Brain Drain-Brain Gain:
Leveraging the Nigerian Diaspora for the
Revitalization of Nigerian Higher Education
Akanmu Adebayo, Ph.D.
Professor of History
Kennesaw State University
Kennesaw, GA 30144
Paper Presented at the 25th Conference of the Association of Vice Chancellors of Nigerian
Universities, held at Osun State University, Osogbo, on April 19-22, 2010
April 14, 2010
Not to be used without permission of the author
Brain Drain-Brain Gain:
Leveraging the Nigerian Diaspora for the
Revitalization of Nigerian Higher Education1
Akanmu G. Adebayo
Professor of History
Kennesaw State University
One by one, they left Nigerian universities, polytechnics, teaching hospitals, and
research centers. They left government establishments and private sectors. They left from
various parts of Nigeria. One by one, they arrived in Southern Africa, the UK, EU countries,
Canada, and the United States. Some ventured farther afield, to Australia, New Zealand, and
Singapore, but others just did a short hop into Ghana. They joined the consultants and
specialists who had left various Nigerian hospitals for Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, and other
Middle East countries in the previous decade. Nigerian professionals filled the vacancies in their
new host countries. They took endowed professorships, and received grants to conduct path-
breaking researches that they could not do back in Nigeria. Doctors, lawyers, and engineers
took the necessary board examinations to practice. After the initial homesickness and culture
shock, they settled down in their new homes. They secured good schools for their children.
When the opportunity arose, they pulled one or two or more of their former colleagues from
Nigeria to join them. Small drops turned into small streams. The streams gathered strength and
became a flood. That was the 1990s, and that was the brain drain.
They left for various reasons. The literature lumped them all together as economic
migrants, or as the new labor migrants thrown up by globalization. They were supposed to be
I thank the staff of the Consulate-General of Nigeria in Atlanta, especially the Consul-General, Hon. Chudi Okafor,
and the Consul, Dokun Fagbohun, for their assistance with this study.
the transnationals, the new wave of migrant laborers from the least developed areas to
countries that could pay for and utilize their competitive skills. Pay scale in Nigerian universities
has been cited in this analysis. A 2007 survey conducted by the National Universities
Commission (NUC) found that a full professor in Botswana earned $27,000 per annum, in
Namibia between $21,000 and $35,000, and in South Africa between $58,000 and $75,000. In
Nigeria, even with all the adjustments that ASUU was able to negotiate back then, a full
professor still earned about $12,000 per annum in 2006.2 The recent salary figures that resulted
from a four-month strike in 2009 only closed the gap with Namibia.
Despite this evidence of economic push-and-pull, it is also true that each migrant had
his/her reasons for leaving the homeland. There were political non-conformists who fled
irrational governments; productive scholars who were forced out by their jealous colleagues
and insecure seniors; social critics who fled, with state security agents hot on their tail; tough
graders who were lucky to escape with their life, nearly massacred by cultic students; quiet
scholars outmatched and overshadowed by their more accomplished colleagues; outstanding
scholars who saw their colleagues beaten to death by rioting students; or pastors, babalawos,
and imams that followed these populations to minister to their spiritual needs. In short, they
were not all economic migrants, but they may have been assisted in their migration by labor
mobility arising from the new globalization. This is why turning brain drain to brain gain is a
complex undertaking: one size does not fit all.
NUC data cited in Munzali Jibril and Abdulkarim Obaje, “Nigeria.” In Higher Education in Africa: the International
Dimension, edited by Damtew Teferra and Jane Knight. Boston and Accra: Center for International Higher
Education and Association of African Universities, 2008, pp. 362-363.
The drain was severe. It drained hundreds of thousands of professionals out of Nigeria’s
universities, polytechnics, colleges of education, teaching hospitals, and research centers. Many
hospitals were without specialists and consultants. The brain drain left many academic
departments hollow and shallow. In most places the brain drain took the middle and left the
most senior (whom, at OAU Ife, we used to call the “geros” from gerontocrats) and the most
junior scholars. The geros soon retired and the junior scholars, who had received very little
mentoring, were saddled with heavy teaching, departmental leadership, and university
administration. Sometimes the drain took the very top and left many departments leaderless.
Two decades later the impacts of the brain drain are still being felt, with many departments in
Nigeria’s top universities without a professor. Another aspect of the brain drain was that many
of those who had gone for their doctorates abroad chose to stay put, hired by the same
institutions that trained them.
In many ways, the result of the brain drain on academic life has been both ironic and
distressing. Take the African Studies discipline, for example. By the 1990s, the best centers of
African Studies were in the UK, Europe, and North America and, possibly, Sothern Africa but not
elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa; the best institutions for Ph.D. programs in African Studies are
abroad, in the West, not in Africa. African scholars in Africa were reduced to serving as research
assistants to their counterparts in the West or, at best, they were invited to what I would call
“legitimation seminars” where they (African scholars) were to provide “testimonies” to validate
incoherent and obnoxious theories being developed in the West, parts of a neo-liberal assault
on Africa. Before long, almost all Nigerian social scientists had been converted into Afro-
pessimists.3 The leading journals in the discipline were not in Africa but abroad, many with
Afro-pessimist agenda. Nigerian universities even bought into this power game; they required
that their lecturers list and submit foreign publications in order to be promoted. The brain drain
had shifted power relations between African and Africanist scholars in the African Studies
discipline. Top-rated African scholars have now found it acceptable to be invested with the
decoration “Africanist” when, two decades ago, that would have been seen as an insult.
The brain drain affected different institutions differently. The most visible impact has
been in the teaching hospitals, because the health of the citizenry was immediately affected.
The older, federal universities seemed to have suffered the most. In addition to those who
migrated abroad, the newer, private universities—themselves facing personnel crisis—also
lured several lecturers away from what was left. Altogether, the brain drain affected all higher
education institutions (HEIs). According to Jibril and Obaje, “Only about 36% of the required
number of academic staff for Nigerian universities are actually on the ground, the rest having
migrated to Southern Africa, the Middle East, or the Western industrialized countries.” 4
Governments abroad and international organizations recognized the impact of the brain
drain on developing countries like Nigeria, but they too were benefiting from the top quality
professionals that the brain drain, along with other forces of globalization, delivered at their
establishments’ doorsteps. Many spouses and relatives in developing areas bemoaned the
separation and absence of their loved ones, but they too were accepting and eagerly
anticipating the financial remittances from the diaspora.
It should be stated that many became Afro-pessimists also out of frustration with the bad news coming out of
Africa: genocide, political and ethnic intolerance, war and pestilence, etc.
Munzali Jibril and Abdulkarim Obaje, “Nigeria,” p.362.
It is important to pause here and examine the tone in many writings on the brain drain.
