Engaging the diaspora for development



Some of the stranded Nigerians on arrival in Abuja

The nexus between us was strong, so much so that the existence of a family relationship was widely insinuated. On the contrary, it had everything to do with a coach-player relationship that has extended well outside the soccer pitch. The yawning age difference mattered little. He was a big brother that had his eyes on me and some of my contemporaries. Like a safe house we run to him whenever the neighbourhood bullies charge at us.

He was such a redoubtable fellow with a burly frame which altogether masked his warmth and geniality. Our imaginations were always tickled by the up to the minute information he commands on any subject. Without question, he wielded subliminal influences on us.

Just after acquiring his diploma, the opportunity of “checking out” came knocking, which drew the curtain on the relationship. After over three decades, our paths mysteriously crossed again a few months ago. Expectedly, it was an emotional meeting|.

Funsho (not real name) is now an investment banker with double master’s degrees under his belt in the U.S. It was a grueling climb on the greasy pole to the top of his ambition. He still keeps a close tab on happenings in the country. And, contributions to the socioeconomic development of his local community through investments and humanitarian activities are impressive.

The exploits of Nigerians in the diaspora are public knowledge. We have seen how their record of performances have carved out a path for them through the thick crowd to reach positions of influence and recognition in their adopted countries.

If Nigeria were to be a dark firmament the diaspora population would be the constellation of stars. Some may have sullied the country’s image. However, not a few have invalidated the negative narratives and stereotypes. They have evinced a distinctive vibe and mentality. Yes, they are the embodiment of the ‘immigrant mentality’ that have drawn them from the fringes of their adopted homelands.

The population of Nigerians in the diaspora is put at 15 million according to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). And, the preponderance of the population calls America home with the U.K following on its heels while the rest are spread across other countries of the world.

Nigerians are flying on the wings of hard work and reverence for education in recording mind blowing achievements. For instance, it is said that you can’t throw a stone into a Nigerian family in America without hitting a member that is an engineer, doctor, professor, successful entrepreneur or master’s degree holder. Families of the community have a median household income well above the American average and above the average of many White and Asian groups. As a result, emerging as one of the most successful migrant communities.

The size, income and economic condition in host countries of the diaspora population are significant factors that have pushed Nigeria into the group of top remittance recipient countries in the world. Remittances whether cash or in kind is a tool for economic and human development. Studies have shown that remittances are expended by recipients in four basic areas; consumption, housing, land purchase and productive investment. The import of remittances is further underlined by its inclusion in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

In commemorating last year’s National diaspora Day, the President stated that “over the past three years Nigerians in the diaspora have brought 25 billion dollars annually as home remittances to the Nigerian economy through official and non- formal channels which he said was about 6% of our annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and upwards of 80% of annual budget.”

The phenomenal strides made by China can be attributed in part to the involvement of its diaspora population. John Lee, a former visiting fellow at the Mercator Institute for China Studies- asserted that the diaspora Chinese made huge contributions during the reform era. He added that during the period, the diaspora investors exhibited greater persistence over the non- Chinese ostensibly due to ‘cultural and ancestral ties to offset political risk.’ Also, they were deeply involved politically. The fear of recession in the post Tiananmen years was countered by diaspora investment as international loans began drying up.

According to Lee, diaspora Chinese didn’t only influence the conception and implementation of special economic zones. They provided the requisite technology and capital for the take off of the export industries.

Nigeria has shown commendable inclination towards cashing in on the opportunity with the new directives which allows recipients of remittances to receive their money in dollars in a move to improve the “receipt and transparent administration of diaspora remittances as well as stabilizing the foreign exchange market.” Also, the creation of the diaspora bond in June 2017 was warmly received. Such initiative has helped India dealt with its 1991 balance of payment crisis and also in responding to the economic sanctions imposed after nuclear testing in 1998. 

According to the World Bank’s Remittance Prices Worldwide Database, the global average cost of sending 200 dollars was 6.8% in the third quarter of 2020, which doubles the Sustainable Development Goal target of 3% by 2030. Therefore, the government needs to work vigorously in facilitating the continued flow of remittances through easing the cost of transfers.

Needless to say, the diaspora is an indispensable asset. Aside from the huge remittances, the readily available skills and technology can be tapped through technology exchanges, collaboration in research projects, mentorship program in key sectors or industries as well as teaching in Universities among other avenues. Therefore, conditions for leveraging the asset must be improved in realising success in this regard.

  Ungbo writes via

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