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Jakpa: The Untold Saga of West Africa’s Youth Migration Phenomenon

A survey by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies has shown that the number of documented migrants within and from the African region has nearly doubled since 2010, continuing a two-decade expansion trend.

Have you ever heard someone say ‘Jakpa’ lately? It’s like a new catchphrase, especially among young Ghanaians and Nigerians. But what does it really mean? Are we truly prepared to leave or merely swept along by the current?

This article explores the complexities of youth emigration from West Africa, particularly Ghana and Nigeria, shedding light on the challenges and financial implications of this trend, exploring its impact on education, the labor market, remittances, and overall economic growth as well as envisioning sustainable solutions for the nation’s future.

West Africa has witnessed a remarkable exodus of educated and non-educated youth seeking opportunities abroad in the past few years. This phenomenon, often termed ‘brain drain,’ poses significant challenges to Africa’s economic stability. A survey by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies has shown that the number of documented migrants within and from the African region has nearly doubled since 2010, continuing a two-decade expansion trend. Approximately one in every five Ghanaians is acquainted with at least three individuals who have embarked on journeys from Ghana or Nigeria in pursuit of better opportunities abroad.

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This trend is propelled by a convergence of factors primarily rooted in pursuing economic opportunities abroad. Faced with limited job prospects and economic instability at home, many skilled professionals and recent graduates are enticed by the promise of better wages and improved living standards in Western countries.

This economic pull is a magnet, compelling young individuals to seek greener pastures beyond their homeland’s borders. Some individuals, as we observe on social media platforms, are willing to sell all their personal belongings, endure abusive hardships, and more just for the opportunity to experience life abroad. But hey, can we blame them? According to the Ghana Statistical Service, the unemployment rate was at an average of 14.7% in 3 quarters of 2023. This makes the future quite gloomy for young people.

Besides the promise of job opportunities, access to quality education also serves as a driving force behind youth emigration. With aspirations for personal and professional growth, many students aspire to pursue higher education in the West, where renowned institutions and advanced research facilities abound. The opportunity to gain valuable qualifications and skills abroad and the belief in better job prospects after graduation motivates many young individuals to seek opportunities overseas. This desire for educational advancement intertwines with concerns over political instability, inadequate healthcare, and security challenges within their home countries, prompting many to embark on the journey toward a more promising future abroad.

As waves of skilled professionals depart, vital sectors like healthcare and engineering feel the tremors of their absence. The loss of expertise strains productivity and creates gaping holes in the fabric of our economy. Meanwhile, unemployment rates soar back home as domestic job markets struggle to absorb the influx of fresh graduates and skilled workers. A recent study found that numerous companies experienced a significant loss of skilled labour to the UK and America in 2022, particularly in white-collar professions. And once again, can we blame them? Suppose you’ve ever tried converting your monthly salary to dollars or pounds. In that case, you might only daydream about sipping cocktails on a beach in Santorini or lounging in a villa in Bali. So, until our local currency starts performing magical tricks, can we fault anyone for chasing those overseas opportunities? It’s like trying to resist a slice of freshly baked bread – practically impossible!

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The departure of skilled workers creates imbalances in the labour market, particularly in critical sectors like healthcare and technology. These shortages hinder economic productivity and drive up the demand for foreign labour, placing additional strain on our resources.

Yet amidst the challenges lie opportunities waiting to be seized. Imagine a future where education isn’t just about degrees but equipping our youth with the skills they need to thrive in a competitive world. Picture a landscape dotted with startups and innovations, nurtured by an ecosystem encouraging risk-taking and creativity. By drawing lessons from countries that have effectively addressed similar issues, Ghana can devise strategies to retain its youth and attract them back. This requires a concerted effort from both the government and private sector to create an environment where young people can thrive and see a future for themselves at home.

Our nation faces daunting financial hurdles as the youth seek opportunities beyond borders. Yet, from adversity springs opportunity. By learning from success stories worldwide, Ghana and Nigeria can sculpt strategies to retain and entice their youth home.

And hey, dear readers, consider this article the opening act in exploring this critical topic! It’s like the teaser trailer before the main event. So, grab your morning coffee and keep those newspapers handy because there’s a sequel in the works! Stay tuned for more in-depth analysis, intriguing stories, and perhaps even a few surprises. Keep your eyes peeled because this conversation is far from over. Until next time, happy reading!

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