Bill Gates has weighed in on the recent surge in the number of young Nigerian professionals leaving the country for “greener pastures”.
The Microsoft co-founder addressed the so-called “Japa” phenomenon on Wednesday during an interactive session with innovators on ‘Advancing Africa: Unleashing the Power of Youth in Science and Innovation’ held in Lagos State.
“In a sense, people leaving is a good thing, if you up the amount of training you’re doing,” he said. “Having a big diaspora that includes people coming back into business, into government – that’s a very healthy thing.”
According to Gates, in an instance where the government provides subsidised medical education, “one almost wishes that a little bit of that resource you get overseas would help the government increase the training”.
Otherwise, there is a significant shortage in some of those skills, he noted.
“I’m not someone who believes that no one should go away or that blocking that completely is a healthy thing,” the philanthropist stressed.
Pointing out the similarities Nigeria shares with India and China in the export of talent, he highlighted that “many” innovative immigrant doctors had spent some time in the UK and the US as part of their training.
“This idea that people go away and do great work but then they come back, if you get that in balance and figure out the education funding piece of that, that is a super healthy thing in computer science, in health, in a business, and other areas,” Gates said.
“You say, ‘Some of our doctors can go get a very high salary in the UK or the US.’ Some of them will pay to their family broadly and some of them will return.”