The rate at which Nigeria is losing its best hands in every sector, including telecoms, is becoming worrisome. Many of the experts, especially the youth, who are supposed to develop the local content technology, are leaving the country in droves. Concerned stakeholders have raised the alarm over the situation, urging government to initiate measures that will reverse the trend. ABOLAJI ADEBAYO reports
Recently, Nigerian youths have been exploring all possible means to leave the country to seek greener pasture overseas. The trend has continued as majority who were trained in Nigeria leave for other countries where they use their expertise to develop the foreign economies. This is at the expense of their own country, which loses in terms of manpower, economic gains, technology development and human development, among others. The term “brain drain” was coined by the Royal Society to describe the emigration of “scientists and technologists” to North America from post-war Europe. Another source indicates that the term was first used in the United Kingdom to describe the influx of Indian scientists and engineers. Nigeria, Kenya and Ethiopia are believed to be the most affected. According to the United Nations Development Programme, Ethiopia lost 75 per cent of its skilled workforce between 1980 and 1991. Besides the United Kingdom, countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia and South Africa also attract Nigerian talents, with Saudi Arabia running recruiting campaigns in the country. Not only are tech experts migrating to other countries, start-ups are also migrating.
Several common causes precipitating brain drain identified in Nigeria include political instability, poor quality of life, limited access to health care and a shortage of economic opportunity. These factors prompt skilled and talented workers to leave source countries for places that offer better opportunities. The search for commensurate rewards is one that drives the human pursuit in different sectors, from medicine, to technology, to artisanship and entrepreneurship is why tech talents leave the country in search of greener pastures. Due to the on-going trend where the immediate environment does not facilitate the growth and expansion of talents, people are often forced to new location, which fuels their ability. Lack of an enabling environment (lack of ICT skills, poor network infrastructure), high costs associated with ICT equipment, networks, software, on-going support, etc and insecurity have been identified as the most common challenges affecting the growth of technology in Nigeria, leading to brain drain. The CEO of Skilblt Technology, Olatunde Erinle, said many Nigerians, especially the youths in technology, were leaving the country due to lack of job opportunities, saying most university IT graduates find it difficult to secure jobs, while government is not creating enabling environment for many of them to grow their own business. According to him, “the policy, lack of financial security, poor infrastructure and lack of facilities to work with are the factors leading to brain drain. “Nigeria keeps having new lead-ers every four to eight years and they keep promising the same thing. Most of them get into power and their manifestoes are thrown into the gutter. “People are tired of waiting for a miracle. They are tired of dreaming that one day Nigeria would rise from being among the poorest countries to a developed country. Dollar rate keeps increasing and the worth of the naira is diminishing. “Life would be easier where one works in a good work environment with good infrastructures like a clean and healthy environment, maintenance of working equipment, health of the workers and conducive working hours. “However, most companies in Nigeria don’t care for the health and comfort of their workers. Most people work in hazard areas, which in turn affects their health and productivity. People want to be appreciated, people want to work in a safe and healthy environment where they won’t have to worry for their health and this informs their emigration to developed countries where there are better working conditions.” He noted that at the current rate, the mass emigration does not seem to be ending any time soon.
It is no doubt the 4 M’s of business, which are money, machine, manpower and material, are key factors to sustaining business growth and achieving success in an industry. In a scenario where there is money and material but no manpower to coordinate the working process or utilise available resources, productivity is hampered. Therefore, the constant migration of proactive minds leaves the country stagnant up until degradation, even if eventually the industries are set up, infrastructure put in place and all round support accorded the society. The nature of tech jobs differs amongst the various arms of technology and usually requires flexibility. Most tech jobs can be done remotely and so disrupts the conventional mode of technical jobs. Nigeria and many other African countries do not have companies that accept working remotely as it is believed, distance might affect productivity. Infrastructure is a great component in getting jobs done in the tech space. A tech operator would need his tech tools like computers and other gadgets to get his job done. These tools do not power themselves and obviously need power supply, internet connection, network configurations and the likes. Not having electricity or power supply elements can be highly discouraging. Industries and organisations come under infrastructure as there are fewer companies to create opportunities, provide the suitable workspace and meet the needs of employees. Another effect of brain drain is that the few tech experts in the country are overworked and under- paid, which is why they look to work with the western world where they get paid according to the value they offer and duration of tasks. The salary of tech employees outside Africa can sum up $200,000+ per annum and those in Africa can’t earn up to that following the unfavorable conditions of the environment. The master of it all. With the numerous unfavorable situations, skilled individuals migrate, families move along, friends inspire skilled friends to leave also because everyone wants to make it. Nigeria is left to worsen with already existing problems and more to come. In years to come, only a few inhabitants would be skilled and the country would be forced to result to importation of its people to provide solutions with their expertise.
Curbing the trend
To curb brain drain in Nigeria, especially in the health sector, the National Assembly has hinted of plans to enact a law that will define a period for consultants to serve the country before going overseas to practise. This was disclosed in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, during an oversight exercise by House of Representatives Committee on Health Institutions at the University Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH). Giving a background to the law, Chairman of the Committee, Paschal Chigoziem-Obi, noted that the bill would mandate consultants to serve the country for a period to give back to the system before leaving the country for greener pasture. Although he admitted that the bill might not be the best measure to curb brain drain, he noted that it is one of the ways to stop the trend. He said: “It will interest you to note that we are also coming out with a bill, which will prohibit consultants and people in that cadre to travel after their training without spending a specified number of years in the country to, at least, pay back the system that trained them because their training is almost 100 per cent free.” He added that the current economic realities thwarted government’s efforts to give doctors better welfare, blaming the constant devaluation of naira as the immediate cause of the exodus by doctors to other climes. Tech industry players suggested similar measure to stop brain drain in the industry. However, they believe government only need to encourage the hone trained tech experts to practice in Nigeria rather than going abroad.
the whole situations, possible solutions to minimise or stop brain drain in Nigeria, according to experts and industry analysis, include provision of good working conditions for employees; favorable rules and regulations set up for startups, up-skilling staff through job training and workshops; start-up support in every aspect e.g. funding, advisory, mentoring and networking. Experts also suggested building the tech sector as a separate industry to be budgeted for; increasing the remuneration of tech employees and modus operandi, according to work functions, setting up tech regulatory bodies to monitor and evaluate technological progress in the country; as well as inculcating tech in educational curriculum.
While Nigeria tech industry is not in any way developing as it is supposed to, the trend of brain drain has to be curbed by the governing and other stakeholders. The youths and tech employees have to be encouraged with good working environment, including good remuneration. Thence, the country will be in a position to grow its technology and move along with other developed and developing nations.