Approximately 3 percent of the world’s population live in a country different from that of their birth. This is evidence of the globalization and dire need for skilled people most especially by developed nations. Today’s source of globally skilled workforce has transcended religion, gender, race and economic background to a large extent. More than 20,000 highly skilled Africans leave the continent each year for developed countries. They leave behind schools without teachers, hospitals without nurses and doctors. The impact is particularly strong in the health sector.
According to a news article by BBC in 2019, 5000 Nigerian doctors registered with the United Kingdom’s General Medical Council (GMC), not to mention the ones leaving for Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Canada and the United States of America. Over 10,000 Nigerians emigrated to Canada as a permanent resident out of the total 330,800 new permanent residents in 2019. Canada also receives higher shares of immigrants than most other countries which makes Canada widely perceived as a role model for successful migration management.
The Canadian style of recruitment of skilled personnel continues to be the most preferred way of immigration to the global North. The recent adoption of the same style of the merit-based immigration system by Germany with the United States of America working on its policy in that direction further put the development of Africa at a greater risk. As espoused by the London School of Economics, the push and pull factors behind the mass exodus are wide-ranging and complex: one might be forced to leave because of war, political instability, the attraction for higher pay and better opportunities for one’s family. Africa’s largest economy is no stranger to the departure of its best talents.
African leaders seemed unperturbed by the outbound migration of its professionals. I recall a statement made by the current minister of labour in Nigeria, Chris Ngige, last year that the country was exporting its best minds because it had a surplus of talent and in any case, “when they go abroad, they earn money to send back home here.” This is especially true for the money transfer industry. Foreign remittances to sub-Saharan Africa grew to $37.8 billion in 2017 with a forecast of $39.2 billion in 2019 according to the World Bank. These remittances come as support for relatives, acquisition of landed properties or investments. Besides sending money home, African expats are believed to increase African exports through the exports of local food produce.
African leaders need to start taking the loss of their best talents to the global North serious if it is to achieve any significant development. A country’s true strength is its people. Losing your doctors, engineers, professors, athletes and other skilled professionals can be very detrimental. The recent Ebola crisis highlighted the continent’s doctor shortages. In 1973, there were 7.76 doctors per 100,000 people in Liberia. This dropped to 1.37 doctors in 2008. In East Africa, Uganda has less than 5,000 doctors and 30,000 nurses for a population of 35 million, according to World Health Organization data.
The author of this piece, Adedamola Adejobi prides himself as an unrepentant enthusiast in the potentials of the continent of Africa. He has a special interest in policy development and analysis for good governance and training of the next generation of youths for effective management of human and material resources.