Brain Drain: Causes, Impact, and Possible Solutions


The desire to leave the country by well-trained professionals and individuals is now at an alarming rate than ever before. Those who do not think of leaving or desire to leave are seen as people without vision or focus in life. The move is always or most times to advanced countries like the USA, France, Russia, Germany, and so many other countries. However, some do not care about what country they move to or what job they will be doing there; what is important to them is to leave the shores of Nigeria.
Brain drain is the emigration of highly trained and qualified professionals from a country. A doctor at Crescent Gold Hospital, located in Ilorin, Kwara State is doing all he can to get his papers and leave the country. He is unfulfilled as he sees his fellow doctors in the advanced country who seem to be doing better than him. In 2019 alone, over 12,000 Nigerians emigrated to Canada. The PEW Research Centre released a 2019 study that showed that 45% of Nigerian adults plan to leave the country in the next five years. The desire to leave the country for greener pastures is on the increase than ever before. Who do we blame; the people or the government?
While citizens of other countries mostly leave their country for tourist reasons, Nigerians leave with the desire to never return or return after making it. The Nigerian movie industry also contributes hugely to the brain drain. They make movies where a character from a poor home travels to an advanced country and he becomes extremely wealthy the next time he is shown. Naira Marley, one of the most controversial Nigerian Musicians released a song with the title Japa, {a Yoruba word meaning {”abscond”}.
Interestingly japa supports emigration and the pursuit of greener pursuits and pastures. It is a popular song among young Nigerians. Every little opportunity and you hear the word Japa. Not only professionals but also young Nigerian university students want to Japa at the slightest opportunity they get. The desire to leave Nigeria is now an inbuilt thing in the mind of Nigerians.
Universities go on strike like it is a normal holiday. These frequent strikes can last for as long as 6 months with the government doing nothing tangible about it. In 2021, as is the norm, Nigerian Universities embarked on a strike that lasted for over 7 months. In a repetition of this menace, February 2022 witnessed another indefinite halt to academic activities. Students graduate only to join a pile of unemployed youths. However, the lucky ones are seen to earn even less than $50, pathetic, you would agree. But who are the luckiest? The professionals who manage to leave the country. This set of people takes you back to the ‘’japa’’ story. The brain drain menace gets worse as records have it that 12 doctors move to the UK weekly.
So many factors are responsible for the increase in brain drain;
1. Poor Leadership
This is considered the leading factor leading to brain drain. Canada Rush study conducted by the African Polling Institute{API}, identified poor leadership as one of the ultimate push factors for brain drain. Every other problem has its roots in this one. The government seems not to be so bothered about professionals and other citizens leaving for other countries. Well, if they were or are then the Academic Staff Union of Universities {ASUU} will not be on strike, and the students will not be out of school. It is due to the reoccurring strike that students want to leave immediately after they manage to graduate. Poor leadership is an inbuilt thing in almost all African countries.
Other factors responsible for brain drain are;

  1. Unemployment
    Unemployment is one of the reasons a lot of young Nigerians do not want to go to school. They consider it a waste of time and resources because at the end of the day there is no job. And the available jobs are taken by the ones who know somebody at the higher level. That is the pain of Nigerians. You may not get a job even when you deserve it if you do not know somebody somewhere. Those who know somebody do not need qualification; that automatically qualifies them.
  2. Poverty
    Nigeria is one of the most blessed countries in terms of natural resources. An abundance of crude oil, land and so much more but the question is, are these resources being utilized well? In a twist of fate and despite enviable resources, Nigeria remains one of the poorest countries in the world despite being its status as the giant of Africa. Perhaps, ironically, the Giant of Africa grew to be the Giant of poverty. The Dollar rises every day while the value of the Naira shrinks. This has dire consequences on the citizens but then government appears mum on the situation of things.
  3. Insecurity
    Currently, insecurity is one of the biggest problems in Nigeria if not the biggest. Daily killings and bombings; kidnappings and requests for unimaginable ransoms. The most devastating one happened recently in Kaduna where a train was attacked by bandits. Lives were lost and people were kidnapped. If bandits can go as far as attacking a train then how safe is the road. This is why people are scared to travel by road. Even traveling by air is not safe in Nigeria. People who think of leaving think of all these things and there is no other choice than to find ways to japa. As a Nigerian, would you stay back if you had the chance to japa?
  4. Inadequate working conditions
    This is evident in the medical line. As of 2020, Nigeria had a doctor-patient ratio of 1:2, 753 which is in contrast to the World Health Organization {WHO}’s minimum recommended of 1:400 or 600. It might have been quite understandable if these doctors were being paid well but the reverse is the case. They are owed salaries for months and nothing is done when they complain.
    Brain drain or human capital flight has a huge effect on our country. It has resulted in less availability of professionals in various fields. There are barely enough doctors left in hospitals, especially our government-owned hospitals. The unavailability leads to an overload on the available ones leading to breakdown sometimes. 88% of doctors were considering work opportunities abroad according to a 2017 survey carried out by Nigeria’s polling agency in conjunction with Nigerian Health Watch.
    Interestingly and unfortunately, a lot of Nigerians apply for jobs so they can gather money to leave the country. It is not really because they want to stay and work. It is so they can put enough money together till they can get their papers. The impact of brain drain is unimaginable and it has no benefit on the country. However, it has huge benefits for the receiving country.
    To solve the issue of brain drain, it must be properly understood. You do not solve a problem without understanding its cause. Relevant questions must be asked. The government must own up to its inadequacies and also get the opinion of the electorates. To actively tackle brain drain, attention must be paid to the following;
    This is one of the major attractions to other countries. There are numerous scholarship opportunities in other countries; from partially to fully-funded scholarships. Students who wish to further their studies but do not have the means apply for these scholarships. The government should make available such opportunities in the country as well. Provide scholarships for Nigerians or better still sponsor them to other countries as a government and make them come back to work when done with their studies.
  5. Attractive Salaries
    Salaries should be made more competitive and must be paid when due; at the appropriate time. Owe no worker his wages.
  6. Security
    To reduce brain drain, active measures must be put in place to ensure the safety of lives and properties. People want to leave their houses and come back safe and sound. No one is happy going out knowing fully well they are not safe. People move to countries because they are assured of adequate laws that protect them. The government must find a way to calm the rising insecurity in the country.
    4 Work Environment
    Make the work environment conducive with adequate technology. A conducive environment promotes productivity and adequate delivery. Imagine a hospital without its source of electricity in a country like Nigeria. A conducive work environment must be enabled and workers made to feel like they are needed and wanted not treated like trash.

We all must accept that the brain drain has come to stay. However, it can be reduced. Brain drain is not caused by the nonchalance of the government alone; private organizations contribute to it as well. To effectively reduce it, all hands must be on deck. Adequate measures must be put in place in both government and private organizations. It is not enough to put up measures, they must be upheld and made to work.