Next week will be the tenth anniversary of the Nigeria Diaspora Day.
In 2005, the Nigerian government declared July 25th the Nigeria Diaspora Day. It’s an annual week-long celebration of the contribution of the Nigerian diaspora to the development of Nigeria. The celebration also has the purpose to motivate 2,000 nigerians to permanently relocate to Nigeria each year.
According to Nigeria Diaspora Day website, there are about 3.25 million Nigerians living in America, counting all generations of the people from first arrivals to fourth generation Nigerians. Of this number, there are over 115,000 medical professionals, 174, 000 IT professionals, 87,000 pharmacists, 49,500 engineers, and over 250,000 legal, financial, real estate and related business professionals.
That’s a lot of talent which could be useful to the Nigerian economy which has become the first market in Africa since 2013, and had been growing 7% in average since 2005.
In a speech in 2008, the then-state governor of Lagos, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, said: “It would be a great disservice to the fatherland if Nigerian professionals would stay abroad while the country seek elsewhere for the services which they could easily provide.”
He then continued with the following example: “I believe that at the last count, we were said to have over 22,000 medical personnel of all categories outside this country. Those were the people who went to build the medical practice of Cairo, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran and others and now, we are gloriously and happily exporting indisposed Nigerians to these countries.”
“Africa as a whole spends an estimated $4 billion every year in Western expat salaries for positions that could be filled by the African professionals who leave the continent,” reports ThisisAfrica.com. “It is estimated there will be a 75% increase in the use of expatriate staff over the next three years, and the strategic use of these resources will be a critical success factor to help establish and grow business across Africa,” adds HowWeMadeItInAfrica.com
The federal Nigeria Diaspora Day and the active reach out to the diaspora by the Nigerian business community have convinced thousands to return or take steps to relocate back home.
“I started to imagine what it would be like to live in a place where you did not have to explain some aspect of your identity on a daily basis, where you did not have to offer people a reason, no matter how subtle, for why you were among them,” wrote Enuma Okoro, a US-born Nigerian in New York City, author of the spiritual memoir “Reluctant Pilgrim,” and communications consultant, just before taking her decision to return to Nigeria in 2014.
Some returnees become national success stories and media-visible like Tayo Oviosu, CEO of Pagatech, Nigeria’s largest mobile payments provider, and Jason Njoku, CEO of iROKO Partners, the largest Nollywood movie-streaming platform in the world.
Recently the New York Times published an article about the increase of US immigrants going back to their native countries to start up their own businesses. The big bet, as the Nigeria Diaspora Day sponsors claim, is as follows: “At the end, the Bangalore magic, the Irish wonders, and the American dreams will be repeated here in Nigeria”.
Regardless of the numerous opportunities, the dream of millions of African in the diaspora to come back home is painfully held back by deep fears and unanswered questions.
Here are the top ten fears of the African diaspora about Africa, and also the top ten questions most of them are confronted with.
Top ten fears
1. I know a few people who have returned but failed and had to come back to Europe.
2. I’m not successful here. I don’t have money. I’ll be ashamed to return just with my suitcase.
3. I don’t know how I’ll face all the social pressure and people asking me for money.
4. I want to start a business back home, but everything is political in Africa. If you don’t have connections, your business could be crushed and closed at any time by officials.
5. How to explain my decision to my parents, my family, my friends? I’m afraid of their reaction.
6. How can I be sure that my professional experience will translate into something useful when I return to Africa? The work conditions are not good there.
7. I’m afraid of political instability. Every election is a matter of life and death with widespread of violence and fear.
8. There is no health insurance in Africa like I have here. The health system in my country has completely collapsed, what will I do if me or my family would get sick? How to find a good health insurance company?
9. I don’t have local connections anymore. My friends are now here. I’ll feel alone and isolated there. How to rebuild my social network locally before moving back?
10. I don’t have a place where to live. I don’t want to return to my parents’ house. Where will I live and host my family when I don’t have that much money?
Top ten questions
1. Is there any local association or group of Returned Africans that I can join or get support from?
2. How to deal will the feeling of failure of returning back without lots of money?
3. What to do if I don’t have any money to return with?
4. Is there any organization or support group that helps people who want to return to Africa?
5. How to find a job when you are not yet in Africa?
6. I want to start a business back home. Where can I find accurate and non-biased information?
7. How to find a house or an apartment to rent? What risks to avoid?
8. Which banks or financial organizations give loans to people in the diaspora to buy or build their houses?
9. I’m married to a European, how can I convince him/her to move back to Africa with me?
10. How to find the best hospitals/good doctors for my family, and the best schools and kindergartens for our kids?
A recent study showed that 70% of African graduates in the diaspora are willing to return to build Africa.
This tenth anniversary of the Nigeria Diaspora Day should be the opportunity to address in a comprehension manner above fears and questions.
Happy Diaspora Day!