Community, Diaspora and Immigration

Why The African Diaspora Won’t Return Home

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New York Times published an article about the increase of U.S. immigrants going back to their native countries to start up their own businesses. It is safe to say over the past decade the countries grouped in the BRICS (Brazil, Russian Federation, India, China, South  Africa) have been fortunate to receive a brain-gain, as many of their best and brightest have seen their own countries as lands of opportunities.

On one of my social media networks I spotted a comment that said “By the time Africans get featured in an article like this the gold rush will be over.” Of course you can easily interpret this statement in several ways but it spoke volumes about how Africans tend to always be last in everything.

As a Nigerian in the Diaspora I would love to go back after I finish my education to pursue my own dreams but realistically we are faced with obstacles that cause many diasporans to become reluctant to return back to Africa to start up a business. Here are my reasons why…

The Political Climate
The political climate in Nigeria is one of the number main reasons why the Nigerian Diaspora refuse to go back to Nigeria. Despite a democratic society, the political system is still full of corruption and lacks transparency.

If we compare our political history to a developing country such as Malaysia you will see some similarities as both countries received independence two years apart from each other from British rule. Even in the 1960’s Nigeria was ahead of Malaysia economically and had vastly more natural resources. If we compare both countries today, Malaysia has been able to pull ahead in terms of development. In Malaysia, a person can literally start a business in less than week comapred to Nigeria which is 30 plus days. Interestingly enough, there is an increasing Nigerian base in Malaysia. In other countries hard work can actually turn into a successful business. Take Chris Aire who has created a jewelry empire, or Kase Lawal a well known business man in the oil sector. In Nigeria there are, of course many businesses thriving off their own work, but just as many growing due to ties with the government.

Lack of infrastructure
As of 2012, Nigeria still does not have a stable power for companies to run businesses. Many companies in Nigeria use over 10% of their income on all day power generation. In other countries running power for the company is the least of one’s concern and normally amounts to 1% to 2 %. Apart from power, roads are an eyesore and connectivity is still a problem among businesses. These issues have stifled for decades Nigerians who dream of building a business. Many Nigerians in the Diaspora have great ideas but are held back simply because Nigeria lacks the infrastructure to turn their idea into a viable business.

Out of touch with Nigeria
Let’s face it, some people in the diaspora are just simply out of touch. They have no clue of what goes on in Nigeria and some do not even want to know. Other countries do a great job of connecting their people in the Diaspora to their home countries. In India, a person from the Diaspora sits in parliament. The Chinese have groups in the Diaspora that actually have an influence on Chinese affairs. If we look at Liberia they allow they citizens in the Diaspora to vote in government elections. Yes, we can say we have “people” in the government who are supposed to handle Diaspora affairs, but what have they done? We have groups in the Diaspora who are there to help Nigerian entrepreneurs invest in Nigeria, but instead it becomes a power struggle over who will lead the group.  This is an area where Diaspora affairs must improve in order to create a better bridge between those in and out of Nigeria.
The comfort of being overseas
Time and time again I meet Nigerians who continue to say I want to back to Nigeria one day and it never becomes a reality. I remember jumping in a taxi cab on my way to a meeting and coincidentally the taxi driver was a Nigerian. He was telling me his journey from Nigeria and how he wished to go back but he had become used to his routine in the US. Many people aspire to be entrepreneurs but some would rather settle for the comfort of 9 to 5 job than go back to Nigeria to deal with the headache. Nigerians who have returned to Nigeria arrive to discover a pile of empty promises. People who promised they would connect them with so and so end up being dead ends. Staying in the Diaspora may not be ideal  but to many Nigerians it is considered the safe route.

Despite all of these roadblocks to going back, I am still moved by the vast opportunities to try my luck and move back to Nigeria. There are many Africans who have gone back and have made a successful name for themselves. Africa is growing by leaps and bounds ripe for development. It will be difficult to assimilate back into the country, but anything great is not easy to obtain. The challenges of Nigeria and the rest of Africa should not discourage people in the Diasporas; it should in fact encourage us to transfer our skills to build up Africa. As a wise man once told me, “Nigerians are walking on money; the opportunities are far too great to not see them”. I call on Africans in the Diaspora to migrate back  to your countries of origin and seize these opportunities.
Are you an African in the Diaspora? Are you willing and ready to return home? Or are you a recent returnee? What has been your experience?

Do not wait for the gold rush to be over before you tap into Africa’s potential.

By Chika Uwazie

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