The Brain Gain with not much Gain

There is a phenomenon occurring in Africa and indeed other parts of the ‘developing world’ called the ‘Brain Gain’. This is in contrast to the notion of human, financial and technological capital leaving an underdeveloped country to go to a more developed country. In a ‘Brain Gain’ scenario, the same resources which left the developing country begins to return to their country of origin. The motivations behind this move can be numerous and are often inconsistent between one person to the next. Some try to argue that there is a consistency among all people that choose to return to their country of origin. But if you’re at all familiar with buying behaviour you know that there is a rational reason for doing something which is often given to justify the persons actions and the real reason which is underpinned by emotions and more intangible qualifiers which people are often less willing to admit to as a reason for upping sticks.

If we use Nigeria as an example then, I’ll be able to clearly illustrate where I’m coming from in choosing the position that in most cases, the Brain Gain we’re experiencing with many repatriates to Nigeria is not bringing us much gain at all!

If you’re within the age bracket of about 20-40 in these current times you will have either heard someone say (or you would have said it yourself) “I’m tired of the UK! I wanna go back home.” Or “Mehn we’re really suffering in this jand o!” (jand being England/UK). This statement is often uttered by people who feel disenfranchised in their current country of residence either through some feeling of alienation or emphasized ‘foreignness’ which reminds them that ‘this isn’t your home’. For others it’s the economic situation of their current place of residence which forces them to seek other – albeit not necessarily greener – pastures; consequently Nigeria (for those who left the country and still have a valid means of returning) appears to be a viable option. While there is much study done by various media and academic outlets on the effects (see here for FT report) (and here for CNN documentary) of the Diaspora Brain Gain, I, from mere observations (after all what is mere observation when quantitative data flouts qualitative rationale in  academia) have noticed a less reported and fearfully more damaging motivation behind many of my peers zipping their suitcases, buying a one way ticket to Lagos or Abuja and saying goodbye to foreign shores.

The reason (and to a large extent I’d argue that the CNN video perpetuates the exact opinion I hold) I suspect is just good old peer pressure. Yes, peer pressure. The devil in our psyche’s which encourages us to behave as others behave, to follow the crowd and be standard rather than set a standard. I say this not because I believe that every single individual has moved back to Nigeria because they’ve been pressured by their friends to do so. After all some people have a limited tenure on their visa, others are on secondment, others are making a strategic decision while some are just genuinely unable to become accustomed to life overseas and hence prefer to be on familiar territory. Of course I recognise those genuine motivations. However, when I listen to conversations and engage with people in conversations around these topics, the reason is often given that there are “so many opportunities back home” however when I enquire where the opportunities are, how they will utilise it, what they will contribute to the country in return, what their strategy is, what their roadmap for success is when going back, I get blank stares or confused expressions (I got an angry one once because apparently my questions were ‘irritatingly pretentious’).

Ultimately, because of the fantastic stories they had heard and scenes or luxury they had seen when they went on holiday once a year in December, partied in VI and mingled with our version of celebrities, they had decided that life would always be this way and thus they needed to be a part of the action before it went dull! This confirmed to me that in order for someone to make a decision so bold as to change geographies without consideration of the long term implications is either stupidity or they don’t need to consider it because they have a cushion which would act as a buffer for any hardship they may come across.  To remove the previous euphemism and say it in layman’s terms; Mummy or Daddy will sort them out should push come to shove.

It saddens me that much of my generation are caught up in the allure of the luxurious offerings a December or Easter holiday offers them when they go back that few stop to think “now how do I help the other XMillion people in my country so we can enjoy this together. But then why would they. Everybody knows that in Nigeria it’s an “oppress or be oppressed” mentality so it’s a constant competition to do better than your neighbour rather than do with your neighbour.

I have to admit that I wasn’t far from getting sucked into this mindset. I was near this ludicrous mindset of hopping onto the next flight to Lagos with no plan, no strategy and no aforethought for how I would survive once I get there. Because while it’s easy to follow the crowd, how easy is it to keep up when they begin to outpace you?