The tone tends to depict the diaspora event as something regrettable, hence the name “brain
drain.” Yet, it is also known historically that diasporas have laid the foundation for the rise and
development of new centers of civilizations and power. How could we discuss the history of the
Middle East and North Africa without the post-Islamic Arab diasporas created in the 7th through
the 10th centuries? How complete would the history of the United States, Australia and Latin
America be without the European diasporas? Or, how would we have come up with the term
“diaspora” without understanding the spread of the Jews from Palestine to Europe and back?
And, as Rev. Fr. Iheanyi Enwerem reminds us:
For the most part, it was the historical events in the Europe of the 16th to 17th
centuries—notably the paucity of good governance—that forced most
Europeans of the time into the diaspora in what became the New World and
eventually into the emergence of the United States of America, the world’s
strongest and wealthiest country.5
Indeed, with historical hindsight, it is hard to contemplate the end of World War II and
the subsequent reconstruction of Europe without the role of these diasporas in the United
States. And, with the same historical foresight, it is important to tone down the negativity often
associated with the brain drain and see a future when the hope of Africa would lie in its
In fact, after two decades of the diaspora event, the language has begun to shift. Home
governments, universities, polytechnics, and hospitals began looking for ways they, too, might
tap into the resource base of the diaspora. They began looking into ways to turn brain drain
into brain gain. International organizations began to see in the diaspora’s significant expertise,
Rev. Fr. Iheanyi Enwerem, personal communication, April 13, 2010.
normative values and social capital that could benefit developing countries and that they could
tap into for nationally authentic and culturally appropriate corps of consultants. Those who had
left, members of the diaspora themselves, began to explore avenues for social remittances in
addition to monetary remittances.
Today, the mantra seems to be “turning brain drain into brain gain.” But this raises a
number of questions. What are the processes, possibilities, and constraints to turning brain
drain into brain gain? What is the state of Nigerian universities and other HEIs today? What can
the Diaspora contribute to revitalize the Nigerian HEIs? How can these contributions be
properly channeled? In other words, how can HEIs leverage the diaspora for their revitalization,
renewal and regeneration? This paper provides answers to some of these questions.
The paper has four parts. The first examines the Nigerian diaspora and puts the brain
drain in contexts of political instability at home and globalization and labor mobility in the
world. The second examines the remittances of the Nigerian diaspora, like other African
diasporas, in the context of social and institutional obligations. The third part examines
intellectual remittances as a sub-set of social remittances. There are many aspects of
intellectual remittances. For the purposes of this conference, the paper only examines the role
of the Nigerian diaspora in the development of Nigerian higher education, interrogating such
activities and diaspora-initiated and diaspora-led international partnerships, collaborative
research, joint conferences, joint publication, collaborative thesis supervision and examination,
and so on. The last part contains my recommendations.
The Nigerian Diaspora and Brain Drain
The African Union defines the African Diaspora as “peoples of African origin living
outside the continent, irrespective of their citizenship and nationality and who are willing to
contribute to the development of the continent and the building of the African Union.” 6 Based
on this definition and on the estimated numbers of people African descent in Europe (3.51
million), North America (39.16 million), Latin America (112.65 million), and the Caribbean
(13.56 million), the AU categorized the African Diaspora as constituting the “sixth region” of
The AU’s approach to the Diaspora is broad and historical, as it should be. However, this
paper refers to the modern disapora (i.e., post-1945). This Diaspora is no less historical, just
more recent. Nor, for that matter, is the definition offered by G. Scheffer entirely accurate. In a
widely influential study published in 1986, Scheffer defines modern Diasporas as “ethnic
minority groups of migrant origins residing and acting in host countries but maintaining strong
sentimental and material links with their countries of origin—their homelands.”8 The problem
with this definition is the tribal, ethno-religious connotations. While it is true that many
Nigerian and African migrants belonged to specific ethnic groups, and often associate in the
host countries along those ethnic lines, their migration was not determined by membership in
an “ethnic minority group.” Most were economic migrants, not ethnic migrants. Perhaps the
best definition I have seen on the subject is the simple one offered by the Nigerians in Diaspora
“The African Diaspora.” Retrieved from http://nepadcouncil.org/index.html/docs/diaspora.html on February 12,
Beldina Auma, “African Diaspora Program,” September 2009. Retrieved from http://web.worldbank.org on
February 12, 2010.
G. Scheffer, Modern Diasporas in International Politics. London: Croom Helm, 1986.
(NIDOA): “Nigerians in Diaspora are Nigerians who live outside of Nigeria. We have them in
almost every country in the world.”9
Indeed, Nigerians can be found in almost every country. But what are their numbers?
There are official figures, and there are unofficial estimates. Although federal and state
governments in the United States conduct excellent census (one is currently under way) and
keep immigration records, the official numbers are not totally reliable. A source estimates the
population of Nigerians in the United States as follows:
As of 2004, up to 3.24 million Nigerians were in the United States alone…Some
174,000 were information technology professionals, 202,000 were medical and
allied professionals, about 50,000 were engineers, and another 250,000 were
professionals in other areas, including university lecturers…only about 20% of
sub-Saharan Africans educated abroad return home; the remaining 80% stayed
on in the country of study.10
However, Georgia’s official figures are revealing. Available census data divide Georgia’s
population into “native-born” and “foreign born” of which regional subdivisions are along
continental lines. The data11 show that the share of the foreign-born in Georgia’s total
population (2008: 9,685,744) has been increasing: from 2.7 percent in 1990 to 7.1 percent in
2000 and to 9.4 in 2008. This is a reflection of the trend nationally: 7.9 percent of the total
population in 1990, 11.1 percent in 2000, and 12.5 percent in 2008. The proportion of Africa-
born population in Georgia’s foreign-born population increased annually. In 1990, there were
10,973 Africa-born people in Georgia, representing 6.6 percent of the foreign-born population.
These rose to 40,423 (7.0 percent) in 2000, and to 80,629 (8.9 percent) in 2008. The table
below shows the breakdown of the 2008 figures by regions of Africa. Compared with the top
“Assets in Diaspora,” 1 October 2007. Daily Times Publication, 2007, p. 220.
Munzali Jibril and Abdulkarim Obaje, “Nigeria,” p.362.
Migration Policy Institute, http://www.migrationinformation.org/datahub/acscensus.cfm.
countries (31.0 percent born in Mexico, 5.9 percent in India, and 5.0 percent in Korea), the
figures for African immigrants are small. But the proportion of professionals in the African
immigrant population are considered comparatively much higher than average.
