In 2011, I brought a team of 11 Nigerian graduates to build a mobile development business exclusively on Android. Yes, that was the time when Blackberry was on the mountaintop, in Nigeria, but living in America gave me a small edge on the potentials of Android. We ran Fasmicro Masterclass and training, bringing 100 graduates together, and at the end we would onboard the ones we desired. Along the way, we had great quarters, winning a business with Shell Nigeria.
Led by a first class graduate of Covenant University, we found success. The young man, just 22 years, and his team did stuffs. Then, everything collapsed: within 6 months, they all left. In one month, three left for IBM and Glo.
It was a shock because I had spent 12 months training them; I bought any possible book on Android development. That was my first experience on running a business where broad talent pool is scarce, anchored on the illusion that you can train and hold. Simply, it does not work, if you are honest to follow labour laws: you cannot bond labour because it is illegal to do.
So those that are commenting that Nigerian companies which are losing workers to Canada should just hire and replace with new people are plain wrong: no company stays in the business of hiring and losing manpower. Just like I killed the mobile business, when companies cannot compete on talent, they kill the business. And when nations cannot compete on talent, they die economically.
Sure – you may ask why I did not pay them well (yes, they could have left because I did not pay well). Unfortunately, retention goes beyond wages and salaries. There is no local Nigerian company that can match the pedigree IBM offers workers even if you can double (impossible of course) whatever IBM pays in Nigeria. I had explained how I chose to work in Diamond Bank, earning lesser, because, among others, it offered me a higher chance of getting American visa.
Yes, to get a U.S. visa then, work for an oil company or a bank! The foreign embassies had records of all approved bank signatories for the typical Place of Work letters you take along. Once those signatures match, you get your visa. For my first UK visa, I applied for single entry 6-month visa, but along the way, the embassy staff asked a bank driver who helped me to submit it if he could upgrade the visa to 2-year multiple. The driver paid the extra fee from his pocket knowing I would refund him with benefits.
Simply, Nigeria should not neglect the risks on this economy if we cannot retain our talented young people. As a nation, we cannot just be training and losing our brilliant minds. Yes, while we have many looking for work, that does not mean that companies should be losing manpower after investing on them. As my small mobile business shows, nothing good comes out of such: people quit and economy suffers.
It is important to note that leaving Nigeria to permanently relocate to UK, Australia, Canada and US goes beyond salaries. The standard of living, the better schools for kids and indeed the healthcare facilities all play major roles. Yes, people resign from banks in Nigeria, after winning American lottery, to relocate to U.S. to serve as cleaners (temporarily) before they find their levels.
So, any illusion that more salaries to workers either in the private or public sector will stop the tide is nothing but trivializing an important matter. Yet, if managed properly, emigration is not all bad: Nigerian diasporas are helping to fund new companies, bringing new capabilities and business networks back home. We need to find an equilibrium point for the competitiveness of our nation.
Chinese and Indian technology sectors are built by their diasporas; Nigerian diasporas have to replicate same in Nigeria. If we do that, Nigeria WINS despite the exodus.
This issue is multifaceted, and I am not sure LinkedIn character limitation offers a good space for a robust argument, it requires a full policy framework anyway.
But there are many things to consider, with love for country being at the top. We also need to segment the class of emigrants, only those with entrepreneurial mindset can actually make decent impact in their home country, certainly not those who are looking for comfortable life and just means of survival, do not bank on the latter for economic development.
Again, we cannot be shouting globalisation and free movement of labour without making deals. It is immoral/unfair for one country to train able-bodied citizens and another will reap, and somewhat we think the developing countries will ever move from ‘developing’ to ‘developed’; it’s a joke.
How about the home government getting some percentage of the earnings her citizens in the diaspora make? It’s a high octane international diplomacy. These are the sort of issues governments from this part of the world should be arguing at UN Assembly or WTO, not mundane issues that do nothing to improve people and infrastructures here.
So much to talk about, but there is a practical solution, with lots of give and take.