa’ Trend And The Issue Of Brain Drain

by Ezinwanne Onwuka

If you are to ask the average Nigerian today about their plans in the next five years or thereabout, it is almost certain that many, if not all of them, would intimate you about their decision and plan to “japa”, which literally means to emigrate or travel out.

Migration is not wrong. It has been part of humanity over centuries. People migrate due to various reasons, such as economic, political, educational and in search of greener pastures.

In Nigeria, however, one of the major factors that cause people to migrate is the search of economic opportunities. This type of migration is referred to as economic migration. Economic migration is, basically, the movement of people from one country to another in search of better economic opportunities.

Considering the opportunities outside the country, people, notwithstanding, the challenges of starting a new life in a new place take their chances, hoping it would be a ticket out of poverty. Do we blame them, considering the various crisis and societal challenges which continually threaten their existence as well as make their chances of survival bleak in Nigeria?

The persistent migration of Nigerians to more developed countries like Dubai, Italy, Spain, Germany, Canada etc. has increased the transfer of skilled individuals and assets to other countries and that has increased the rate of brain drain in the country, which, in turn, affects the level of development and growth in the nation.

Indeed, there is a link between economic migration and brain drain. Brain drain occurs due to economic migration.

Against this background, brain drain, also known as human capital flight, is the emigration of individuals with technical skills or knowledge from one country to another, usually for better conditions of service and good living environment.

The availability of better professional opportunities in other countries, a crippled national economy, turmoil within a nation, a desire to seek better education and higher standard of living, insecurity, human rights violations and high unemployment rates are just few of the reasons people emigrate out of their countries to greener pastures.
Brain drain in Nigeria is common among educated and skilled individuals like doctors, nurses, engineers, professors, computer scientists, college teachers, and attorneys.

At this juncture, it is pertinent to ask: why have highly skilled educated citizens left the country and why are most people genuinely considering leaving the country?
Numerous reasons account for the exodus of the best minds from Nigeria to the developed world. Most of these reasons tend to be skewed towards push and pull factors that are economic and political in origin.

The push factors in Nigeria includes insecurity, lack of social amenities, political instability in some regions of the country, under employment, unemployment, better career expectation and desire for a better life. The pull factors include: economic prosperity in other countries, easy access to health care services, substantial funds for research and better facilities that ease movement of people like better transport services, good roads etc. All these factors are some of the many reasons young people are bailing out of the country to greener pastures.

People are tired of waiting for a miracle. They are tired of dreaming that one day Nigeria would rise from being among the poorest countries to a developed country. Dollar rate keeps increasing and the worth of the Naira is diminishing. All these and more motivates people to “japa”. At the current rate, the mass exodus does not appear to be ending any time soon.

The advanced countries have capitalized on our economic lapses and have astutely established some programmes whose ultimate aim is to scout for the best brains across the globe and lure them to their domains. These programmes come in the form of refugee programmes, visa lotteries, skilled migrant visas, international exchange programmes, fellowships, scholarships and the like. And Nigerians have been among the greatest beneficiaries!

Consequently, while Nigeria is remarkably losing from brain drain, the host countries for emigrating Nigerians notably benefit from such trained experts – brain gain. This scenario has continued to have a debilitating effect on the growth and socio-economic development of the country.

Undoubtedly, this erosion of Nigeria’s human capital has had far-reaching negative effects on our development trajectory as the vital highly-skilled personnel needed for national development are being lost.

Putting an end to Nigeria’s brain drain requires the collective approach of all and sundry towards ensuring that the juicy offers which warrant many Nigerian professionals moving abroad are also made available here. Our inability to achieve this will continue to be the clog in the wheel of our national progress.

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