Metropolitan Atlanta figures tow these official lines. Available figures are for the year
2000, when Nigerians in the Atlanta metropolitan area (13 counties) were officially 8,070,
ranking Nigeria 11th overall (behind Mexico, India, Vietnam, Korea, China, Jamaica, United
Kingdom, Canada, Colombia, Germany) but first among African nations.12
Africans in Georgia, 2008
Population % in Georgia’s Foreign-Born Population
Georgia’s foreign born population 910,473 100
Born in Africa 80,629 8.9
Eastern Africa 18,807 2.1
Northern Africa 4,635 0.5
Western Africa 41,241 4.5
Central and Southern Africa 9,336 1.0
Africa, n.e.c. 46,610 0.7
Source: Migration Policy Institute. Retrieved on April 2, 2010 from
NIDOA, however, also maintains its own estimates. The organization estimates13 that
there are currently 3.6 million Nigerians in the United States, and NIDOA is in the process of
breaking this number down by gender and ethnicity. Anecdotal evidence indicates that there
are more males than females, and more from the southern than the northern states of the
federation. NIDOA also estimates that at least 500,000 are academic professionals. In
metropolitan Atlanta alone, where NIDOA began in 2000, there is an estimated 17,000
“Global Atlanta Snapshots—Nigeria,” Atlanta Regional Commission. http://www.globalatlantaworks.com/html/.
Victor Ugbo, Vice Chairman of NIDOA Board of Directors, personal interview, Atlanta, April 1, 2010.
Nigerians, down from about 20,000 three years ago. Of this number, 2,000 are estimated to be
academic professionals—academic staff in universities, doctors, attorneys, etc. No hospital
would function in Atlanta area, or in any part of the United States for that matter, without
Nigerian healthcare workers: doctors, nurses, nurse aids, therapists, laboratory technicians, etc.
This, then, is the brain drain. Different African countries experienced the brain drain
phenomenon at different times and to different degrees, but the impacts have been similar. It
has been said that, altogether, the developing world lost at least a third of its professionals to
the developed world. It has also been said, arguably, that these were the best “brains” from
these countries. In a study of the African Diasporas in Europe, the North-South Center of the
Council of Europe surmised that smaller, dysfunctional countries lost more than politically
stable countries.14 In any case, it may be unfair to think that the ones who emigrated were the
only “best minds” because of the implication of such thoughts on those that remained.
Moreover, there was brain drain and there was “brain death,” the latter being where
professionals emigrated but couldn’t find jobs in their profession. According to the North-South
Center study, a concrete example is a significant number of Africans, such as engineers,
accountants, and lawyers, who end up performing jobs “far below their qualification and
intellectual capacity. They become taxi drivers or perform poorly paid manual jobs in working
conditions that are far from congenial, and thereby become de-skilled.”15 Many Nigerians were
in this category; many of the taxi drivers who service the Atlanta airport hold higher degrees,
and there could be Ph.D. degree holders among them.
North-South Center, “Social Remittances of the African Diaspora in Europe: Case Studies of Netherlands and
Portugal,” North-South Center of the Council of Europe, n.d.
North-South Center, Social Remittances,” p.16.
President Olusegun Obasanjo probably struck a balance in articulating the relative
significance of the brain drain and the professionals who remained at home. In a speech he
delivered at the inaugural conference in Atlanta that produced NIDOA, President Obasanjo
Many of our best men and women, for lack of opportunity and challenge at
home, have had to work outside our shores. We should challenge them to return
by putting in place the conducive atmosphere and the tools, with which they will
be able to give this country the full benefit of their education, training and
experience. I recognize that just as there are good and bright Nigerians abroad,
there have remained many at home who have persevered. I salute them and
assure them that their sacrifice, perseverance and tenacity will be recognized
and rewarded by a grateful nation.16
The history of Nigerians in Diaspora is not yet written. However, there have been
studies of several aspects of this history, including those that have examined Nigerian religious
movements in the Diaspora;17 hometown, ethnic and old student associations in the Diaspora;18
and remittances by members of the Nigerian Diaspora to the home country.19 But the history of
Nigerians in Diaspora is begging to be written. There are unique, individual stories and
experiences that must be recorded for posterity.
Olusegun Obasanjo, cited in “Assets in Diaspora,” p.220
See Jacob Olupona and Regina Gemignani, Eds. African Immigrant Religions in America. New York: NYU Press,
See Hakeem Tijani, “Forging a Link: Diaspora Development Activities for the Homeland: The Case of Eko Club
International,” Journal of Global Initiatives, Vol. 3, No. 1, 2008; Ola Uduku, “The Socioeconomic Basis of a Diaspora
Community: Igbo Bu Ike,” Review of African Political Economy, Vol. 29, No. 92, Africa, the African Diaspora and
Development (June, 2002), pp. 301-311; Lilian Trager, “Home-town Linkages and Local Development in
Southwestern Nigeria: Whose Agenda? What Impact?” Africa: Journal of the International African Institute, Vol. 68,
No. 3, The Politics of Primary Patriotism (1998), pp. 360-382.
See Una Okonkwo Osili, “Migrants and Housing Investments: Theory and Evidence from Nigeria,” Economic
Development and Cultural Change, Vol. 52, No. 4 (July, 2004), pp. 821-849; Rachel R. Reynolds, “An African Brain
Drain: Igbo Decisions to Immigrate to the US,”Review of African Political Economy, Vol. 29, No. 92, Africa, the
African Diaspora and Development (June, 2002), pp. 273-284; Stuart R. Brown, “Can Remittances Spur
Development? A Critical Survey,” International Studies Review, Vol. 8, No. 1 (March, 2006), pp. 55-75; Ralph Chami,
Connel Fullenkamp and Samir Jahjah, “Are Immigrants Remittance Flows a Source of Capital for Development?”
IMF Staff Papers, Vol. 52, No. 1 (2005), pp. 55-81.
For this study, I have attempted a sociological categorization, rather than historical
evaluation, of the Nigerian diaspora. It is, perhaps, overlooked that while the number of those
who fit the description of “Nigerians in Diaspora” is large, in fact they are an endangered
species. There are two categories; for each we adopt a Yoruba term. The first category is the
afeserin, meaning those who literally walked into their host countries. In the literature, they are
known as first generation immigrants. This can be broken down into afeserin agba and afeserin
ewe; the former was raised and educated in Nigeria, and the latter was raised but had only a
part of their education or none of it in Nigeria. In most cases, the afeserin ewe migrated in
company of their parents. The afeserin agba know and practice Nigerian culture and language,
have emotional and physical ties to the country, and make frequent visits to Nigeria. The
afeserin ewe know very little of the culture and language, and most have never returned.
