Imo Governor, Hope Uzodimma, recently made a skills and engagement promise to Imo youths. While on a campaign tour of the state, the Governor promised to assist no fewer than 4,000 interested indigenes of the state to relocate to Europe and Canada before the end of December this year. Such youths while in Europe would be actively engaged in skills acquisition, job placements and sundry forms of human capital development and entrepreneurship.
The Governor had said while addressing a crowd of mostly youths: “Let me tell you something: I have gone further to negotiate with European Union companies and Canadian companies. They are sending us areas of visible skills which our youth will also learn. By December this year, 4,000 Imo youths will be employed in Europe. Once the letter comes, the governor will pay for your air ticket.”
Ever since that promise, some Nigerians, including Imo indigenes, have taken to both traditional and social media, to lampoon Uzodimma for encouraging Japa (overseas relocation) syndrome among the youths in his state. Some argued that rather than encourage exodus of Imo youths to Europe and Canada, the governor should work hard to create jobs for such youths in his state.
While the argument of the governor’s critics may seem plausible on the face of it, it suffers a diminution in logic and essence when subjected to critical analysis within the context of globalisation and modern universal concept of labour movement.
By pushing a policy that encourages the immigration of Imo youths to Europe and elsewhere, Uzodimma has not done anything new or strange. Whether by design or default, the governor is modelling an Asian Diaspora policy, especially the Chinese model of Diaspora engagement that has seen Chinese citizens migrate from China to Europe, Africa and the Americas for jobs, skills acquisition, study including study of foreign languages.
Under President Xi Jinping, for instance, China has fashioned one of the smartest Diaspora policies which encourages China citizens to travel the world for job, studies and skills acquisition. Today’s estimate places the number of people of Chinese origin outside China at over 60 million. While some of these people have acquired citizenship of their current host nations, China still considers them to be nationals of China, regardless of their acquired citizenships. This policy, which is now even more aggressively applied by Beijing, has contributed to China emerging as one of the topmost super powers in the world. The Chinese are all over Africa, United States, Canada and Europe working, contracting, studying and actively engaging in all manner of entrepreneurial ventures.
Ditto for India, Mexico, the Philippines and other emerging powers in Asia. Now, you know why these four countries top the log of nations with highest Diaspora remittances. In 2022, India led the chart with a princely $100 billion in remittances, followed by Mexico with $60 billion, China ($51bn) and Philippines ($38bn). The Chinese are all over the world learning foreign languages, deepening their knowledge of other cultures, expanding their knowhow in tech and science. The Chinese are doing what some persons consider as menial jobs in all parts of Africa including Nigeria. Some have picked up impeccable English, French and Arabic languages. They know what you know, but you don’t know what they know. They understand the ways and cultures of the outside world but the world can barely scratch the surface of the tech might and cultures of the Chinese. This is possible because of a deliberate Chinese policy to encourage its citizens to Japa to the uttermost parts of the world with full government support.
China is unrelenting in pursuing her well-thought out Diaspora policy because it’s seen as a critical factor in the country’s ever-increasing global influence as a world power. Beijing is consciously husbanding Diaspora Chinese resources in the fields of leadership, economics, science and technology, diplomacy and soft power.
Those who criticize Uzodimma for not creating the 4,000 jobs in his Imo state, should also ask China why she did not create jobs at home for her very strong Diaspora contingent. Last year alone, Diaspora remittance to Nigeria stood at over $20 billion. This is in addition to knowledge, skills and values acquired overseas by these Nigerians. These Diaspora Nigerians return home from time to time to apply their skills, create jobs, set up businesses and transfer skills acquired overseas. Many high-flying Nigerian professionals and business people were once Diasporans who returned to the country after their exposure, study and skills acquisition adventures in the West and Asia. That exposure gave them a head-start on their return to the country.
Truth be told, Nigeria needs a stronger Diaspora contingent. Whether they are medical doctors, nurses, lawyers, innovators, entrepreneurs, factory workers and other artisanal hands in the Americas, Asia, Europe and elsewhere, their cash remittances and skills transfers to Nigeria will help to enhance the nation’s GDP. This is the logic behind Uzodimma’s Diaspora push for Imo youths. They need such exposure. In a country where people sell their land and valuables to finance their migration overseas, a government that offers to help such persons, especially the youths, deserves commendation, not criticism.
Only an armchair critic would doubt Uzodimma on this. It was the same doubt they expressed when he pledged to upskill Imo youths in the sphere of ICT. As you read this, Uzodimma has fulfilled that promise. He has caused the upskilling of 15,000 Imo youths under the state’s Cohort-2-Skill-up Project, with a promise of training another batch of 40,000 young people in different digital skills.
The programme did not end at upskilling the youths. They were handed a laptop each as a take-off tool to the acclamation of two key persons in the nation’s digital economy matrix: The Minister of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy, Dr. Bosun Tijani, described the project as a bold step to impact the lives of the youths. He noted that Imo State is emerging as the digital headquarters of Nigeria.
The other personality who witnessed the graduation ceremony and the presentation of laptops to the youths was Africa’s serial ICT entrepreneur and Chairman of Zinox Group, Africa’s most innovative ICT conglomerate, Mr. Leo Stan Ekeh. While acknowledging that “nobody has done what Governor Uzodimma is doing in Imo”, the tech billionaire challenged the 15,000 youths to take advantage of the training they have acquired and the tools they have received.
Logic: If Uzodimma made similar promise to Imo youths before and fulfilled it, there is no reason to doubt that he will fulfil his latest promise to the same youths. For a Governor who is the first to create the Ministry of Digital Economy in his state and the first to empower youths in his state with requisite light-years-ahead skills in ICT at such magnitude, Uzodimma should be seen as a futuristic leader on a mission to resource the youths of Imo into competitive global citizens. In the next 15 years, Imo will never be the same again. A Silicon Valley would have sprouted in the eastern heartland courtesy of Uzodimma.
The Chinese are all over Africa trading (there is a Chinese market in Lagos), doing artisanal jobs and winning the big contracts, Africa should never be shy to ship her citizens to the uttermost parts of the earth to do the same. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) encourages the shared principle of labour movement. Uzodimma has taken one bold step in this direction, he deserves our laudation.
· Chidozie, public infrastructure management advisor, writes from Owerri