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Brain Drain and what it actually means for the Nigerian economy (The new rise of the ‘JAPA-CULTURE’)

Brain Drain and what it actually means for the Nigerian economy (The new rise of the ‘JAPA-CULTURE’)


It’s no news of how so many Nigerians have been flooding the shores of Europe and America for better livelihood. With the current insecurity in the country seemingly getting worse, unemployment and underemployment at an all time high, increasing cost of things due to inflation, all making it harder to live in an already fragile economy, thousands of Nigerians are sorting their way out of the country.

The most outflux of people leaving are professionals and highly skilled workers who can easily get better job opportunities outside of their country. This outflux of people have created what is now termed “BRAIN DRAIN”.


Brain drain is simply the loss suffered by a country or a region as a result of emigration of highly qualified persons.

Nigeria has one of the youngest skilled populations in the world. But every year, a large percentage of these young, skilled workers are exported to first world countries for free, which has created a huge intellectual gap in the country’s fragile economy.

In this article, we will try to understand the consequences that brain drain poses to the economy and the possible upside to it, if there is any to begin with. We will largely be focusing on the health sector and technology sector, two sectors that have been hit the most by this phenomena.


The Buhari led administration campaigned to Nigerians that top of their agenda when elected into office would be to revive the health sector and abrogate medical tourism, but the reality is far from the case as the president himself and his officials have been seen to betray those promises.

The 2022 budgetary allocation for the country’s health sector was just N724 billion, which is only 4.2 percent of the entire budget. Again falling short of the Abuja Declaration of 2001 which recommended that at least 15% of our budget should be allocated to the health sector. We have to note that a large chunk of this budgetary allocation goes into recurrent expenditure while little is left for infrastructural development and capital expenditure. For a country that has the fifth lowest life expectancy according to data from WHO, to allocate a paltry 4.2% of the budget to the health sector at a time the country is facing challenges from malaria, cholera, lassa fever, monkeypox and the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, it shows not just the state of the health sector but also how the Federal Government view the needs of the sector.

Report from the “DAILY POST” shows that Nigeria graduates about 3,000 doctors yearly. With such output of doctors, there shouldn’t be shortage of doctors but is not the reality. According to the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Nigeria has lost over 9,000 medical doctors to the UK, US and Canada alone in less than 3 years. This loss has left Nigeria with only 4.7% of its specialists to service the healthcare needs. The World Health Organisation (WHO) stated that Nigeria has a doctor-to-patient ratio of 1:5,000; that is a doctor to 5,000 patients which falls far short of the WHO recommended ratio of 1:600 patients. Over half of the doctors registered with the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria(MDCN) practice outside Nigeria. It’s an open secret that most Americans and Europeans can’t get medical degrees without incurring a ton of money in student loan debt, while in Nigeria, medical schools and residency training centres in Nigeria are supported by government subvention, an investment that these foreign countries reap. According to MO IBRAHIM FOUNDATION, it costs an African country between $21,000 to $51,000 to train a single medical doctor.

VANGUARD Nigeria reported that Nigeria has lost more than $2billion since 2010 to training doctors who later migrated to countries such as UK. 10% of doctors working in the UK come from Africa, saving the UK about $2.7billon by recruiting these doctors. Depletion of professionals within a single industry would mean that citizens will go elsewhere for solution. With the shortage of medical consultants, India have become the beautiful bride for middle class Nigerians in search of medical solutions. Reports from DAILY TRUST stated that Nigerians spend over N663 billion annually on healthcare abroad: that almost matches the entire country’s healthcare budget.


When you think about 70% of Nigerians who live below the poverty line and can’t afford to travel to receive medical treatment, you understand that we can’t afford to let our doctors go.


Trying to see the phenomena in a different light, we have to look at whether there is an upside to it. And I think there is.


According to WORLD BANK records, Nigeria’s annual remittances was estimated to be over $23billion in 2019 and $21billion in 2020, making Nigeria the largest receiver of diaspora remittance in Africa. To put that into a simpler perspective, in 2018, Nigeria earned $32billion from the sell of oil, which is the country’s major export. That is to say that the money from abroad more than doubles our capital expenditure budget. And we have to take into account the possibility that remittances to Nigeria are much higher than they have been officially captured. “The data collected by the central bank are funds sent through the banking system ” says Akinola Owosekun, a Professor of Economics at Bowen University in Iwo southwest Nigeria.

The World bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) say remittances sent through informal channels could be 50% higher than those paid using the official systems. So, there is really no way to measure the amount of dollars that comes into the country in cash undeclared.

