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THE NIGERIAN DIASPORA

Nigerians have left Nigeria in the last few years in droves and can be found in every part of the world today. They contribute to host communities at the expense of Nigeria. Formal studies of the Nigerian and African Diaspora have been limited especially when compared to studies done on other Diaspora groups. However, with the increase in emigration out of Nigeria, and the potential of the Nigerian Diaspora, Nigerian emigration is gaining attention with the Nigerian government and organizations around the world.

Nigeria has the largest population of black people in the world and Nigerian emigrants constitute a significant portion of the number of immigrants into countries each year. With the US Diversity Visa program 100,000 immigrants worldwide for 50,000 available visas each year. For the Diversity Visa Lottery 2005, 6,725 Nigerians qualified. This represents the largest number of any African country and approximately twice the number from the African country with the highest number of qualifiers.


This emigration has been at a cost to Nigeria as the best, brightest and most able have left Nigeria. Nigerians left the country in the 70’s and 80’s but the highest rate of emigration started after 1990. This rapid migration of the country’s professionals has been termed the “brain drain”. Today, Nigerians can be found in most countries of the world and Nigerian communities are springing up. In Europe, London’s Peckham can be called “Little Lagos” while Houston, Texas in the USA also has a large population of Nigerians.


As we say, “Everybody knows a Nigerian” . Like other Diaspora groups, the Nigerian Diaspora contributes to the development and sustenance of their host communities at a detriment to Nigeria. The potential that they offer to their host countries are opportunities that could have been captured by Nigeria.


However, without any large scale and formal structure, the Nigerian Diaspora has contributed to the development of their home communities and Nigeria. Their financial and human resource contributions have greatly impacted some communities in Nigeria. For example the Association of Nigerians Physicians in the USA regularly visit Nigeria to offer assistance to patients and doctors in Nigeria.


Remittances from the Nigerian Diaspora also contribute significantly to the Nigerian economy. The money they send home helps stabilize the foreign exchange demand. Just as in other African communities, most of their remittances are used to support family members in Nigeria and are typically used for consumption (food, clothing, education, health care, etc).


In 2003, Western union announced that transfers through Western Union to Nigeria had averaged about $3 billion per annum for the past seven years. A significant portion of these inflows are remittances from the Nigerian Diaspora.


Here at NGEX we estimate that remittances from the Nigerian Diaspora are approximately $6- $ 8 billion per annum. When this is compared to Nigeria’s 2003 GDP of $50.2 billion and foreign reserves of $19.59 billion as at January, 2005 it is evident that the Diaspora’s financial contributions are significant.


One of our goals at NGEX is to divert some of the funds remitted to Nigeria for consumption into investment opportunities. We believe that by using their funds to invest in opportunities for their families at home, the Nigerian Diaspora cab effectively wean their relations of the dependence on them.


To achieve this, opportunities in Nigeria need to be advertised prominently to members of the Nigerian Diaspora and channels for fund flows need to be enhanced for effectiveness
Unfortunately, Nigerians are not always known for positive contributions. Corruption and the Advance fee fraud, popularly called the Nigerian scam or 419, have placed Nigeria and Nigerians at the forefront of economic mismanagement and crime.