A DIASPORA is a large group of people with similar heritage or homeland, who have since moved out to places all over the world. Diasporas live and work in states, regions or countries different from their country of birth, or homeland. The term has been used also to describe itinerant Nigerians who are scattered all over the world, either as political or economic migrants.
Wherever they find themselves, Nigerian diaspora have always distinguished themselves in the professions, be it medical, academia, sports, technology, finance, business and other fields.
In an October 2020 publication by the London -based Financial Times newspaper, quoting from 2017 data from the Migration Policy Institute, it said that, “In the United States of America, Nigerians are the most highly educated of all groups, with 61 per cent holding at least a bachelors degree compared with 31 per cent of the total foreign-born population and 32 per cent of the US-born population”. The report went on to say that, “more than half of Nigerian immigrants (54 per cent) were most likely to occupy management positions, compared with 32 per cent of the total foreign-born population and 39 per cent of the United States-born population”.
Despite the unpleasant activities of some of Nigeria’s diaspora reported in the media, who engage in criminal activities including drug-related crimes, fraud, human trafficking, etc, which continue to give Nigerians living in the diaspora a bad name, one can safely conclude that Nigerian diaspora are not only a source of pride to their motherland but also a serious source of economic support to friends and family back home through their regular foreign remittances. They are also proud ambassadors of the nation.
Ade Lawal, writing in the Africa Report, August 2021 edition and quoting World Bank figures said; “Diaspora remittances are a big deal in Nigeria. In 2015, Nigeria received more diaspora remittance inflow than what it earned from oil, the mainstay of the economy. Oil has accounted for over 50% of government revenue in the last five years and represents 80% of Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings as well as 30% of banking credit. In 2015, Nigerians abroad sent home $21.2bn while the country generated $19.6bn from crude oil sales throughout the same year. The trend continued through 2018 when oil export proceeds were approximately $7bn less than diaspora remittances”.
He concludes that, “Diaspora remittance inflow is the second largest source of foreign exchange earnings for Nigeria”.
This is not surprising considering the large number of Nigerians living in the diaspora and their continued attachment to the homeland. Nigeria’s high remittance figures are fuelled by its skilled diaspora, and as shown by research, educated, healthy and skilled citizens are more likely to migrate.
Pew Research Center in its findings explained that, “unemployment, insecurity and sparse future opportunities fuel migration in Sub-Saharan Africa where there is a mismatch between high population growth and slow economic development”.
According to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, In 2019 alone, over 12,000 Nigerians migrated to Canada and 11,629 filed asylum claims – twice the number of Indians (from a country whose population is six times more than Nigeria’s). It is the growing Nigeria diaspora community scattered all over the world that have continued to sustain the foreign remittances which as noted has helped to sustain not only families in Nigeria, but the Nigerian economy as well.
Another World Bank report compiled for Punch newspaper by the trio of Temitayo Jaiyeola, Dayo Adenubi and Amarachi Orjiude in August 2021 reports that Nigerian Diaspora population remitted $65.34bn in three years to boost economic activities in the country.
According to the World Bank data, in 2018, the Nigerian Diaspora remittance was $24.31bn; in 2019, it dropped to $23.81bn; and in 2020, it fell to $17.21bn.
Remittance inflow made up four per cent of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product in 2020.
According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Nigeria had a Diaspora population of 1.7 million as of 2020. The figures are estimates and could be higher if undocumented Nigerian diaspora are included.
This puts the average remittance per Nigerian abroad (based on 2020 Diaspora population) at $38,428.15 across the three years.
Many argue that there are possibilities that the Nigerian Diaspora population is larger than what has been officially captured.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President of Nigeria on Foreign Affairs and the Diaspora, Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa, had in 2017 said there were about 15 million Nigerians living in various parts of the world.
According to the International Monetary Fund, remittances are household income from foreign economies arising mainly from the temporary or permanent movement of people to those economies. Remittances include cash and noncash items that flow through formal channels such as electronic wire, or through informal channels, such as money or goods carried across borders.
The IMF stated that remittances help poorer recipients meet basic needs, fund cash and non-cash investments, finance education, foster new businesses, service debt and essentially, drive economic growth.
The federal government signed the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission Establishment Bill into law in July 2017 after recognising the strategic importance of the Nigerian Diaspora. The law established the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, which was set up to engage and utilise the human, capital and material resources of this demography in the socioeconomic, cultural and political development of Nigeria.
Abike Dabiri-Erewa was appointed as the first chairman and chief executive officer of the commission. In 2019, the federal government went a step further by recognising July 25 of every year as National Diaspora Day. Anambra State Government has also set up the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, Culture and Tourism.
There is also another possibility that remittances to Nigeria are much higher than have been officially captured. This is because many Nigerians abroad explore unofficial ways of sending home money in order to maximise unofficial exchange rates.
Beyond the foreign remittances, the healthcare and educational support Nigeria and Anambra diaspora provide for their people back home, there is even greater expectation that they should be more involved in the political process back home, even if indirectly.
In discussing Nigeria diaspora, Anambra diaspora is peculiar. According former Central Bank Governor and candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in the November 6, 2021 Anambra gubernatorial election, “Ndi Anambra are itinerant people and look forward to having a prosperous homeland where they will bring back their investments to, and where they will always come back to live, work, play and do business”. Anambra diaspora can be found all over the world, in Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Port Harcourt and outside Nigeria. It’s about time that their skills, talents and economic powers are harnessed not only for the economic development of the state, but also its political development.
The 2021 Anambra gubernatorial election presents a good opportunity for Anambra diaspora to play an active role in influencing the eventual winner of the gubernatorial election for the greater good of the state. It is expected that having analysed all the candidates, they should be able to identify that one candidate they believe will help create a prosperous homeland for ndi Anambra. A homeland that will be liveable where ndi Anambra can live, work, play and do business. Just like what obtains in the various locations where they reside.
Sending money home is good but it should not stop there. Ndi Anambra in the diaspora should wield their economic power to influence policies and this also means helping to mobilise their people at home to vote – in a credible gubernatorial candidate. They should call their family members, associates and friends on the phone, discuss with them on social media including WhatsApp platforms and impress upon them the need to shun money politics, electoral violence, and the greater need to vote – in an ‘A’ candidate that can take the development of Anambra, the ‘A’ state to greater heights.