The new UNDP report on African migration in Europe makes sense if you are a Nigerian


The United Nations Development Program recently released a report on the migration patterns of African immigrants to Europe, a very enlightening list that reiterates what we’ve already suspected from social media. Africa has turned its focus from Europe and the America’s to Canada. We went through the entire list so you don’t have to and picked out 6 stats from the report that we think explains all of Nigeria’s new migration trends and why they are happening.

  • 58% of respondents were either earning (49%) or in school (9%) at the time of their departure. For a majority of those earning, income appears to have been competitive in the national context.

This factoid would surprise most middle class Nigerians. While Nigeria has a robust system that subsidizes tertiary education, the vast majority of Nigerians cannot even afford this heavily subsidized university education. According to the Nigerian Universities Commission, only 1.96 million (1%)  of Nigerians are currently in university at any point in time. This 1% is upwardly mobile enough to be able to afford the expensive peripheral costs of migrating to another country. This suggests, that contrary to popular convention, far fewer Nigerians are can actually migrate than we are led to believe.  

  • For 66% of respondents earning, or the prospect of earning, was not a factor that constrained the decision to migrate.

For anyone who has been studying the new wave of Nigerian brain drain, would be surprised to find that the metrics that influence migration have changed drastically. Countries like Canada and the US have created specific channels that encourage highly skilled professionals to migrate abroad to fill the professional deficiencies in their countries. Canada specifically has visas that are only accessible to professionals in engineering, tech and medicine that include employment, relocation and special benefits. With these kinds of benefits, even the highly skilled well paid minority in Nigeria, afraid that their earning power reduces with each year of economic decline, is motivated to take the plunge and move abroad. 

  • 62% of respondents felt they had been treated unfairly by their governments, with many pointing to ethnicity and political views as reasons for perception of unfair treatment.

Where do we begin?

In May 2019, dozens of Nigerian women living in Abuja were picked up by the Nigerian Police and arrested on charges of prostitution. The evidence to support these arrests that the women were dressed ‘indecently’, a wholly subjective term considering the Nigerian constitution has no edicts on what is considered appropriate/decent dressing. These arrests were an escalation of targeted arrests against young Nigerians across class divides on trumped up charges of fraud, indecency, prostitution and homosexuality. The Nigerian police has been accused of harassing citizens as a way to meet extortion quotas set by the leadership of the Nigerian police. 

This and severe economic policies that target the ability of young Nigerians to create wealth through private business and stay in control of their property, identity and wealth is a huge catalyst for why upwardly mobile Nigerians usually insulated from poverty and institutional violence to consider migration to Europe and the west. 

  • 77% felt that their voice was unheard or that their country’s political system provided no opportunity through which to exert influence on government.

In 2018, the Nigerian government signed into law the ‘Not Too Young to Run’ bill, a law that lowered the age of eligibility for young Nigerians looking to contest for public office. There was much rejoicing, and nearly 3000 young Nigerians applied for the political primaries in the country. However, most of them were either out-muscled out of their positions or asked to step down for older political candidates with a better chance of winning. With the institutional barrier removed, it has become clear that politics will not be the way young Nigerians get to chance the country and most affluent young Nigerians are not willing to wait. 

  • 41% of respondents said ‘nothing’ would have changed their decision to migrate to Europe Average earnings in Europe far outstrip average earnings in Africa, even in real terms.

In reality, it would be incredibly difficult to convince many of the Africans migrating to stay by incentivizing them with financial benefits because their problem is a question of infrastructure rather than payment. With poor transport systems, and virtually no provisions for healthcare and leisure. Nigerians, like many African immigrants are longer cared about travelling to other countries purely to create wealth. They want to access functional infrastructure and a government that incentivizes their attempts to grow and innovate. 

  • 67% of those who did not want to stay permanently in Europe said their communities would be happy if they returned, compared to 41% of those who did want to live permanently in Europe.

Wealth is often a way to elevate family members so a family member who fully migrated abroad is often less beneficial to the larger community than one who set roots back home and only move abroad to amass wealth and security. Family members who return are more likely to invest in Nigeria and their extended families and as such, migrants will remain incentivized to return

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