The second category of Nigerians in Diaspora is the aforirin. They are the second
generation immigrants, born in the host country and affected by citizenship laws of the country
of birth. By virtue of the dual citizenship rights conferred by the Nigerian Constitution, they are
Nigerians abroad, born to Nigerian parents. They are easily identified by their Nigerian names
and looks. (I see many them in my classes.) They have been raised under completely different
cultural milieu. They know very little about Nigeria, speak none of Nigerian languages or do so
with a heavy accent, and are not versed in Nigerian cultural etiquettes. Although members of
the afeserin ewe and the aforirin are often included among the Nigerians in Diaspora data, their
consciousness and sympathies are quite different from those of the afeserin agba category. The
afeserin agba generation is passionate, impatient with the pace of progress in Nigeria, but
getting old and tired; the afeserin ewe and aforirin generations are young, vibrant, but clueless
about or embarrassed by goings on in Nigeria. Like any typology, these categories have
exceptions and fringe elements. The one scientific value to the typology is that not all Nigerians
in Diaspora are alike. To write a comprehensive history of Nigerians in Diaspora, therefore,
these various categories must be interviewed.
Organization among Nigerians in Diaspora can best be described as “organized chaos.”
There are many associations and organizations, networks and groups. Most of these are ethnic
in nature, but others are hometown associations, old student associations, professional
associations and women’s organizations. Religious organizations are many and active. Indeed,
almost all Nigeria’s major evangelical denominations are represented in the Diaspora. The
Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), which also maintains a good website, has more
than 25 branches in Atlanta, and over 500 branches nationwide.20 Many Nigerians do not
belong to any organization or association in a formal sense, but most have participated in social
and fundraising activities of one association or another. In addition, many associations were
first established as, or later added, Christian fellowship or esusu contribution society. The esusu
societies actually appeal to other African and Caribbean immigrants.
While Nigerians in the diaspora recognized the value of a pan-Nigerian organization,
many factors made this impossible until the creation of NIDOA in 2001. One unfortunate factor
was ethnicity; many Nigerians carried ethnic rather than national consciousness across the
Atlantic. Another factor was class. Often, the class barriers go up as well as down. Taking the
While government-funded universities have generally avoided direct fundraising from the diaspora, private
universities have started to tap into this resource. At the RCCG North America Convention in 2009, for instance,
the VC of Redeemer’s University spoke, updated participants about the university, and encouraged parishioners to
consider sending their children to Redeemer’s University either for an entire degree program or for a year or two
of study. This innovative recruitment of “foreign” students by Redeemer’s University, a tuition-paying institution,
translates into funding solicitation from the diaspora. Indeed, it is quite exemplary; other institutions should
consider the strategy.
healthcare profession for example, a doctor might not want to associate with a nurse, and a
nurse might find it demeaning to associate with a nurse aid (CNA). Yet another factor was time.
The time factor may be the most significant; given their schedules, many just do not have the
time to attend meetings, read or write minutes of meetings, or carry out tasks between
meetings. Recognizing the near-impossibility of a Nigerian national organization in the
Diaspora, many cities hammered together a federation or an umbrella organization to help
disseminate significant pieces of information—like when Consulate officials would be in their
city to renew passports. In Georgia, for instance, the Alliance of Nigerian Organizations in
Georgia (ANOG), was established making it perhaps the first state-wide federation. In its 2010
strategic plan, ANOG lists 21 organizations as members. Among them are Egbe Omo Yoruba
Greater Atlanta, Eko Club, Igbo Union, Nigerian Nurses Association, Nigerian Women
Association of Georgia, to mention a few.
Something akin to a pan-Nigerian organization in Diaspora, NIDOA, eventually emerged
in 2001. For an event this significant, there is bound to be several narratives. The mainstream
narrative was that it was the brainchild of President Olusegun Obasanjo, which was actively
pursued by Hon. Joe Keshi, the Consul-General at the time. Keshi worked with many Nigerians
to organize the first conference of Nigerians in Diaspora in September 2000, attended by over
2,000 people and delegates. In October 2001, NIDOA was formally inaugurated in Washington,
D.C. More will be said about NIDOA’s activities later in this paper.
It is pertinent to add here that the figures of Nigerians in Diaspora are beginning to see a
decline. According to Victor Ugbo, this is due to a reverse of the brain drain. In his view, many
Nigerians are returning home, or are half-way there, splitting their time between sojourn at
home and sojourn abroad. Many factors are responsible for this return. They include the
economic downturn in the West (United States, UK, and Europe), improving economic situation
in Nigeria, and success of some of NIDOA initiatives.21 We will return to this “return” later.
Meanwhile, let us address the contribution of the Diaspora to the home country.
Monetary and Social Remittances
Remittances have long been recognized as a valuable asset of transnationalism, a clear
product of brain drain, and one of the reasons family members would tolerate migration and
physical absence of their loved ones. To most people, disapora remittances refer to money
transfers from migrants to their relatives or friends in their countries of origin, but remittances
are not monetary transfers alone. Scholars and policy makers have recognized other equally
important remittances that, collectively, are referred to as “social remittances.”
First, let us focus on monetary remittances. Governments and international finance
companies and organizations, especially the World Bank, have been tracking the volume,
direction, and trends of remittances. In its 2005 report entitled Global Development Finance
2005, the World Bank observed that “workers’ remittances provide valuable financial resources
to developing countries, particularly the poorest.”22 As these remittances continued to trend
upward, the Bank launched the African Diaspora Program in September 2007 focusing on three
i. diaspora policy formulation and development;
ii. finance, the leveraging of remittances for development;
iii. human capital utilization, known as “brain drain-brain gain” programs
Victor Ugbo, Vice Chairman of NIDOA Board of Directors, personal interview, Atlanta, April 1, 2010.
