In our MODE MEN Independence Day issue for 2017, we featured an article titled ‘Brain Drain 2.0’, highlighting the new surge of Nigerian ‘talent’ that was flowing out of the country, and the effect this would and was having on the Nigerian economy, long term and short term. One of the key statistics was from a headline from the Premium Times (online) specifically about the medical industry, which stated “SPECIAL REPORT: Anxiety as Nigerian doctors leave country in droves”! The article highlighted that “Statistics from the General Medical Council (GMC) UK, as at July 2017 showed that over 4,765 Nigerian doctors are working in the UK.”The article went further to add “Nigerian doctors have been migrating to U.S, Canada, Saudi Arabia, the UK and many other nations across the globe”. This article talked about just one industry but the truth is that over the years many of Nigeria’s professionals from various industries have migrated to “saner climes” as many call them. The question today is, what effect will the current global crisis (COVID-19) have on this brain drain?

Apart from the fact that most “saner climes” have closed their borders and even legal migrants are now being viewed with scepticism to the extant that the great United States of America has enacted policies that require even international students with legal study visas to return to their home countries.In addition to that, Western (overseas) nations have been hit much harder by the pandemic than most African countries (the extent still remains to be seen) such that an interesting trend of Nigerians (certainly from the United Kingdom) trying desperately to return to Nigeria to “ride out the pandemic” has emerged.

Whether or not this will become a global trend as many Western (overseas) countries, many who had seen their infection rates drop and had therefore relaxed their lockdown rules, find themselves victims of a “second wave” of infections. How long will this “second wave” last? Will it lead to a new wave of lockdowns across the globe thereby further limiting international travel (and consequently migration)? Will Nigerians (Africans) still find these countries appealing now that mortality is a real issue? And for those wishing to return to Nigeria (Africa), will their “home countries” receive them back with open arms?

There are so many questions that we cannot answer for certain at this point however a few facts have emerged out of this situation which have an effect on the discourse one of which is the increased (we could say forced) move to online activity. More people are shopping online with new businesses springing up; meetings, seminars, training and education sessions are now a matter for ‘Zoom’ – arguably the most popular platform; many countries have (suddenly) realised the value of their medical and care professionals; and we could go on and on. But of all of these changes, the most significant (in the context of this discourse) has been the move to online activity for business and education. All of a sudden, international borders have become irrelevant. Working from has become the norm, which means, apart from specific high skilled roles, employers can have employers in any part of the world working for them (this was already happening however the pandemic would certainly have accelerated the process). So would it be safe to say that this third wave of the movement of skills and talent (Brain Drain 3.0) will be less physical and more virtual, and will be less of a “brain drain” and more of a “brain share”?

What do you think?

By Kevin Korgba