The huge question that needs to be answered is what these remittances are being spent on. Are the remittances spent on some social benefits or are they just miscellaneous private spendings by family members? In other to maximize the gains from all these funds, we need to understand the need to invest them in the right programs and ventures. It is a fact that those that send money from abroad, send what will be considered a small fraction of their income, which shows that we can actually generate way more. And as we thank them for the ones that have sent, there has to be a change of mindset of Nigerians in diaspora. They need to understand the importance of timely involvement and the role that their finance will play in building stable social welfare programs that work.

The Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) and The Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO) can actually play a key role in generating funds, skills and knowledge that will help in attracting more remittances and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) for the health sector, agriculture, ICT, education and service sector of the country.


The technology sector holds the same shades of disappointment, where most skilled professionals in the field of TECH, have chosen to leave the country for bigger opportunities.

The brain drain in Africa as well as the digital skills shortage currently being experienced in the continent calls for concern. As the demand for adequate and up to date cybersecurity systems grows, the knowledge and skill gap in this field is quiet enormous. We have seen how daring cybercriminals can be in targetting national assets, highly reputable firms and even individuals.

With African Tech presence increasing by the day and Nigeria leading the way in the emergence of new Tech start ups, we need all hands to be on deck in order to harness the full potentials that Africa’s emerging digital market possesses. The Banking and Telecommunication industry have taken the most direct hit in this sector, where key IT persons that companies have trained and invested on, uproot themselves out of the blue with little or no notice to these companies, travel and leave a vacancy that is difficult for most companies to find a stable replacement.

Start ups in Nigeria and other African nations have raised $3.1billion in the first six months of 2022 according to data from “BIG DEAL AFRICA” and we know that this large amount of investor capital will be used in recruitment of capable personnel that will help to grow all the business. But due to the current outflux of skilled workers in the Tech field, creating an environment for this new and fragile start up to essentially grow and be stable will be hard. The potential that this new Africa market possess is evident for all keen investors to see. According “REST OF WORLD.ORG”, by 2050 Africa’s digital economy will grow six fold to $712billon, this is amidst the challenges facing the continent and that has barely scratched the surface of its potentials. Despite fears, Africa’s venture funding is heading for more large scale increase in funding. Data from “BIG DEAL” reveals the first half of 2022 funding for Africa start ups as topping $3billion in the first six months of the year. For context, funding for all of 2021 was $4.4billon. The Nigeria tech space have been credited to generating a large chunk of these monies, where we have some Nigeria tech companies turning over some ridiculous amount of money. Data from “NAIRAMETRICS” shows that last year alone, Nigeria start-ups attracted over $150billon, which was 35% of the total investment that came into Africa in 2021.

Nigerian youths have become a shining light in the continent, with the development of innovative products that addresse key challenges, from Fintech to Edtech, they are breaking new grounds.

Let’s look briefly at some companies that are on the front line of this trend.

With the country’s health deteriorating at a fast rate, young Nigerian are using their digital skills to solve some the problems. One company at it now is, “RELIANCE HEALTH”, has been at the fore front of this quest to give Nigerians and Africans standard healthcare services that they can trust. Started in 2016 by DR. FEMI KUTI, OPEYEMI OLUMEKUN AND MATTEW MAYAKI,Reliance Health is an emerging market focused digital healthcare provider, who in February 2022 generated $40millon in its series B funding round, funds provided to better address the complex needs of today’s patients.

BAMBOO, a brokerage app that lets Africans buy and trade US stocks in real time, is a fast growing Fintech company that is breaking boundaries. In January 2022, they raised $15millon series A funding round which aims to accelerate its growth, move into new markets and launch more products. BAMBOO was founded by two young Nigerians, RICHMOND BASSEY and YANMO OMOROGBE in January of 2020 and since than have employed so many other youths with digital skills.

MOOVE a Nigeria based mobility fintech start-up founded in 2019 by British born Nigerian, LADI DELANO and JIDE ODUNSI, in March 2021, raised $105millon in an oversubscribed series A2 funding round to scale up their business into new markets. MOOVE provides loan to mobility entrepreneurs by selling them new vehicles and financing up to 95% of the purchase within five days of sign up. Users choose to pay back loans over a 24, 36, or 48 month period.

In conclusion, as Nigeria is experiencing the adverse effect of poor leadership, insecurity, diseases and a general downturn in the economy of the country, which has resulted in so many Nigerians seeking to leave at any given opportunity, the case still remains that whether you are leaving or staying, Nigeria is our own and no one can take that away from us. Let Nigerians quit whining about the government and its poor policies but rather start focusing on ways to add values. Let’s join the visionary and focused Nigerians who are creating innovations, opportunities, resources and value using their digital skills and hard work. Maybe then we might see our country fulfil its long awaited potentials.


Contents provided and/or opinions expressed here do not reflect the opinions of The Pacesetter Frontier Magazine or any employee thereof.

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