Nigeria’s ‘japa’ trend: Halting exodus of talented Nigerians is a task for the next president


Lagos, Nigeria

“Don’t let Nigeria happen to you,” is a common prayer in Africa’s largest economy and most populous country.

It is a heartfelt desire born out of the frustration of living in a country that is so dysfunctional that even wealth cannot take you away from Nigeria’s wahala (problems) and its systemic failures. So those who can leave, leave.

Aini Adu, 36, Speaking to CNN on Tuesday, four days before the general election, he gave away his fridge. Suitcases, a cooler box, an empty television stand and a white leather couch were all that remained in his living room. A friend was on his way to pick up the couch that afternoon. His wife was at work on the last day. The couple had six days left in Nigeria before flying to the United Kingdom.

They are part of the “japa” movement, the Yoruba word for fleeing or fleeing that has become shorthand for exiting Nigeria for better pastures abroad. “I am chanting after leaving the country because of the opportunities available to me abroad. I’m going there for a better life and a better economy for my family,” Adu told CNN.

A staggering 69% of Nigerians would move out of the country with their families if given the chance, a 2022 survey Found by Africa Polling Institute. According to the same poll only 39% were willing to migrate in 2019.

According to a pre-election survey of voters by Lagos-based SBM Intelligence, persistent insecurity, a collapsing economy and rampant corruption are key issues for the next government. Along with the high cost of living and unemployment, these concerns made the country unstable and unappealing, even hostile, to many.

As conditions in the country worsen, more Nigerians are coming out. Europe and North America are the top destinations for resettlement. The number of “worker” visas issued to Nigerians in the UK increased by 399% in 2019 compared to the year ending September 2022. According to UK Home Office statistics. Nigeria was the 5th largest source of immigrants to Canada in 2021, climbing eight places in just five years. Statistics Canada reported.

Cheta Nawanze, lead partner at SBM Intelligence, told CNN, “This particular movement is carving out an increasingly upwardly mobile middle class, particularly the mid-20s to late-40s age range. in.” “People who are either on the fast track to management or already in the lower cadre of senior management. People whose country needs rebuilding.

Adu worked as a radio presenter in Lagos but took some professional courses and used his health sciences degree to get a job in the UK. Nigeria’s health sector has been worst affected by the Japa phenomenon as doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other professionals migrate for better working conditions, higher pay and a predictable life. The Nigerian Medical Association says 50 health professionals leave the country every week.

The country appears to be largely training doctors for the United States, Canada and the UK. President of the Lagos Association of Resident Doctors Dr. “If nothing is done to reduce the rate at which doctors, medical professionals and other health care workers are leaving the shores of this country, it is only a matter of years,” said Dr. Kemi Abiloe. told CNN before starting his hospital rounds. “I’m not sure if any doctor will survive in this country.”

An entire cottage industry has sprung up to support people migrating from Nigeria. Immigration consultants and agencies charge thousands of dollars to offer relocation advice, visa processing services and immigration routes.

On his Instagram page, travel relocation provider Chinwe Iwuanyanwu promises end-to-end application support for destinations such as Australia, Finland and Ireland.

“A lot of people don’t trust that things will get better in Nigeria so they’re looking for plan B,” the Nigerian-born project manager told CNN from his base in Chicago, Illinois. “People want a better life for themselves and their families. We have a lot of talents in Nigeria but they are not fully realised, so many people want to go back. ”

Iwuanyanwu says he has helped more than 50 Nigerians get hired in Europe and elsewhere. She helps them “optimize” their professional profiles online, improve their resumes and offers interview preparation sessions.

All 18 candidates running for president in Saturday’s vote are running on a platform of radical change, an acknowledgment that Nigeria is so deeply fractured that nothing short of a complete overhaul will work. Japa is now part of everyday language because almost everyone knows who is leaving, or has left.

Afrobeats star P-Square has just finished a comeback tour where he says he encountered Nigerians who have resettled all over the western world. “And when they chant, they see a good life, good roads, good everything,” said Peter Okoye, one half of the singing duo.

“My family schools in America because of safety,” said his twin brother Paul. They support Labor Party presidential candidate Peter Obi, who has inspired youth in Nigeria but is considered a long shot. He believes in a three-horse race with ruling party All Progressives Congress candidate Bola Ahmed Tinubu and six-time candidate Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party.

Nigeria’s next leader cannot do much in the immediate future to reverse the steady stream of talent leaving the country, Nwanze believes. “He needs to focus on restoring trust, and making sure people believe their earnings are not going away. Stemming is one of the first things the new president will focus on. There will be. Also with security, but it will all take time,” he told CNN.

There are thousands of TikTok videos, Instagram posts, tweets and Facebook updates of Nigerians celebrating their new life abroad. These are powerful magnets for those still left at home, wondering if it’s time to parachute out of the “giant of Africa.”

So, is it “goodbye Nigeria” forever for Adu? “No, it’s goodbye to Nigeria until I come back – but that might be a long time,” he replied with a laugh.

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