By way of implementing this program in 2008-2009, the World Bank placed emphasis on
three main areas: establishing a strong partnership with the AU on Diaspora development;
working with and supporting governments to enable them engage with the Diasporas, and
directly engaging with Diaspora organizations and professional networks to implement human
capital development projects. In particular, the World Bank partnered with the AU through an
Institutional Development Fund (IDF) grant for which it provided $480,000 to support the AU’s
Representational Office in the US to strengthen its outreach to members of the African
Diaspora in the Americas. The main objective of the World Bank has been, through these
initiatives, to enable the Diasporas to contribute to higher education and health institutions in
Africa—hence “reversing and building on brain-drain constraints to become brain-gain
Remittances to African Countries in 2005
Countries $ million % of GDP
Egypt 5,017 5
Morocco 4,589 9
Nigeria 3,329 4
Kenya 524 3
Source: World Bank; Maureen Kimani-Lucas, CAPafrique, October 2007, Retrieved from
http://www.capafrique.org February 22, 2010
Remittances to African Countries, 2007
Countries Estimated Amount
Nigeria $3.3 billion
Kenya $1.3 billion
Senegal $0.9 billion
Beldina Auma, “African Diaspora Program”
Proportion of Remittances to ODA in Nigeria
Years Amount $ billion Percent of ODA
1995 3.1 80
2007 18.5 750
Source: Taipei Times, January 30, 2010, p. 9
Let us now turn to social remittances. According to Peggy Levitt, there are three types of
social remittances: normative structure, systems of practice, and social capital. The North-South
Center also opined that “normative structures are ideas, values and beliefs…systems of practice
are the actions created by normative structures…and social capital consists of social networks
and associated norms that have an effect on the productivity of a community.”24 Much has
been written on social capital. Nigerians are a friendly people; wherever they live, they form
connections and networks that could be tapped as a resource. Normative values are values that
immigrants consciously or unconsciously pick up from their host culture, such as work ethic,
friendly customer service (“the customer is always right,” smile even when the answer is “no”),
forward planning, volunteerism, giving, practical application of knowledge (not just theory), and
especially being on time. Although many Nigerians still live and work by “Nigerian time”
especially in social settings, the requirement to be on time for work and other official
assignments is among the first normative cultural values that Nigerian immigrants encounter
Taken together, monetary and social remittances make the Diaspora a major resource
for the development of the home country. In fact, the United Nations, the World Bank, and
other international organizations have recognized the potential for the Diaspora to contribute
North-South Center, pp.7-8.
to the political and institutional development of developing countries. And, in the words of the
North-South Center, the African Disapora constitutes “one of Africa’s greatest offshore assets
because of its considerable human capital.”25 Many scholars have started to ask lending
institutions to factor in the size of financial and social remittances as a factor in calculating a
country’s credit worthiness and debt forgiveness.26
Nigerians in diaspora have also built enormous transnational networks—among
themselves, and between them and their host countries. These networks can be harnessed for
development, and have indeed begun to help in transmitting valuable political ideas, best
practices, and technology from their host countries.27 African governments and institutions
have an urgent need for its Diasporas’ social remittances, just as families and relatives need the
diasporas’ monetary remittances. While there are recognized, formal channels of transmitting
monetary remittances, social remittances are currently transferred in an “ad hoc, limited and
sporadic manner.”28 This needs to change in order to make social remittances effective and
sustainable. According to the North-South Center study,
[T]he current pathways used by the diaspora need to be professionalised,
strengthened and enlarged so as to become efficient routes of transmitting
knowledge, know-how, expertise and networks in Africa. They also need to be
recognized, valued and formally used by government institutions and the
mainstream development organizations in the host country.29
North-South Center, p.8.
See Dilip Ratha, Sanket Mohapatra, Sonia Plaza, “Beyond Aid: New Sources and Innovative Mechanisms for
Financing Development in Sub-Saharan Africa.” The World Bank, Development Prospects Group, Migration and
Remittances Team. WPS4609. April 2008.
One major diseconomy for social capital has been the advance fee fraud, alias “419,” for which Nigeria has
become notorious. While the current re-branding efforts might help, more significant steps must be taken to not
only improve Nigeria’s image but to also bring those known “yahoo, yahoo” criminals to book.
North-South Center, p.20.
North-South Center, p20.
Social Remittances: The Diaspora Giving Back
To understand and appreciate diaspora contributions, we must first articulate the state
of the Nigerian HEIs. Hundreds of studies have been conducted on the state of African
universities in the twenty-first century.30 Most of these studies point to the low resource base,
poor infrastructure, isolation from the stock of knowledge (hence, the knowledge gap), and the
impact of the brain drain. As part of the present study, I asked several interviewees to comment
on the state of African universities today. Most commented that universities were in “critical”
and “poor” state: that many universities were “struggling,” that there was “low morale among
the staff,” that in infrastructure “many so-called universities were worse than middle schools in
America,” and that many institutions are characterized by “huge class sizes” and “lack of
resources.” Others answered with empathy, stating that “African universities are becoming
more comprehensive in terms of diversity of programs being of offered,” but “faculty strength
needs improvement with infusion of ‘new blood’.” The most comprehensive answer, quoted
below, is about Kenya’s universities but many of the issues apply to universities in other African
countries, including Nigeria:
African universities, in most cases, can compete with other top universities
around the world. A case in point—Makerere University in Uganda—has
consistently been ranked among the top universities in Africa and has different
colleges such as a School of Medicine, Public Health, Business among others. The
same applies to University of Cape Town. As relates to Kenyan public
universities, gross mismanagement, low faculty morale, faculty influx to overseas
universities, government interference, among other factors, have reduced once
academic giants. . . to academic shells. The deterioration of Kenyan public
universities has given rise to private universities that serves the privileged few
See the two-volume work edited by Paul T. Zeleza and Adebayo Olukoshi: African Universities in the Twenty-First
Century, (Volume 1: Liberalization and Internationalization), (Volume 2: Knowledge and Society). Dakar: CODESRIA
and University of South Africa Press, 2004.
who can afford the high costs. Some of the private universities that crop up do
not always compare in quality to the ‘higher-end’ private universities [abroad].31
No one could better understand the state of Nigerian universities than the participants
at this conference. As vice chancellors, faculty deans, department heads and center and
institute directors, you face the challenges on a daily basis, manage scarce resources, and
attempt to close the knowledge gap that currently exists between your institutions and those of
the West and Asia. I hope you would agree that much needs to be done in the following areas:
curriculum development; faculty/staff development, training, re-tooling; quality assurance,
evaluation of learning and teaching; strategic planning and goal setting; improvement of
institutional climate and work environment; infrastructural development in laboratories,
libraries, instructional technology; fundraising; and alumni relations.
According to published data from the NUC, NBTE, and NCCE, Nigeria has hundreds of
HEIs. Current information from the NUC website lists 104 universities of which 27 were federal,
36 state, and 41 private. Most of the private universities were established in the last five
years.32 The NBTE website lists hundreds of polytechnics, monotechnics and technical colleges.
There are 71 polytechnics, of which 21 are federal, 38 state and 12 private. 33 The NCCE website
lists 63 colleges of education, of which 21 are federal, 38 state, and 4 private. 34 It is not clear
how up-to-date these data are. However, even without the brain drain, adequately staffing
these institutions would still have been a challenge.
Catherine Odera, personal interview, Kennesaw, March 31, 2010.
“Universities.” Retrieved from http://www.nuc.edu.ng/pages/universities.asp on April 7, 2010
“Approved Polytechnics in Nigeria.” Retrieved from http://www.nbte.gov.ng/institutions.html on April 7, 2010.
“Nigerian Colleges of Education.” Retrieved from http://www.ncceonline.org/colleges.php on April 7, 2010.
