When Akin arrived in the United Kingdom (UK) earlier this year, he was grateful to God for freeing him from Nigeria. Life had been hard for him at home, from his stressful job to long hours of commuting due to traffic, landlord issues, epileptic power supply, and constant insecurity, among other challenges.
A friend convinced him to move to the UK, where his skills would be better rewarded. However, what the friend did not tell him was that life is not so sweet in the land of milk and honey. Things were about to get more difficult.
Akin, a former supervisor at one of Nigeria’s leading telecommunication companies, was full of high aspirations and positive vibes. The plan was for him to study for his master’s degree at Keele University, a public research institute in the UK. The title, along with his professional experience, would earn him more than he did in Nigeria. He also thought that he would be in a better position to send funds to his family, or so he believed.
Part of his noble plan was to bring his long-time girlfriend to the UK after a while. Hopefully, she could find a job there, start school, and then marry him. this is the latest japa dream is made of!
Akin’s fights: Unfortunately, getting a better life abroad is not as easy as you thought. Over time, she realized that the UK, like most European countries, had a social ladder that everyone had to climb to achieve relative financial stability. It is even worse if you are a foreign student from a poor country.
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As he struggled to adjust, the other part of the struggle that his friend didn’t tell him about began to unravel. The high cost of accommodation, limited work hours, and odd jobs soon caused Akin’s agitation.
Being an international student, he can only work about 20 hours a week, which means he was unable to get administrative jobs that he was used to in Lagos. He was left with the option of doing odd jobs.
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He had turned down a job offer from Vodafone just two weeks after arriving in the UK due to his limited working hours.
In order to survive and keep up with the enormous standard of living in the city of Newcastle, he had to work multiple jobs.
Shared experiences: Thousands of Nigerians seeking a better life in the UK face struggles similar to Akin’s. Chukwudi, who is doing his undergraduate degree at Sheffield Hallam University in Sheffield, admitted that “Life here in the UK has not been easy.”
Chukwudi’s experience could be compared to that of Akin, who spends almost all of his earnings on room and board. He told Nairametrics that he has been juggling school and work, a very demanding and stressful reality to find yourself.
- “I leave home as early as 6am and come back most of the time by 10pm, and spend nights writing reviews, sometimes I have no choice but to outsource some of the tasks.
- “We are unable to obtain full-time employment, despite being qualified for the job due to the 20 hour per week limitation. We carry out care work, washing dishes, office assistance, warehouse assistance, among others.
- “I have had to turn down many job offers in this country due to the 20 hour per week restriction for international students. Unfortunately, the 20 hours a week of work in the real term is not even enough to pay my monthly school fees.”Akin grieved.
Keep in mind that many overseas students doing odd jobs in the UK earn up to £1,800 a month. Interestingly, accommodation costs can run around £800 to £900 per month or even more, especially in big cities like London.
Factoring in school fees and tax payments, which swallow up nearly £1,500 a month, makes it nearly impossible for anyone to survive on their monthly income of less than £2,000.
Timothy’s Japa Test: Timothy, a Nigerian banker, raised funds before covid-19 in 2020 to send his wife and three children to the UK so his wife could complete her masters and hopefully get a job and then pave the way for he joins them.
- But Timothy’s plan failed to take into account the high cost of living in the UK, especially caring for three children. He planned to continue working in Nigeria as a banker and send funds to his wife for her accommodation, education and maintenance.
- Timothy’s wife, Sharon, got a job in the UK. Unfortunately, due to limited working hours, she can only earn enough for her food and education, while Timothy covers the accommodation and partly also the children’s education.
- To meet this obligation amid high exchange rate costs, Timothy had to move from his duplex to a self-contained one and even sold his car.
- Timothy only visits his family three times a year and misses them.
- “I don’t get to see my children grow up at a very important time in their lives, I miss them and feel very lonely in Nigeria,he lamented.
- He believes it is the right sacrifice for a better future and hopes to join them when his wife finishes her studies and starts working. Meanwhile, Timothy will have to deal with the emptiness of missing his family and living in a less supportive environment than he was used to.
Why are they leaving: The UK is one of the best options for Nigerian immigrants hoping to benefit from the UK’s post-study work visa policy which allows international students to stay in the country for at least two years after graduation.
- The security offered by the UK, in addition to a better standard of living, functioning infrastructure such as healthcare, education and better academic standards are some of the factors influencing the japa movement in Nigeria.
- In its defense, Nigeria has been beset by many stalemates ranging from insecurity, high costs, social unrest, academic strikes, unemployment and more. This has led to a mass exodus of Nigerians and their families to the UK.
- According to UK Home Office data, Nigerians accounted for 40% of all dependents accompanying overseas students in the 12 months to June 2022, despite Nigerian students accounting for only 7% of all students foreigners during the period.
What the government says: Last week, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo urged young Nigerians to resist pressure to leave the country for fear of the unknown. He urged Nigerians to have hope despite economic challenges.
But this is not advice many young Nigerians are willing to consider, especially given the country’s difficult economic realities.
How japa affects the Nigerian economy: Mass migration from Nigeria to other advanced economies has both short- and long-term positive and negative effects on the Nigerian economy. We will consider how mass human flight affects the larger African economy.
- brain capital: On the plus side, net migration to countries in Europe, the US and Canada will benefit Nigeria in the long run in the form of intellectual capital, also known as diaspora remittances.
- The World Bank had estimated that the inflow of remittances from Nigeria will cross the $20 billion threshold by the end of the year due to increased migration.
- Shortage of talent: In the short term, Nigeria faces a huge talent gap that will need to be filled, considering that skilled labor is migrating, leaving a largely unskilled population.
- Exchange rate depreciation: The more Nigerians seek to travel abroad, the greater the demand for foreign exchange, which is hitherto a scarce resource in the Nigerian economy, leading to a depreciation in the value of the local currency.
- Improved export value: Nigerians traveling abroad will demand Nigerian food, clothing and other garments there, which would shore up the country’s export earnings.
- Family separation/psychological effect: As in the case of Thomson, whose entire family lives in the UK, while he remains in Lagos he faces psychological anguish, not being able to see his children grow up with him. It misses very important stages in the lives of children.
Better days ahead: Like Akin and Chukwudi, Oluwatobi, a second-year student at Salford University, recounted the experience of his first days in the UK, which he explained were also difficult, but he was able to overcome.
- According to him, it took him around two years to fully establish himself before he was able to send a substantial amount of funds to families in Nigeria.
- “It is easier for new immigrants who have families in the UK and can accommodate them for a while, however not many people in the country are willing to have additional expenses in the form of a family member living with them..”
- He concluded by adding that the beginning can be tough, but it will get better along the line, with consistent effort things will level off, and in the end it is worth the sacrifices.