Global demand for talent shrinking Nigeria’s manpower

At what may be Nigeria’s weakest point (following two economic recessions and a generally distressed economy), developed countries are intensifying offers of exciting incentives, luring away the best of Nigeria’s struggling manpower that would be needed to revive local struggling businesses.

Nigerian companies trying to turn their businesses around and stay afloat in the difficult operating environment are increasingly finding fewer manpower options in the available workforce.

“Right now, businesses are losing talents that should help them improve,” said Funbi Matthew, a business management and human resource professional, noting, “The government needs to start seeing the impact of this on businesses, and businesses need to know how to manage talents by knowing the factors that impact their talents from leaving.”

In 2012, six PhD holders and 704 Master’s Degree holders were reported to have applied for the Dangote truck drivers vacancies, and the trend has remained over the years. In calls for applications in both the private and public sectors in roles such qualifications ordinarily would not be expected to apply, thousands without better options have continued to actively seek under-employment.

However, not just those who have tried with little or no success are open to being poached by foreign countries, those with extensive work experience are especially more attractive, and the options to flee Nigeria keep increasing.

Apart from Canada, which has been a popular destination for those wishing to emigrate, recently, countries like the UK and United Arab Emirates have announced measures to attract immigrants.

For example, last month, the UK government said its new Graduate Route post-study work visa would open on July 1, 2021, meaning that through the programme, Masters graduates (and Bachelors graduates) can live and work in the UK for up to two years, while PhD graduates can live and work up to three years. The UK has been a traditionally popular destination for Nigerians in search of foreign education, and now, there is an added incentive of gainful employment.

For United Arab Emirates, last year it announced that it was extending its golden visa system, which grants 10-year residency to PhD holders, doctors, engineers in the fields of computer engineering, electronics, programming, electricity and biotechnology as well as graduates from accredited universities with a Grade Point Average of 3.8 or more.

Higher education has always been one of the principal conduits of permanent emigration. But Nigeria’s current realities, such as high inflation, unemployment and fragile economic growth, have now made it a major reason its citizens emigrate to other countries for greener pasture.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the country’s inflation, which measures the rate of increase of commodity prices quickened to a 35-month high at 17.3 percent in February 2020, and unemployment, at a record high of 33.3 percent as of fourth quarter of 2020, has heightened insecurity in the country.

Also, around 82.9 million Nigerians are extremely poor, constituting 40.1 percent of the total population with real per capita expenditure below N137, 430 in 2019, the NBS data show. The World Bank predicted that there would be 95.7 million Nigerians living below the poverty line by 2020.

“You have a lot of mid and high skill (individuals) leaving, which affects how businesses operate in terms of the talents that they have and stability,” Kemi Ogunkoya, a leadership development strategist, said. “They would drain businesses which in the long run means those businesses will now start sourcing for talents outside of Nigeria, which may be more expensive.”

According to Damilola Adewale, a Lagos-based economic analyst, the government needs to support the private sector more by enhancing their job-creating capacity and also implement structural reforms to enhance quality of well-being of the citizens.

Although there is no available data to accurately state talent flight, but in the medical area, the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) in 2019 raised alarm over shortage of healthcare practitioners in the country, saying only 42,000 doctors were available for Nigeria’s population of over 200 million people.

“One thing that Human Resource professionals now look out for in interviews is not only somebody that will do the work but can exist in this particular company and imbibe its culture too,” Ola Winnifred, a human resource officer, said.

According to McKinsey & Company, talent flight can undermine performance, value creation, and both the near- and long-term success of ongoing deals and organisations should develop talent retention plans as soon as possible.

“The solution has to be a Public and Private Partnership thing. Create an environment that makes people stay and the right education that makes us competitive. Also, organisations should be more intentional in training their employees, adopt flexible working and move in line with the modern workforce,” Ogunkoya suggested.

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