✕ CLOSE Online Special City News Entrepreneurship Environment Factcheck Everything Woman Home Front Islamic Forum Life Xtra Property Travel & Leisure Viewpoint Vox Pop Women In Business Art and Ideas Bookshelf Labour Law Letters

Nigeria must stem brain drain

The recent migration of skilled Nigerian professionals, creatives and entrepreneurs in search of better prospects, and a less hostile environment to work and produce in…

The recent migration of skilled Nigerian professionals, creatives and entrepreneurs in search of better prospects, and a less hostile environment to work and produce in away from this country is a source of concern. Considering what the brain drain being witnessed today means for the economy of the country and its social development, we are gravely concerned about this development and surprised that alarm bells are yet to go off in the appropriate quarters and MDAs.

Already, a lot has been said about the brain drain being experienced in the medical field with Nigerian-trained medical professionals, including doctors, and medical support staff. This is well documented in the media without commensurate measures by the government to reverse the tide. Not too long ago, the president of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) Professor Innocent Ujah, admitted that the country lost 9, 000 medical doctors between 2016 and 2018 to other countries. These figures have since gone higher in the years following, and should have triggered furious efforts by the government to improve working conditions that would keep such professionals at home. That, unfortunately, has not been the case here.

Medical education in Nigeria is one of the cheapest in the world, with the federal and state governments subsidizing the cost of tuition and boarding, so that overall, the cost of a six-year training for doctors is generally not more than a few thousand dollars, against tens of thousands of dollars required for the same training in the countries our doctors move to like the US, UK, and the Middle East. Training of nurses and other health professionals in Nigeria is even cheaper. In this respect, the brain drain in the medical field translates to billions of naira in losses for Nigeria, and makes it difficult for the country to retain a sufficient number of doctors to balance the doctor/patient ratio in the country. This has left Nigeria with just four doctors to 10, 000 Nigerians, according to data from the World Health Organization, an abysmal figure compared to the African average of 27 doctors to 10, 0000 patients.

Sadly, the brain drain is not only prevalent in the medical sector but has spread to the education and creative sectors as well. Thousands of young and mid-level intellectuals and creatives who work or should normally be working in our universities and research centres have packed their bags and left the country, and in effect, using their training and skills acquired here in Nigeria to help develop other countries.

Only this Monday, the New Telegraph newspaper reported that “a wave of brain drain” has hit Nigeria’s banking and financial sector, with tech experts in the sector leaving “in droves for greener pastures” in other countries. And in April, the same report said, the Chief Executive Officer of Sterling Bank Plc, Abubakar Suleiman had told reporters at a post-Bankers’ Committee Meeting press briefing that “So many of our very experienced talents, especially in the area of software engineering, are either leaving the industry or leaving the country”, the paper reported Suleiman to have said.  

Also, many Nigerians have applied for the UK Global Talent Visa, designed to attract some of the finest brains and social pillars from other countries to the UK, based on their track record of social engagement and cultural and creative productivity. While we admit that nothing can stand in the way of an individual’s desire for personal career growth, it is alarming that many of these Nigerians are leaving because they see no realistic prospects in the country. And while we also acknowledge that human migration is dynamic, emigration of skilled professionals and creatives within a short period from a region that is already in desperate need of such skills and competencies is a precursor to the failure of a country, something the government must avoid by all means.

What is even more worrying is that these Nigerians are not only migrating temporarily or for personal career growth, but are being pursued by the sorry state of the economy, the malignant insecurity, the despondent state of social affairs, the hopeless lack of opportunities and enabling policies, the aggressive state of corruption, the lack of basic amenities among others. We are aware of social media discussion fora where thousands of Nigerians interested in leaving the country share ideas about the best ways to migrate.

Besides the loss of manpower for Nigeria, this brain drain translates to a loss of tax revenue, loss of potential future entrepreneurs, and a shortage of important skilled workers. The exodus may lead to a loss of confidence in the economy by potential investors.

The surest way to stem this brain drain is to create decent paying jobs for Nigerians, introduce enabling policies that allow young entrepreneurs and businesses to thrive, enjoy government protection, stabilize the economy and improve the value of the naira to enable small and medium businesses to be competitive and employ more Nigerians. We strongly suggest that the government commissions a study into the trending brain drain and develop a strategic short- and long-term approach to keeping promising Nigerian talents in all walks of life comfortable enough to stay and develop their country. In the long run, Nigeria cannot afford such an exodus of its finest brains.