Millions of Nigerians have emigrated from Nigeria to other parts of the world, with a significant number leaving after 1990. These migrants and their descendants make up the Nigerian Diaspora. Estimates of the size of the Nigerian Diaspora vary greatly and range from about 5 million to 15 million people.
The Nigerian Diaspora covers practically every part of the world but the largest populations of Nigerians can be found in the UK, USA and South Africa. In Europe, London’s Peckham also called “Little Lagos” and in the USA, Houston in Texas has the largest population of Nigerians in the country.
The emigration out of Nigeria, especially in more recent times, has been at a cost to Nigeria as the best, brightest and most able left Nigeria. This rapid migration of the country’s professionals was termed “the brain drain”.
However, this brain drain served to strengthen the Nigerian Diaspora with a significant portion becoming well educated and trained, having professional jobs and high median income levels when compared to other immigrant groups.
Just like the Diasporas from other countries of the world, most members of the Nigerian Diaspora maintain strong ties with their families, friends and relatives back in Nigeria, and influence the social, political and economic development of Nigeria.
However, there has been limited research and formal studies done on the Nigerian Diaspora, especially when compared to studies done on other major Diaspora groups. According to the World Bank data, there are 1,117,000 Nigerians living abroad in total. These are Nigerians with a Nigerian passport.
There are 3.2 million in the United States. However, only 252,000, or 12%, still carry their Nigerian passport. That means 88% have opted for their host country citizenship.
Countries around the world with the largest Nigerian diaspora
Official statistics probably greatly underestimate the size of the diaspora, since they are not likely to include illegal immigrants. What is certain, though, is that the number of Nigerians living abroad has increased rapidly in recent decades.
Census figures in Britain show that the number of British residents born in Nigeria more than doubled in the decade to 2011, to 191,000, making this the immigrant population with the second-fastest growth, after Poles.
A census in America estimated the country’s Nigerian-born population at 221,000. Add in their children, and the diaspora in America swells to just under 400,000, according to the Migration Policy Institute. The UN reckons that some 1.2m Nigerian-born people currently live abroad.
In the USA, Nigerians are the most educated ethnic group, with the highest percentage of Bachelor degree holders amongst African immigrants and have an average household income of $94,030 (2010 U.S Census). Without any large scale and formal structure, the Nigerian Diaspora continues to contribute significantly to the development of their home communities and Nigeria.
Whatever the exact numbers, that diaspora is an important source of money, markets and skills for its home country. The World Bank estimates that Nigerians abroad sent back some $21 billion in remittances in 2013. That adds up to a quarter of their country’s earnings from oil exports, and more now that the price of oil has fallen.
Typically, Nigerians living abroad remit (send) money to friends and family back home. According to the World Bank, in 2017, the diaspora remitted $22 billion back to Nigeria, equivalent to our total crude oil earnings. In essence, Nigeria receives as much money from its diaspora as it does from crude oil, the backbone of its economy.
Remittances are a booming global business. The World Bank estimates that global remittances grew 10% to $689 billion in 2018 , with developing countries receiving $528 billion of this. Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) receives a relatively small share of this (less than $60 billion) and Nigeria accounts for over a third of all SSA remittances. Giant of Africa indeed.
For countries with a large diaspora population such as Nigeria, workers’ remittances are a significant part of international capital flows and foreign exchange earnings. As more middle-class Nigerians depart the country, this influence will continue to rise. This creates is an opportunity to explore an untapped resource for development—direct diaspora investments.
Nigerian diaspora is the most successful and the most admired around the world. They were the only Africans mentioned in the top-eight of best performing ethnic groups in the United States of America in the bestseller book “The Triple Package” by Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld.