Brain drain and the Nigerian economy

Recently, Nigeria has witnessed an uptick in the number of trained skilled workers migrating to other countries, particularly to the West. Many of these emigrants are graduates trained in Nigerian universities, which are highly subsidized by the government. Many of these emigrant workers take with them years of training and skills in foreign countries.

These human capital exports have raised many concerns about the consequent deprivation to many of Nigeria’s struggling sectors, particularly the health sector, which has seen the exit of its doctors and nurses in droves in recent years.

Recently, Nigeria’s Labour minister, Dr. Chris Ngige commented, that he was unbothered about the increased rates of doctors to other countries, saying, “We have surplus doctors, if we have a surplus, we export.”

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This statement came as shock to many, considering the fact that Nigeria has one of the lowest doctor-patient ratios in the world. At 1 doctor per 5,000 people, this ratio is drastically below the WHO-recommended 1 doctor per 600 people.

For context, the United Kingdom boasts of a doctor-patient ratio of 1 per 300. The UK ratio is set to improve as more doctors worldwide flock to live and work in the United Kingdom.

The reasons for Nigeria’s persistent brain drain are not hard to diagnose. A crippled economy, failing infrastructure, porous security, human rights violations, and high unemployment rates are just some of the many reasons young people are bailing out of the country to greener pastures. At the current rate, the mass exodus does not appear to be ending any time soon.

The unintended consequence of this drain sees Nigeria spending billions of naira training its skilled manpower, only to lose its capital to other jurisdictions. It is estimated that Nigeria has spent upwards of $2bn training doctors who have subsequently migrated.

The United Nations Commission for Trade and Development estimates that each African professional lost to other countries represents a loss of $184, 000 to Africa.

However, some view the mass exodus of skilled professionals as a positive. To them, exporting our best brains is an investment in Nigeria’s future. This belief, however incredulous, is not unfounded.

In 2018, Nigerians received $25.1bn from Nigerians living abroad, a figure that is triple the country’s capital expenditure budget. For context, Nigeria made $18.2bn from oil production and export.

Nigeria’s labour minister claims that the country has a glut of doctors, and as such, it is natural and logical for the country to export.

However, the veracity of this claim is yet to be seen, as the country’s health sector currently suffers one of the lowest doctor-patient ratios in the world. Doctors are overworked several days on call without break.

This situation belies the labour minister’s assertion and proves that there is indeed a dearth of skilled labour in the country. The Nigeria Medical Association claims that there are 40,000 doctors in its register far below the needs of the teeming population of 196 million.

This problem is not limited to the health sector alone. Science, technology, and education are other major sectors suffering from a dearth of qualified professionals. The reason is not far-fetched.

A severe lack of adequate infrastructure and worthwhile remuneration is a major driving factor for the emigration of skilled scientists and lecturers. Nigeria’s public-funded tertiary institutions suffer inadequate manpower, as the most competent lecturers often gravitate towards juicy offers abroad.

This leaves a massive load for those left behind to carry. From recent statistics, Nigeria has one of the worst lecturer student ratios in universities worldwide, with disturbing numbers such as 1 lecturer to 122 students in the University of Abuja being reported.

It is apparent that the nation’s leadership must stake active steps towards stemming the loss of talented Nigerians to other countries.

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With effective governance and administration, several key industries will be kick-started, ensuring employment opportunities for the populace. Invariably, this would lead to better economic opportunities and ultimately, an avenue for the growth of the industry.

It is also pertinent to ensure that there are provisions for the creation of social security measures, improved infrastructure and a generally improved standard of living. These contribute to making the quality of life in the country desirable. However, these are merely palliative recommendations.

To effect long-lasting change, the country must improve the wages and conditions of services for many of the country’s core personnel. The provision of adequate infrastructure and a competitive wage are some of the many ways the country’s professional may be convinced to stay and build the country.

Ogunbodede G. Olaniran wrote in from  Mass Communication, Babcock University



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