The hope of these HEIs, as well as the Nigerian governments, is for the diasporas to
come back home to staff these institutions and contribute their expertise, skills and experiences
to national development. Some will do that, and a few have actually returned. Many members
of the afeserin agba category of migrants are getting old and are either retired or in the process
doing so. As grandparents, some are getting to that age when top priorities are given to what to
do after retirement and where to spend their final days on this earth. For those who want to
“die at home,” the urge to return is very strong. Others are being forced to return by family
situations. African higher education institutions would do well to engage the “returnees” in
fruitful forms of interaction, including full-time or part-time appointments, consulting in
administration and quality assurance, and occasional lectures.
However, rather than return, most members of the diaspora will be interested in
assisting African universities, especially the ones from which they graduated, from the comfort
of their current host countries. Catherine Odera puts it succinctly thus:
I think African Diaspora should assist the African universities to an extent. The
question to think about is what this assistance would translate to given the many
external factors that hinder progress in universities in countries such as Kenya. I
personally feel responsible for helping Kenyan universities, in particular Kenyatta
University (KU). The main reason is that KU is my Alma Mater and as an alumnus,
I would naturally want to give back. More on a selfish reason, helping KU
maintain an excellent academic reputation authenticates my Bachelor of
Education degree for years to come.35
Several others in the diaspora question the rationale for and the modalities of
assistance. The main issue is sustainability. In addition, assistance often does not address “the
real issues,” and it “perpetuates a form of dependency that leads nowhere.”36
Catherine Odera, personal interview, Kennesaw, March 31, 2010
Oumar Diop, personal interview, Kennesaw, April 2, 2010
Over the years, different forms of assistance have been provided, often on an ad hoc
basis, with varying degrees of success and sustainability. One low-hanging fruit is donation:
donation of books, computers, and hospital equipment. The biggest name in book donation to
African countries is appropriately named “Books for Africa” program,37 which has a nationwide
operation In addition to individual gifts, the organization takes book donations directly from
publishers for delivery to various schools and colleges in Africa. A Nigerian college—Saint
Martin De Porres Girls’ College—is listed among the recipients. With Tom Gitaa, publisher of
Mshale Newspaper, as president, the Books for Africa program lists other publishers on its
board of directors and promises to end the “book famine” through a simple process: “collect,
sort, ship, and distribute books to children in Africa.”
At Kennesaw State University, one of my colleagues, Dr. Solomon Negash, originally
from Ethiopia, has been engaged in a similar mission but operated locally in Atlanta. For over
ten years his NGO, Bethany Foundation, collected books and shipped them to Ethiopia, where
they were distributed to various universities. In 2004, for instance, he filled a 40-foot trailer
with 15,000 to 18,000 books collected mainly at KSU. Altogether, he has shipped 15 similar
containers to Ethiopia for a total of 450,000 to 500,000 books, all distributed to Ethiopian
universities. Negash is very passionate about this, and he believes very strongly that the book
donation program adds value and strengthens connections across the oceans. 38 On a smaller
scale, but no less significant, Dr. Ikechukwu Ukeje, focused on education books. He collected
scores of boxes of books and delivered them to the Faculties of Education at University of
Books for Africa at http://www.booksforafrica.org/.
Solomon Negash, personal interview, April 8, 2010.
Ibadan, University of Jos, and Nnamdi Azikiwe University. Book donations are good; access to
online databases seem to be the way of the future.
In equipment donation, the biggest name is probably Medshare, whose mission is stated
thus: “MedShare is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving healthcare and the
environment through the efficient recovery and redistribution of the surplus of medical
supplies and equipment to those most in need.”39 Medshare has received over $65 million
worth of life-saving equipments and supplies from hospitals and corporations and has shipped
more than 500 forty-foot containers to 80 countries, including Nigeria. Medshare has no
complicated rules: you identify the equipment and supplies you need, pay for only the shipping,
and they are yours. Among recipients listed are Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (2004),
Lagos University Teaching Hospital (2006), Enugu State University Teaching Hospital (2007), and
several shipments to National Hospital Abuja in 2006. Other NGOs created by Nigerians in
diaspora have been involved in hospital equipment donation.
Despite these success stories, it must still be emphasized that no university or hospital
can be built solely on book and equipment donation. Although it is painful to watch perfectly
good books or supplies, only a year or two old, go to waste in Western countries, and although
colleagues feel like these books and supplies should still be serving some students and patients
elsewhere, book and equipment donations smack of dumping. Many agree that
book/equipment donation is a good idea but only as a temporary measure. In Nurudeen
Akinyemi’s words, “computers become outdated, printers need expensive inks and cartridges,
books need updating, etc. How many can be donated to really make a difference and for how
See Medshare at http://www.medshare.org/.
long?” Ultimately, he adds, “the universities must raise funds through private donors, student
fees, and/or government funding to support the type of volume and quality necessary to
sustain the teaching and research mission of universities.” And when one decides to collect and
donate books, one finds that they are “usually expensive to mail and limited by weight
restrictions if taken as accompanying luggage on aircrafts.”40 Although he would do it, Victor
Ugbo likens book donation to a drop of good water in a pool of polluted water: that drop is
immediately corrupted by the bad.41
Instead of book/equipment donation, some have suggested other forms of assistance
that the diaspora might provide to universities in the home country. These include:
seek opportunities for collaborative research and publication with
counterparts in African universities
identify resources for faculty training and faculty development from
universities in Africa, short-term or long-term, as in the case of further
help create avenues for faculty capacity building through exchanges and links
identify and offer teaching resources—example, open source materials, DVD,
access to online databases, etc.
offer to teach at subsidized rates or for free in African universities, especially
during summer—for graduate and specialized programs in particular, where
internal resources are limited
create a consortium of experienced diaspora African faculty who can assist
with facilitating graduate education in African universities by serving as thesis
reviewers, co-supervisors, etc.42
Altogether, there is a general goodwill in the diaspora for social remittances. There are
constraints as well. The most debilitating of these constraints are financial, organizational, and
the challenge of relevance. Opinions are divided on many of these. For instance, on
Nurudeen Akinyemi, personal communication, Kennesaw, April 1, 2010.
