Nigeria-Britain Association's annual lecture highlights critical role of Nigeria's Diaspora in socio-economic development

The President of the Nigeria-Britain Association (N-BA) says Nigeria’s diaspora inflow is the highest worldwide, followed by Pakistan and Canada.

L-R: The British Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ben Llewellyn-Jones OBE; the Deputy Governor, Operations, Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Folashodun Shonubi; Chairperson/CEO Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Honourable Abike Dabiri-Erewa, representing the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari; President of the Nigeria-Britain Association, Abimbola Okoya; Country Director, British Council and Vice President of the Nigeria-Britain Association, Lucy Pearson; Vice Patron of the Nigeria-Britain Association, Chief Olabintan Famutimi; and Head of International Settlement, Guaranty Trust Bank, Lanre Kola-Banjo and Head of Corporate Finance and Strategy, Nobleserve Capital, Mr. Gafar Odubote, at the recently-concluded N-BA Annual Lecture Series, which held on Friday, 26th November 2021.

The Nigerian diaspora community has been identified as being instrumental to the nation’s socio-economic development. This observation was made at the Annual Lecture of the Nigeria-Britain Association (N-BA) titled, ‘Harnessing the Economic Power of the Diaspora,’ sponsored by Tangerine General Insurance, Tangerine Life, Scib Nigeria & Company, First Bank Nigeria, Leventis Foundation and NEM Insurance Plc.

In his welcome address, Vice Patron of the N-BA, Chief Olabintan Famutimi, lauded the president of the N-BA, Abimbola Okoya as well as the organising team for putting together the Lecture. He acknowledged the immense contributions of Nigerians in the diaspora towards the economic development of the country and as the major source of foreign exchange in Nigeria. According to Chief Famutimi:

“In reality, one of the most assured sources of inflow of foreign exchange into Nigeria is the diaspora remittance. It constitutes a huge percentage of foreign exchange inflow to the country and the figures support that. As of 2020, diaspora inflow was N25bn. By 2021, it is expected to be N34 billion; that’s an increase of N9 billion per year. The inflow from the nation’s non-oil exports does not match diaspora remittances.”

He noted that the Nigeria’s diaspora inflow is the highest worldwide, followed by Pakistan and Canada.

In her keynote address, the President of the N-BA, Abimbola Okoya, highlighted the rich bouquet of yearly events organised by the Association. She also discussed the big I.D.E.A. — Inclusivity, Diversity, Empowerment and Agility — which she said was the fulcrum of the N-BA strategy. In her words:

“The target of the N-BA is ensuring that all our flagship events at home were successfully implemented. They include the Chief Akintola Williams Youth Debate, The Presidential Cocktail, Children’s Party, The Annual Lecture Series and our Christmas Party. We want to ensure that we are empowering the less privileged and the vulnerable groups with our initiatives and that gender issues are on the front burner. We also want to continue to support causes, strengthen partnerships and relationships. The five key areas we are focusing on are: (i) Education, ii) Economy, (iii) Youth and Gender (iv) Humanitarian Services and (v) Culture and Entertainment.’’

The keynote speaker at the occasion and Chairman/CEO Nigerians In Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Honourable Abike Dabiri-Erewa, who also delivered a goodwill message from President Muhammadu Buhari, whom she also represented, noted that the theme of the lecture series was apt and sacrosanct as it discusses development in Nigeria, especially the very critical contribution of Nigerians in the Diaspora to national development. She indicated that reports have it that there are 17 million Nigerians in diaspora and that in reality, the number may be higher.

“Our remittances are about N23 billion to N25 billion; about 6 percent of our GDP. We realize the strategic importance of Nigerians in diaspora and so that is why we saw the need to establish the Diaspora Commission.

“Therefore, we must have a structure where the remittances from the diaspora must be properly accounted for. If you are an economic factor you must be an investment factor. It is one thing to remit the money, it is another thing to invest the money properly. That is the next stage we are working on, so that we can get the Diasporan Investment Platform. Another critical area is housing. So we have a Diaspora Housing Programme for diasporans. You can do your housing programme directly without going through a family member or anyone,” she said.

Honourable Abike-Dabiri also examined the issue of harnessing diaspora remittances into generating capital flow, productive investment for the growth and development of small and micro enterprises which in turn creates employment.

In his address, the British Deputy High Commissioner, Ben Llewellyn-Jones OBE, thanked the N-BA President for her excellent drive. He described the N-BA as the living bridge to the United Kingdom and Nigeria.

Llewellyn-Jones’ said that: “Nigeria is the second largest Diaspora in UK, the largest is South Africa. Generations of Nigerians in the diaspora feel very strongly about their Nigerian roots.”

Speaking further, Llewellyn-Jones noted that all groups in the diaspora tend to be engaged in sending remittances; adding that remittances, no matter how small, made significant impact on the lives of people. He suggested the need for stakeholders to consider movement of cash through more innovative and simpler means whilst also ensuring transparency. “It was now important to consider ways of moving physical cash electronically and transparently,” he added.

He impressed on the need for government to create conditions that can help businesses grow in addition to making the Nigerian market as competitive as possible. He also suggested that government put the necessary machinery in place to speed up the movement of goods to the ports in Nigeria and improve security. According to Llewellyn-Jones:

“I see that the diasporans are discovering Nigeria. We know the size of the Nigerian market. There is a huge potential in the Nigerian market. We need to make sure that investment come into Lagos.”

The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mrs Catriona Wendy Campbell Liang, in delivering her goodwill message, expressed hope that the next election would be a step forward for Nigeria as the biggest democracy in Africa.

The Lecture then dissolved into a panel session, constituting the Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr Folashodun Adebisi Shonubi; the Country Director of the British Council and Vice President of the N-BA, Lucy Pearson; and Head of International Settlement, Guarantee Trust Bank, Mr Lanre Kola-Banjo as panelists.

The panelists examined a wide range of issues, including the economic part of the diaspora engagement, encouragement of the contribution and engagement of Nigerians in diaspora towards the socio-economic development of the nation, collaboration between stakeholders and impact of monetary policy on diaspora remittance, among others.

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