BEING A KEYNOTE SPEECH BY HON. ABIKE DABIRI-EREWA, CHAIRMAN /CEO, NIGERIANS IN THE DIASPORA COMMISSION (NIDCOM) DURING THE MAIDEN MIGRATION SUMMIT OF JOURNALISTS INTERNATIONAL FORUM FOR MIGRATION (JIFORM) HOLDING AT THE MERIT HOUSE , ABUJA ON TUESDAY NOVEMBER 26, 2019.
I would like to start by thanking the organisers for inviting me to give a short keynote speech on the subject “the Diaspora and National Economy’’. It is indeed a privilege to address a distinguished international audience who were passionate about migration and diaspora affairs with special bias for my constituent, Journalism.
2. I wish to commend JIFORM for your efforts in ensuring that this inaugural conference, with a well thought-out theme “Migration : The Economy Human Security and Diaspora Value” become a reality. This summit will no doubt contribute to the development of the Nigerian diaspora through your wonderful role and efforts in all ramifications. I therefore, assure you of the support of the Federal Government of Nigeria in ensuring Nigerians benefit from the mission and vision of JIFORM.
3. I must also acknowledge the efforts of stakeholders within this fold who are working tirelessly in ensuring that all the Nigerians in the Diaspora work together toward contributing their own quota to the new vision and mission of President Muhammadu Buhari as well as improving the quality of lives of Nigerians at home and abroad.
4. Undoubtedly, Nigeria in the Diaspora, according to the World Bank record has remitted back to the country annually over $22 billion dollars, the highest in Africa and the third in the world after China and India. This is to show that Nigerians living abroad have been contributing greatly to the economic development and growth not only in Nigeria but in the Africa continent.
5. Mr. President, you will recall, has visited many countries and signed series of MOUs towards economic recovery and infrastructural development back home. The volume of trade between Nigeria and some advanced countries where we have sizable number of Nigerians remains the highest so far.
6. It is gratifying to note that many Nigerians are doing well in the areas of education, sports, artiste, legitimate businesses and other areas of economic advancements in the diaspora.
7. It is pertinent to inform you all that the Federal Government of Nigeria is working toward adopting several policies aimed at supporting our citizens in Diaspora. One of it is working to have a Diaspora Policy for the country as well as the proposed Presidential Initiative for Diaspora Excellence (PRIDE) that will open opportunities for diaspora participation in critical sectors for the development of our dear nation. There is also the Presidential Initiative for Medical Excellence (PRIME) which aim is to establish medical centers of excellence in Nigeria and to leverage on the skills and knowledge of Nigerian Healthcare Professionals (HCP) abroad in the delivery of quality healthcare services in Nigeria. NIDCOM is liaising with the Ministry of Health on the actualization of PRIDE and PRIME programmes.
8. Of course, the coming on board of NIDCOM in 2019 following the signing into law in 2017 by Mr President, accelerate the engagement of Nigerians in diaspora in the policies, projects and participation in the development of Nigeria and for the purpose of utilizing the human capital and material resources of Nigerians in diaspora towards the overall socio-economic, cultural and political development of Nigeria. This is a landmark in the history of Nigeria as our country joined other progressive nations of the world. The Commission, undoubtedly, is a one-stop shop aimed at making business and other dealings with the diaspora easy.
9. Since the coming on board of the Commission, we had engaged all stakeholders in the areas of migration, economy, health, education and critical sectors aimed at making lives comfortable for our Diaspora living abroad. Recently, we had the second Nigeria in Diaspora Investment Summit, Nov. 6 and 7, the Door of Return in Badagry, Lagos, October 16 to 19 and National Diaspora Day on July 25, 2019. All these are geared towards encouraging the Nigerians in the Diaspora to participate in the nation’s economic development.
It is evident that remittances can have a strong impact on development, both at the macro and micro- level, especially as it has a multiplier effect on consumption, investment and economic growth. In order to ensure that remittances are being utilized in ways that are beneficial to the economy, below are some of the recommendations that we are working on:
A. Creation of platforms that increase accessibility of crucial information for Nigerians in the Diaspora. The Nigerian diaspora constitutes mainly semi-skilled, skilled and highly skilled professionals. They are in need of credible opportunities of investment with assured returns on their savings and earnings. A platform where information on opportunities can be shared will help to reduce information asymmetry when it comes to investment opportunities. Also, it is strategically important for state governments to also adopt these platforms to drive and attract remittance flows from migrant indigenes toward consumption, investment and development in their respective sub-nationals.
B. Encouraging and creating pooled investment vehicles. One of the major barriers to investing for those in the diaspora is the minimum amount of funds, which investing firms accept. Therefore, pooled investment vehicles where members of Diaspora can be vetted and can aggregate funds for private equity investment for example, would encourage greater investments.
C. Early-stage businesses with smaller financing needs, present another great opportunity for those in the diaspora to invest through angel networks. Facilitating these investment options in small-scale and medium-scale enterprises, joint ventures and micro-credits become pragmatic and viable opportunities for the diaspora (Pande, 2014b). Such efforts will also encourage employment-generating activities, reduce further emigration and save workers from exploitative conditions abroad by providing them alternative livelihood options in their own country.
D. Cost of remittances and technology: The global average cost of sending $200 was 7.1% in the first quarter of 2018, more than twice as high as the Sustainable Development Goal 10 target of reducing the transaction costs of migrant remittances to less than 3%. Sub-Saharan Africa remains the most expensive place to send money to, where the average cost is 9.4% (about 25% higher there than in the rest of world). However, these costs have been decreasing over the last 10 years, partly because of the rise of mobile money technology. Today, mobile money transfers are two times less expensive than money transfer operators and post offices, and almost three times less costly than transfers through commercial banks. As mobile money technology continues to expand, and its coverage and usage continue to increase across Sub- Saharan Africa, it is expected to contribute to an increase in remittance flows. Several countries across the globe, including Nigeria, have developed plans towards attracting investment from their diaspora community for national development. Essentially, the extent to which the diaspora contributes to the developmental affairs of a country will be determined largely by trust. Sub-national governments (states) across most of these countries are also tapping into the immense opportunities in the diaspora space. In summary, what is required is a coherent policy framework to harness remittances into generating capital for productive investments for the growth and development of small and micro-enterprises, which will in turn, create employment.
In addition, remittances can be deployed toward philanthropic activities which can serve as solutions for specific deficiencies in the local infrastructure such as schools, hospital, roads and agricultural development.
10. I assure you all that my office will always be ready to support and liaise with you for the benefit of our nation. I hope that this maiden edition of this all-important summit would provide new ways toward ensuring a sustainable and progressive ways of addressing the numerous challenges in migration as it relates to Nigerians in the Diaspora.
11. Thank you and please accept my best regards.