Victor Ugbo, personal interview, Atlanta, April 1, 2010
Sam Abaidoo, personal interview, Kennesaw, March 31, 2010.
organizational constraints, many distrust the government would prefer to offer assistance
outside governmental channels. On the other hand, some would like the government to be
involved, to treat the diaspora with the same respect and deference with which they have
treated donor agencies from abroad. Financially, despite the wrong impression from monetary
remittances, many in the diaspora are just struggling from paycheck to paycheck. Most are
simple, law-abiding, salary earners. They do not own their own businesses and they have no
sources of extra revenue. Their disposable income is limited. They may be able to call on their
social network to raise a few thousand dollars, but development assistance costs more than
that. But perhaps the most significant constraint is ignorance. Many want to give but do not
know what or how. Nurudeen Akinyemi explains that the ignorance is on the part of the
Nigerian diaspora and the Nigerian universities. He elaborates: In order “for any assistance to
have the desired impact, the universities must identify exactly what they need and where.”43
Instead of “assistance,” therefore, the initiation and facilitation of international
partnerships between higher education institutions in Nigeria and abroad are probably the
biggest and most sustainable form of social remittance from the diaspora. The story of
Kennesaw State University’s international partnerships in Africa is relevant here. With as many
as twenty faculty from various African countries, four of them from Nigeria, the diaspora is
well-represented in this suburban Atlanta university. This population served as an interested
group that impressed it upon the university administration the advantages of linkages with
African institutions. This was pursued during the mid-1990s, leading to the signing of the first
partnership agreement with University of Cape Coast (UCC), Ghana, in 1998. The success of the
Nurudeen Akinyemi, personal interview, April 1, 2010.
KSU-UCC agreement, along with individual contacts in other countries, promoted the extension
of this initiative to other African countries. By 2010, KSU has entered into partnership
agreements with 14 African universities,44 four of them in Nigeria. KSU is also informally
working with several others.
KSU’s linkages with Nigerian universities enjoyed a boost. In fact, a Chronicle of Higher
Education article made the University of Ibadan-KSU partnership the subject of an exposé
published in December 2009.45 That linkage began in 2001 when Dr. Olutayo Adesina and I met
in Ghana and discussed ways in which our institutions might work together to promote a
healthy international partnership. We followed up this initial contact with an exchange of
visit—he to KSU in 2002, and a delegation of KSU administrator and faculty to UI in 2003.
Subsequently, a linkage agreement was negotiated and signed in 2004. Academic staff
exchanges began immediately after the signing of the partnership agreement. By 2009, eight
academic staff from University of Ibadan’s Faculty of Arts and Faculty of Education have
completed a semester each at KSU, teaching and conducting research. A ninth person is
currently in residence, and the tenth staff has already received his visa to arrive in May 2010. At
the same time, as many as ten KSU faculty have either taught in or visited University of Ibadan.
In addition, a joint international conference on globalization was held at University of Ibadan in
2007. Two books have been published from papers presented at this conference, and the third
is due out in May of 2010. Within a few years, therefore, this partnership has seen the
These are, in Nigeria, University of Lagos, University of Ibadan, University of Jos, and Nnamdi Azikiwe University;
In Liberia, Cuttington University; in Cameroon, University of Buea; in Morocco, Hassan II Universite; in South Africa,
University of Pretoria; in Kenya, Kenyatta University; in Tunisia, University of Sfax; in Egypt, Alexandria University,
and Helwan University; and in Malawi, University of Malawi.
Megan Lindlow, “Academics in African Diaspora Reach Back to Help Universities Rebuild.” Chronicle of Higher
Education, December 13, 2009.
successful completion of faculty exchange, joint conference, collaborative research, and joint
publication. The impact has been substantial on both sides.
Partnership and linkages, like the one just discussed, have been promoted by African
disapora at many institutions, but also supported and championed by the administration of
their respective universities, because they strengthen the curriculum in such fields as
comparative education, comparative politics, world history, social work, global nursing, and so
on. Examples of successful partnerships cited by Megan Lindlow in her Chronicle of Higher
Education article have either been pursued bilaterally by the partner institutions, or
multilaterally by sourcing funds from a third party—such as the MacArthur foundation, Nigeria
Higher Education Foundation, the Healthy Life for All Foundation, and the National Institutes of
Health. Activities under the partnerships on which Lindlow reported included faculty exchange,
collaborative research, joint conference, joint publication, collaborative teaching, hospital
equipment donation and setup, and the floating of a journal (Review of Leadership in Africa).
Activities under the partnership between Kennesaw State University and African universities
included instructional technology training, workshops on reading, public education about
disability, comparative research on aging and dying, understanding Islam, environmental and
range management, and impact of the community on the rainforest. In the pure sciences,
research has included pharmaceutical extraction from the Ghanaian rainforest.
Partnerships are exciting, but they have their pitfalls that must be understood and
avoided. As the executive director of KSU’s Institute for Global Initiatives during the time that
most of KSU’s partnerships were established, I have become familiar with several of these
pitfalls and how to avoid them. A short list includes the following:
1. Personalization of agreements: People tend to work and relate with their
friends rather than cultivate new relationships; yet partnerships must be
institutionalized to ensure continuity and sustenance, and so that all
interested faculty can participate.
2. Administrative red tape: Many universities could not enter into contractual
relations without the final approval of a national office; such an approval
sometimes takes too long. The Vice Chancellors must promote publicize and
promote the agreement.
3. Mismatches: Graduate universities may not work well with purely
undergraduate colleges; liberal arts universities may not work effectively
with polytechnics. Nigerian universities must be aware of the institutional
mission of universities abroad.
4. Administrative changes: The installation of a new Vice-Chancellor should not
delay in ongoing activities; new initiatives may be evaluated. A solution may
be for Nigerian universities to establish “Office of International Programs,” or
something like, that to coordinate their international partnership
A major mistake is taking partnership as synonymous with “assistance.” Nothing could
be farther from the truth. Many institutions approach partnership with the expectation that
one side would bring the funding. Both sides must be willing and ready to contribute. In a paper
I presented at the African Studies Association conference in 2009, I made the following
recommendations to avoid confusing partnerships with assistance:
Ensuring and increasing mutual benefits in partnership programs and
Ensuring institutionalization rather than personalization
Accountability and transparency at all levels
Basing projects and priorities on Africa’s needs rather than donor agency
Evaluation, and use of findings to improve programs and projects
Articulation of objectives, procedures and assign responsibilities formally
Dissemination of projects/findings freely and widely47
Akanmu Adebayo, “New Partnerships for Global Learning: Increasing Opportunities and Mutual Benefits in
Relations between U.S. and African Universities,” unpublished paper presented at the African Studies Association
conference, New Orleans, November 19-21, 2009, p.5.
Akanmu Adebayo, “New Partnerships for Global Learning,” p.7.
Leveraging the Nigerian Diaspora: Recommendations
In the section entitled “Harnessing Nigerian Human and Intellectual Capital,” Nigerians
in Diaspora in 2000 presented President Olusegun Obasanjo with their panacea for “reversing
brain drain to brain gain.”48 The document reads as follows:
1. Promote linkages with Nigerian experts and professionals living in the
Diaspora when initiating educational and industrial projects in Nigerian
rather than relying only on foreign experts, in order to ensure the
sustainability of those projects.
