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JAPA SYNDROME: Unleashing Nigeria’s Hidden Assets Abroad


Oct 26, 2023

By Elvis Eromosele

It has been five years since Aunty Mary relocated to Canada with her immediate family. The extended family here were hoping she would be able to support them by now. She claims things are not as easy as they appear. The family thinks that she just wants to disappear. This is one of the dilemmas of the growing global migration.

Migration, the movement of people from one place to another, typically involving a change in residence or location, is on the rise globally. Global migration, however, is a complex and multifaceted trend influenced by various factors including economic opportunities, family reunification, environmental factors, conflict, or the pursuit of a better quality of life. Studies show that it is a fundamental aspect of human history and continues to play a significant role in shaping societies and economies around the world.

The World Migration Report, reveals that there were around 281 million international migrants in 2021—that’s a 27 per cent increase compared to figures from just over a decade earlier (2010) when there were 221 million migrants who’d crossed international borders. The rise in recent decades is largely driven by factors such as globalization, increased connectivity, and disparities in economic opportunities between countries.

Nigeria is not immune from this trend. In fact, in recent years, Nigeria has witnessed this profound and evolving phenomenon. It has even carved a tag for it “Japa Syndrome.” This term which is today slowly becoming part of the nation’s lexicon, refers to the growing trend of young Nigerian professionals, full of potential and ambition, choosing to pursue careers and opportunities abroad. While this outward migration might raise concerns about brain drain, a closer look indicates that the “Japa Syndrome” holds the potential for a myriad of long-term benefits for the country.

What Nigeria needs to do is explore these advantages and consider how to optimize this trend.

Now the departure of young, talented professionals might initially seem like a loss for Nigeria, but it can be viewed through a different lens – as a brain gain for the nation. Many of these professionals, armed with world-class education and global experience, will eventually return with a wealth of knowledge, networks, and resources that can significantly contribute to the development of their home country.

To optimize this trend and possibly harness its benefits, Nigeria needs to establish robust networks and incentives for its diaspora. Initiatives like the Nigerian Professionals Abroad (NPA) program can actively engage with the diaspora, tapping into their expertise and fostering a sense of belonging, even from afar. Investment opportunities in Nigeria should be made more accessible, and the government should streamline the process of doing business in the country. This way, returning professionals can more easily participate in the nation’s growth.

In addition, it is important for those contemplating the journey abroad, to prepare appropriately and properly. Language skills, cultural awareness, and a strong educational foundation can be invaluable assets. Additionally, understanding the immigration process, job market, and cost of living in the chosen destination is crucial. Moreover, building a support system and networking with other Nigerians already abroad can make the transition smoother.

The recent heartbreaking story of a Nigerian lady, Sylvia Obianuju Chikwendu on TikTok, who wept profusely as she recounted the loneliness she has been enduring since her relocation to Canada is cause for concern and a lesson.

The truth is that the “Japa Syndrome” reflects a dynamic shift in Nigeria’s global position. As young professionals take their skills abroad, they are not just fulfilling personal aspirations but also sowing the seeds for the nation’s future growth.

It is clear that with careful planning, the right policies, and proactive measures to engage the diaspora, Nigeria can ensure that the “Japa Syndrome” leads to a brighter and more prosperous tomorrow. This trend is not just about leaving home; it’s about creating a bridge that connects Nigerians across the globe, ultimately returning with a wealth of knowledge and experience to elevate the nation to new heights.

This is our hope and prayer. It now needs to become policy.

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