Migrants and entrepreneurship: An overlook
NATURALLY, human beings are nomadic in nature, always in search of where they can take advantage of opportunities to maximise potentials.
Indeed, opportunities are not exclusive to a race or people, otherwise there will not be a single European on the African continent in search of prospects.
It therefore means that opportunities may be a ‘relative’ expression.
In Africa, for example, the desire to travel abroad is not solely influenced by the need to expand economic opportunities. Undeniably, traveling abroad is also seen by some people as a personal profile upgrading rather than improvement in personal fortunes.
By and large, travel, which is referred to as ‘migration’ when applied to search for greener pasture abroad, should seek, not only to better the economic standard of workers, but should also be aimed at boosting migrants entrepreneural knowhow towards equipping them to take up developmental challenges when they return from their sojourn. Definitely, Nigerians have failed largely to seize this opportunity. Also, little has been done to interrogate why Nigerians especially youths often find it difficult to adapt knowledges that are acquired outside of Nigerian when they return home when dissecting the rising cases of unemployment.
Without doubt, developing countries must urgently take practical steps to ensure that getting today’s youth migration policies right would also means planning for the future. By 2025 – when the global population is expected to reach eight billion – countries around the globe will feel the impact of today’s demographic changes. The majority of the next billion people will be born in low – and middle-income countries. While developed countries are simultaneously facing low fertility rates, ageing populations and declining workforces, many less-developed continue to experience higher birth rates and a significant ‘youth bulge’. The former need workers, while growing numbers of young people in less-developed countries need jobs. Migration will be an increasingly important factor influencing the response to these trends.
A positive migration experience can set young migrants on a successful path toward capitalizing on their accomplishments and developing economic and social assets for their future. However, if the circumstances are negative, migration can have particularly dire and traumatic consequences for young peoples’ short and long-term future.
It is a known fact that most countries outside of Africa do not accept certificates issued by higher institutions here in Nigeria which often necessitates Nigerians either doing menial jobs or have to re-train themselves in order to fit into their host country system.
Narrating his experience in this investigative story supported by the Institute for Media and Society in Lagos, PANOS West Africa and the European Union, which is part of the Project Border Reporters, a Nigerian who migrated to Geneva, Switzerland in 1994, John Williams, told The Guardian that African migrants have formidable obstacles awaiting them on arrival in Europe especially in countries that do not have English as their official language. John added that despite huge disappointments migrants workers meet upon their arrival in Europe and other developed countries of the world, little lessons seem to have been learnt by Africans on what to expect when they arrive.
He said: “I moved here straight from Africa and even though I was not speaking French, I had to cope. All the certificates I acquired in Africa were completely useless when I got here. Switzerland only recognized certificates from Britain and other European countries.
However, John explained that only the international agencies that are located in Switzerland recognize Nigerian certificates with a proviso that those who work there are not entitled to social protection offered by the Swiss government when they lose their jobs.
“International bodies that belong to the United Nations (UN) recognize Africa and other nationals’ certificates. Those that work in such international agencies do not have government support when they lose their jobs. This is largely because people who work there do not pay tax at all. They are not also expected to remain in Switzerland when they complete their contracts,” he explained.
John stressed that businessmen and women could only enjoy social protection from government with a proviso.
His explanation: “People who are doing business are not eligible except they pay unemployment fees monthly until about after two years after their business collapsed. They are supported in the third year and placed at the lowest level of support such as health insurance and accommodation.”
John hinted that the most recognized are Permits B and C for migrants to become citizens.
He added that obtaining permit is critical to finding quality jobs and inclusion in the social security coverage.
Another Nigerian who has been living in London since 2003 and obtained British citizenship last year, said though there are many Nigerians living in the United Kingdom, there are several thousands who are either languishing in various jails or stranded in various parts of London.
Speaking to The Guardian on the condition of anonymity, she said: “London has become like a second home for most Nigerians because of the relationship between the two countries. But entrance into the UK has been a bit difficult these past few years. For most that have genuine papers, life is a bit easier because one can find something to do to survive. For Nigerians do not have genuine papers, most of them are in jail or stranded to the point that they cannot even afford the air fare to come back home.”
She also lamented absence of reliable data to determine how many Nigerians that are in the UK to make planning for their welfare and protection easy.
The Guardian gathered that indeed Nigeria is now developing an emigration strategy with a view to compiling a list of countries that have high number of Nigerians with a view to signing a labour bilateral agreement.
A source within the one of the line ministries dealing with migration issues in Nigeria said: “Nigeria does not have specific countries that she is willing to enter into labour bilateral agreement with per se. The Ministry of Labour has developed a national emigration strategy, which recognizes countries that have high presence of Nigerians such as the United States, Britain and Canada. Nigeria is now looking at countries that are willing to sign labour agreement with emerging economies such as Nigeria.”
The development of an emigration strategy is seen as a smart move by Nigeria to be ready for future migration dynamics.
“With this emigration strategy, Nigeria is moving ahead so that we would have had our database awaiting the future. Through this strategy, Nigeria will know what skills requirement is needed in-country and what kind of skills can be exported. Even though it was learnt that no study has been done on labour audit, but the strategy has indeed thrown up the urgency of having a labour audit conducted by Nigeria. Such study would provide information not on the skills needed in Nigeria, but skills needed in other countries, which Nigeria can help provide,” the source explained.
He hinted that the idea behind the strategy is to review the suffering and carnage of migrant workers who go out through regular means but suffer migration abuse.
“It is a route to engage countries where migrant workers are going to so that within the framework of a bilateral agreement, migrant workers can determine channels for complaints, availability of information about jobs in which country at what time and the procedures that must be complied with,” he explained.
The source argued that if there is need for countries to talk and engage each other on either bilateral or multilateral level towards better economic, social and political cooperation, there is also no reason countries cannot have pacts specially designed to protect the welfare and rights of migrant workers.
He added: “It is a well-known fact that the more the proper channel for labour migration is blocked, the more routes are opened to traffickers to carry out their nefarious activities. It was equally learnt that the prevailing economic meltdown in the developed economies is responsible for unwillingness of some countries from entering into labour agreements with emerging economies.
“Also, there are also difficulties arising from the heavy migrants that followed the Arab spring and the ISIS crises in Syria.”
But even in the midst of the cloudy happenstances, he stated that the youthful population of Africa gives hope for a beneficial migration deals in the near future.
The source added: “We know that in terms of demography, Europe and Americas have more ageing population while we have a youthful population in Africa. Our youthful population is highly trained and is willing to work in other countries. We know that it is matter of time before things come back to normal as soon as the global movement challenge buoyed by ISIL activities and other disturbances around the world come down. When the developed countries will be looking for young persons to work in their economies, Africa will become target for them.”
Checks at the African Union (AU) also indicated that there are moves by the continental body to explorse ways of expanding labour migration amongst its member countries.
It is reasoned that labour mobility would enhance entrepreneurship within the continent so that Africans can be placed properly to benefit from the labour mobility around the world.
The move is expected to boost trade and investment among the African nations. Africa cannot continue to talk about movement of capitals, investment, goods and services without talking about the human person who creates and moves the initiatives.