2. Facilitate linkages and partnerships between Nigerian professionals and
NGOs, foreign governments, and business organizations engaged in national
projects for necessary checks and balances.
3. Utilize a consultancy models. . . aimed at securing the expertise of Nigerian
professionals in the Diaspora to provide low cost consultancy.
4. Create conducive and enabling environments for groups of qualified Nigerian
professionals and experts in the American Diaspora to “adopt” educational
institutions in Nigeria for purposes of establishing “pilot programs’ aimed at
demonstrating achievable standards of academic excellence.
5. Promote linkages between Nigerians and other Africans in the African
It is appropriate to start from the above to demonstrate that NIDOA has been
concerned about turning the brain drain into brain gain to revitalize Nigeria’s higher education.
Their recommendations, and similar ones by other diaspora organizations, are available for
public evaluation and possible adoption.
In addition to the above, allow me to make the following five recommendations. The
first is the need for consultation. Members of the Nigerian diaspora are quite aware of the
manner, in the past, in which Euro-American models have been introduced and implemented
without consultation with Nigerians, leading to failure or even disastrous results. Those
Nigeria, Towards Building a Greater Nigeria: Presidential Dialogue with Nigerians in the Diaspora. Committee
Recommendations Presented to President Olusegun Obasanjo. Mimeo, 2000.
Nigeria, Towards Building a Greater Nigeria, pp.22-23.
interviewed consistently called for consultation between diaspora professionals and Nigerian
stakeholders, especially the leadership of the NUC, NBTE, NCCE and those of individual
universities, polytechnics, colleges of education, etc., to articulate each problem and design
policy intervention and solutions.
In other words, consultative dialogs (call them summits or conferences) should be
organized between the NUC, NBTE, NCCE, and other national education commissions, and the
Nigerians in the Diaspora to examine the needs in higher education and the roles and
expectations of the diaspora. Such summits may be held at various times in countries or regions
with high concentration of Nigerian diaspora: Southern Africa, United States, the United
Kingdom, Europe, and Canada. The private sector did something similar when they targeted
diaspora investments; as one of Nigeria’s biggest industries, the educational sector should
consider this as an important step in leveraging the Diaspora for revitalizing Nigerian education.
Such summits may also be accompanied by a job fair at which higher education institutions
might recruit lecturers and non-academic staff.
The second recommendation is that Nigerian institutions should adopt a systems
approach rather than an ad hoc approach. A “system” needs to be set up, both at the level of
higher education coordinating commissions (NUC, NBTE, and NCCE) and at institutional levels,
to do the following two things: articulate and publicize the needs of the respective higher
education institutions, match the needs to the strength in the diasspora. It is quite easy to
identify these resources in the Diaspora. Diaspora social networks—such as alumni
associations, churches, hometown associations and, yes, ethnic associations—provide
significant contact information. Thankfully, too, the Internet is a great resource. After all, we
receive e-mail messages almost on an hourly basis from “yahoo yahoo” advance fee fraudsters.
The same online tools for finding people could be used positively. Once appropriate
professionals have been located, they could be invited to facilitate workshops on strategic
planning and goal setting, quality assurance and accreditation, and so on. At the institutional
levels, also, each of Nigeria’s major higher education institutions should consider establishing
an Office of International Programs to give a face to internationalization, to be an identifiable
office for contacts from abroad, to coordinate with offices of development and alumni affairs,
and to provide continuity in times of transition of top leadership like VCs and DVCs.
Thirdly, turning brain drain into brain gain requires providing an environment that
encourages world-class professionals to remain in Nigerian HEIs. Simply put, I am asking this
audience to improve conditions on your campuses. This is not so that those who are abroad
may come back, but so that those who are at home would not leave. This is not about
infrastructures outside university control, like electricity. Rather, it is about facilities that the
university provides as a routine. Recently, I became aware of a university where the Water
Engineer has been living in a temporary accommodation on campus for over a year, and that
house has no water. There is something wrong with that picture: the Water Engineer is not a
stakeholder in the institution’s water supply because the tap in his temporary housing is dry.
The fourth recommendation is to liaise with the diaspora to turn a few Nigerian
universities into “Ph.D. Factories.” This would supply various institutions with lecturers who
would fill their vacancies. This proposal to create Ph.D. factories is not new. This is the essence
of many foundations’ funding of several institutions. Doing it in conjunction with Nigerians in
Diaspora is the innovative idea. The diaspora would then assist with resources at their disposal.
Some would open their laboratories for the candidates to conduct their research, others would
come and teach for a semester or a year; some would volunteer their time to supervise
candidates’ dissertation, and others might invite the candidates to their institutions for library
research to sharpen theoretical framework.
The fifth (and final) recommendation is to situate the brain drain to brain gain discourse
within the larger discourse on good governance in Nigeria. This is where, as Vice Chancellors of
Nigerian universities, members of this audience can be a catalyst. Who are the exemplars of
good university governance that other Vice Chancellors could emulate? How much of this good
governance could be found in the faculties and departments where learning takes place? How
enterprising, selfless, and innovative is the leadership of Nigerian institutions? As it was pointed
out in this paper, many in the diaspora prefer to offer assistance outside government channels.
Could the same logic be extended that distrust of Vice Chancellors could equally constrain many
in the diaspora from contributing towards the revitalization of the universities?
What can the Nigerian diaspora do to help revitalize the Nigerian universities? They can
donate money, books, hospital equipments, etc. They can serve as consultants, facilitators,
contacts, agents, etc. They can promote partnerships between Nigerians universities and
institutions in their host countries. They can organize NGOs for Nigerian educational
development. They can return to Nigerian HEIs and use their intellectual capital, social
networks, etc. And they can help nurture and mentor the next generation of Nigerian scholars.
In fact, they have been doing these things and more. While abroad, many have become
very accomplished in their professions. In the best of situations, their work ethics have
changed. They have become more tolerant of different views, and more accepting of ethnic,
religious, gender, and other differences. They have imbibed other values from their host
cultures, such as being on time, a friendly customer service, a teacher-student relationship that
is conducive to learning, and the value of collaboration. Those who return brought these values
with them and, hopefully, they would not be suffocated by the prevailing Nigerian factor. One
by one, these returnees are helping to re-build the universities. That is brain gain.
Not everyone would return. While many left because of poor pay and poor conditions of
service, it would take more than better pay and better conditions of service to bring them back.
They would also like to see a package that, among others, includes better infrastructure at work
and at home, good transportation and health facilities, good retirement package, etc. not only
for themselves but also for all their colleagues. In other words, most would contribute from
where they are. They would use their social remittance power for the renewal of academic
excellence in their home country, perhaps even in their alma mater. This, too, is brain gain.
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