A new wave of emigration of Nigeria’s middle class is depleting the oil-rich West African nation of skills needed to build up its online casino and other high tech industries. The emigration is putting local recruitment under pressure as middle class Nigerians vote with their feet in protest against poor health facilities, declining educational opportunities and fears that the government cannot protect them against Islamic insurgents.
The exodus comes at a time when Nigeria has become the nation with the largest percentage of citizens who live under the poverty line. Per capital income in Nigeria has dipped by 37% since its 2014 peak. Analysts for the International Monetary Fund say that it is expected to continue to decline over the next four years, despite high oil production.
The exodus is hitting the finance, consumer, IT and health industries particularly hard. Charles Robertson, chief economist at Renaissance Capital explained what’s happening. “Those who emigrate can time-travel” he said. “They jump forward decades of economic development to work in countries which are usually more stable, wealthier, with better education for their children and better health care.”
President Muhammadu Buhari was elected for a second term and was sworn in last week. He recognizes the concern and has promised to tackle insecurity and boost economic growth. Nigeria is Africa’s biggest oil-producing country.
Immigration to North America and Other Destinations
Many Nigerian emigrants are heading to Canada where liberal immigration policies are a strong pull for Nigeria’s top talent. Nigerians that move to Canada do so largely because they are facing rising living costs and stagnant incomes in their home country. The unemployment rate hit its highest level since 2010 this year and inflation has been at double digits since 2015,.
Data from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada show that applications for permanent residency in Canada from Nigerian have risen threefold since 2015. Applications for temporary residency have almost doubled over the same period. In 2017 Canada approved applications for permanent residency in Canada for over 4,200 Nigerians. That’s almost double the number from the year prior.
At the same time, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Nigerians staying in the U.S. with visitor visas more than quadrupled last year over 2015. Simultaneously, the overstay rate of Nigerian students studying in the U.S., which was 4% in 2015, soared to 22% last year.
Nigeria ranks among the top 10 countries with citizens overstaying in the U.S. Most of these are non-immigrants with business or pleasure visas,
One of the industries most effected by the exit of professionals from Nigeria is the Nigerian health care industry. A 2017 survey by polling company NOI Polls shows that approximately 9 out of 10 medical doctors, currently practicing in Nigeria, are exploring work opportunities abroad.
According to data on the U.K. General Medical Council website, there are currently 6,312 medical doctors of Nigerian origin in Great Britain. That’s a 44% increase over 2015. That’s one of the main reasons that health care is in distress in Nigeria. At present, there’s one doctor for every 5,000 people, according to the Nigeria Medical Association.
Andrew S. Nevin, advisory partner and chief economist at PwC Nigeria, said that “all professional firms and major corporations in Nigeria are affected by the brain drain. The Nigerian government needs to create an economic and social environment sufficiently attractive to keep our educated young people.”