Now I don’t want to be misunderstood or misquoted as an opposition to the progress of Nigeria through the brain gain effect. Far from it! I’m a champion of taking Nigerian resources currently residing in foreign shores back home to help to rebuild our fragile economic and political state. However, I only believe this can be done if we return with something to offer rather than only thinking about what we can gain personally. When we think only of what we can gain we become consumed in oppressing through our accumulation of consumer goods that we do no good at all. When we want to return to Nigeria, let’s do so under a remit of commitment to develop the country. Let’s set ourselves targets of how we will do that and lets EXECUTE our plans in delivering those self made promises. Let’s not lean on our parents hooking us up into roles in government agencies and multinational organisations that we know we are INCOMPETENT in just because we want to be ‘busy’ when we get back. Our inefficiencies as individuals make the organisations we operate in inefficient and consequently make the country inefficient and stagnant. Focus on your strengths and what you can contribute to the greater good that will allow you to make a living rather than wanting to work for Shell because everyone you know works there.

Have I touched a few nerves here? If I have then I’m glad. Maybe this will force you to rethink before you pack that bag and book that ticket.

Good day.

Almost died of laughter when I saw this. Takes me back to when I was 15/16….the things my mother would say to me….LOL!

Almost died of laughter when I saw this. Takes me back to when I was 15/16….the things my mother would say to me….LOL!

Let the Toasting Begin!

They say the only thing constant in life is change and change alone. How more so apparent than the paradigm shift between the ‘toasters’ and the ‘toastees’. For those that are not familiar with Nigerian colloquial parlance, let me elucidate.

‘Toasting’: the act of seeking someone’s affection or intimacy through the use of sweet words and sweeter gestures. It’s akin to the word ‘chirpsing’ in London parlance or ‘courting’ – well attempting to court – in our grandparent’s days. The ‘Toaster’ is more often than not the man while the ‘toastee’ is the woman. Got it?

So in reference to my previous point about the Toast paradigm shift. More and more I’ve noticed a trend occurring. Now what I’m about to say might sound a little bit ‘up myself’ but it’s just to illustrate a point so don’t burn me at the stake just yet.

In the past the situation would occur like this;

A guy would see me, think ‘See fine chick…I must to toast utunu!’ and straightaway (and I mean straightaway) the toasting process would commence. With all the ‘Hi I’m such and such, what’s your name etc etc’ This had two main effects 1) MASSIVE ego boost and 2) a reassurance that I’m not repulsive to the opposite sex (phew!). But then things changed and unfortunately, I along with many of my female peers didn’t get that memo.

Suddenly guys just aren’t toasting girls anymore. Well at least not my generation of guys. The ‘older’ (and I refer here to the late 30 something’s who are still clinging on to that fibre of youth they once had) generation still got the game on lockdown. Seriously those guys have an arms length of lyrics for days! Most famous for me?

A day after meeting me: “Baby I just can’t stop thinking about you. Like I should just marry you now now and open boutique for you in Palms. I’m very serious about you, please give me a chance”. The hilarity and sincerity with which he typed those words received both an ‘awww’ and ‘OMG who is this psycho!?’ from me. It turns out finding me on Facebook was not as difficult as I thought it was *edits Privacy settings!*

I digress….

I guess my point is that the change in dynamics between men toasting women and women receiving toasting with glee and a level of ‘one-upmanship’ has suddenly disappeared. And I found myself asking Why?

Why have men suddenly gone off the idea of See-Approach-Toast? Are they now expecting US to do it? Or have they just learnt newer stealthier ways to toast which we have yet to get accustomed to? The amount of indirect toasting has skyrocketed “Aisha help me talk to that your friend nau…that fine one…ehn the short Igbo one. Talk to her for me nau” « true story.

 Or could it be that like us, they’ve learnt (or at least I hope they have) that toasting should come secondary to friendship and hence they are less likely to lay all their cards on the table without a thorough assessment of whether the girl is even worth toasting. The focus has shifted from quantity to quality.

So what’s a girl to do? Am I supposed to be sitting here having ‘friendly’ conversations with him when I know he really wants to toast me but he’s just buying his time? Or better yet am I so full of myself that I think every guy that lays eyes on me or says “Hello” is trying to toast me? I learnt that that’s not always the case! I have some great male friends, all of which are great because it didn’t start with toasting (or I hope they weren’t trying to toast me!! LOL! How funny would that have been?). Even to the point that I’ve contemplated toasting the guy myself just to ‘speed things up’. #Teamnodulling! Lol

I say all this in jest but there is a more serious underlying concern among women I know. That we are left in a Catch 22 situation. Wait forever to be toasted or do the toasting yourself. How brave have we really become and how likely are we to even pursue the latter point. Have we been so cocky and complacent as the toastee that we’ve taken the efforts made by men in the past for granted and now that there’s a hiatus we truly realised what we’ve lost? I’m sure I’m not the only person thinking this. So men please….

Let the toasting re-commence! And ladies, stop the forming!

AO88