Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, is about to introduce new banknotes in over 20 years. The move is an attempt to restore confidence in the naira currency, which is under severe pressure. With inflation above 20%, people are having a hard time coping with the rising cost of living. This leads to the largest exodus of young professionals in recent years.
Initially, the cost of the living crisis wasn’t impacting them. But there are long queues outside immigration processing centers and embassies every day, and everyone here seems to know someone who’s leaving or trying to relocate abroad. The term “Japa”, which means “to run, flee or escape” in Yoruba, has become a popular topic of conversation online, as well as on radio and TV chat shows. Most of those who can afford to leave the country legally are well-educated. They include doctors, nurses, engineers, and IT professionals. It’s led some to call the exodus a “brain drain”.
The Nigeria Medical Association, says at least 50 doctors leave Nigeria every week to work abroad. Poor working conditions, coupled with bad pay and the rising cost of living are the main factors. Kunle Ibisola is a junior doctor who used to work at the University College Hospital (UCH), in the southwestern city of Ibadan. He now works for NHS Scotland.
The economy is one of the main concerns for voters in next month’s elections. According to the World Bank,4 of the 10 Nigerians live below the poverty line, despite being Africa’s largest economy. All of the leading candidates have promised to improve the country’s economy if elected, but there is skepticism that they will deliver.
The central bank said the currency switchover, which must be completed by February 10, when old banknotes will no longer be legal tender will help individuals and businesses return some of the cash they are currently storing back into the banking system. It said that 80% of banknotes in circulation today are outside banks. The organization hopes the change will help it better understand how money circulates within the economy and better manage inflation.