Africa's Japa Wave: A brain drain or a lifeline? 🌊
Why are you running?
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We’re a day later than usual, sorry.
I had important big brother duties I couldnt miss - specifically driving six hours to take my sister to a K-Pop concert.
In return she has to take me to an Afrobeat show next time a good artist is in town, and I'm patiently waiting for Tems to make it here.
But we're back, and today we are adding a new section into Tech Safari - sponsors!
If you want to sponsor Tech Safari check out our options here 💌. We're doing discounts this month before we move to industry standard.
Today's Tech Safari is brought to you by.. Vesti
Vesti is a migration-as-a-service startup on a mission to help the next 500 million Africans migrate seamlessly and thrive in their new homes.
Migrating is hard, and that’s why Vesti exists.
Vesti is your all-in-one migration tool, and helps with every part of the migrating process like:
- Visa services - Vesti helps African founders and talent immigrate to the United States on the Special Talent Visa (US O-1).
- Banking - Vesti helps you set up a bank account before you even arrive in the country, and issues virtual dollar cards that you can use overseas.
- Credit - Vesti lets you import your credit score from your home country and get a credit card, and soon also access loans from Vesti.
Learn more about their services and how to get the O-1 Visa to relocate to the United States here.
Here's the tour plan for today 🧭
- The Japa Wave: A brain drain or a lifeline?
- Tech Roundup
- Tech Twitter
Alright, lets get this tour started 🦍
The Japa Wave
I spoke to a friend, Femi, to get a sense of what the Japa Wave is.
As a recent Japa himself, he chose the freezing -20° (celsius) of quiet Winnipeg, Canada over the balmy chaotic Lagos, Nigeria.
Last week's weather was warmer and I was feeling optimistic about the rest of the month but people called it fool's spring.
It's me. I'm the fool.
— femi. (@femiexe)
Feb 22, 2023
A Yoruba word that means ‘run away’ or ‘escape.’
The term has been used in Nigeria for a long time, but more so in recent years, as more and more Nigerians leave the country searching for better opportunities and living conditions.
When Naira Marley (no relation to Bob, sorry) released his breakout hit single, Japa, in 2018, it was a relatively good time to be Nigerian.
Femi explains that an Afrobeat renaissance was rising, and Nigeria’s young people were building a life for themselves.
Japa lo London.”
- Naira Marley, “Japa”, 2018.
Fast forward to the end of 2020, and he explains that there was widespread despair.
After years of repressive military rule, inflation and an unsteady economic climate many Nigerians made the switch - preferring countries like the United Kingdom and the United States.
And it’s not just a Nigerian phenomenon - it’s happening everywhere.
Cue the Japa wave.
Why are you running?
According to an African Polling Institute survey in 2021, 7 out of 10 Nigerians would leave the country if given the opportunity.
And the number of Nigerians studying in the UK jumped 64% between 2021 and 2022.
There are many reasons people ‘japa’ - from economic, social and political factors.
Fleeing conflict, dictatorship or poor economies, Africans have been the most prone to emigration.
Tim Treagus, founder of Yazi, created this great diagram with data on where African emigrants (Africans leaving the continent) end up.
This is a whole edition it itself, but you get an idea of how many Africans leave the continent here.
For them, migration means leaving their lives to start a new one in a foreign land - with the hope of a better future.
And while it’s hard to leave home, sometimes that can be the easy part.
Getting started in a new country is difficult, and a number of challenges come with migrating:
- Sending and receiving money. My dad recalls returning to Ethiopia and bringing cash back to support his family.
- Credit scores. How do you take out a loan when you have just moved, and might not have a stable job or a bank account? And on that..
- Banking. Setting up bank accounts can be tricky - especially while you’re waiting on documentation like a social security number or license.
- Language and cultural barriers. Which adds complexity to all of the above.
Migrating is hard. And startups that are solving problems for migrants have been on the rise.
With big problems comes big opportunity. Startups are pioneering the field of migration as a service.
Vesti (our sponsor today) is one of them, helping Africans move to the US.
Vesti is very ‘pro-Japa’ and next week I’m discussing the Japa wave with Olu (Co-Founder and CEO of Vesti) and digging into . Sign up to come here.
So, Africa’s population who can are leaving the continent at an increasing rate.
And for most of them, it’s a natural, rational decision.
In the face of hardship, leaving your home country means a better future full of opportunities for you and your family.
But what does this mean for the continent?
Brain drain or lifeline?
Like most phenomena, Japa is a two-sided coin.
On one side of the coin, it means that family abroad - who generally earn more - can support their family back home.
Remittances (money sent back) to Sub-Saharan Africa came to $53 billion in 2022.
This inflow stimulates the economy and helps support family back home - who face growing inflation.
South Sudan has been in and out of civil war since becoming independent. In 2019, remittances made up 34.4% of the GDP.
It’s hardly a sustainable way for nations to operate, but for some African countries the Japa Wave has been a lifeline.
On the other side of the coin is brain drain. One sector we see this in most is technology.
Many of the world’s brightest talents have moved to the United States and Europe - and why wouldn't you?
Big tech like Amazon, Microsoft and Google are looking for African talent, and hiring with the promise of relocation to countries like Ireland and Canada.
And African companies are feeling the burn.
Abubakar Suleiman, CEO of Sterling Bank Plc, told reporters ‘So many of our very experienced talents especially in the area of software engineering are leaving the country.’
Now, that’s a bank.
@Morris_Monye Bank networks are failing cause of this, Access bank app no work today at all, Two months ago it was Zenith there whole tech guys relocated to UK, the Japa wave hitting the banking industry is not talked about much.
— Brains 💭 (@MichaelBrains)
Aug 15, 2022
Tech companies are feeling it even more, and founders will know there is a black hole when it comes to senior tech talent on the continent.
I was looking for a story or statistic here but couldn't find one.
Instead, if you’re an employer in Africa reading this, how easy has it been to find good tech talent on the continent?
How easy is it to find good tech talent based in Africa?
Sultan Quadri at Tech Cabal, thinks this could be a necessary evil.
Most of Africa’s top founders have left the country to study, work and get experience before coming back and building something meaningful.
And commenting on Sterling Bank’s woes, Yemi Faseun writes that Africa’s tech talent ‘are not looking for employment contracts any more, they are looking for experience contracts’
In my opinion, getting global, relevant experience is great if you come back and create value in the ecosystem.
They key here is coming back
What do you think - Is the Japa wave a necessary evil? Or is it harming Africa’s tech scene? Let me know below.
African Tech's Japa Wave
A lot of Africa's best founders worked abroad and came back to start their own companies.
A lot of tech workers 'japa' and dont come back
Is it a necessary evil? Or is it hurting Africa's tech scene?
— Caleb Maru ⭕️ (@calebmaru)
Feb 22, 2023
P.s., I’ll be talking about the Japa Wave at our event next week. Register to attend here.
- SpaceX’s Starlink has received a license to provide internet in Rwanda. At least 500 schools in Rwanda will be the first to have access to it.
- Airtel announces plans to launch 5G mobile broadband services in high-income areas in Kenya.
Depending on who wins this forthcoming election, there will be another serious japa wave.
— . (@Sire__Gift)
Feb 13, 2023
‘Because the brand new is unthinkable we fight over the old’
— Caleb Maru ⭕️ (@calebmaru)
Feb 20, 2023
My favourite quote from our last event with Eche from Afropolitan.
And that's a wrap!
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