2021 NATIONAL DIASPORA DAY: MATTERS ARISING

The 2021 National Diaspora Day has come and gone. It was marked last Sunday, 25th July.

There was a flurry of activities, mostly online and by various groups, including government agencies like the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), banks like Ecobank and publications like Nigeria Magazine, which organised webinars or promotions to mark the day.

Sunday was the third time the National Diaspora Day was marked since the Nigerian government set up the celebration in 2019 and this year’s activities came up amidst reports that diaspora remittances to Nigeria fell by almost 30 percent in 2020.

The various events of last Sunday were therefore geared towards improving the situation by galvanizing Nigerians in the diaspora to do more than they have been doing.

In 2019, the Federal Government set aside July 25 of every year as National Diaspora Day in recognition of the contributions of Nigerians living outside the country towards national development.

Available statistics show that Nigerian diasporans contribute a huge chunk of foreign exchange to the country’s economy, with yearly remittances valued at $23 billion, which puts the country in the top ten recipient countries for remittance inflows in the world, with 2020 figures showing the top five as India ($83 billion), China ($60 billion), Mexico ($43 billion), the Philippines ($35 billion), and Egypt ($30 billion).

Unofficial reports say that there are about 15 million Nigerians in the diaspora but several negative economic policies seemed to have affected the remittance figures and COVID-19 has also played a major role in the downward trend, as identified by the World Bank.

Many Nigerians have also complained of poor services at Nigeria missions abroad, especially in securing Nigerian passport and other immigration bottlenecks.

The Central Bank had tried to also make receipt of remittances easier by reviewing its policies several times but there is no doubt that the apex bank needs to do more to reverse the 2020 trend that saw that remittances by Nigerians in diaspora fall by 27.7 per cent to $16.8 billion in 2020, from $23.24 billion the previous year.

The World Bank stated in its report on ‘Migration and Development’ that remittance flows to Nigeria alone account for over 40 per cent of remittance flows to the Sub-Sahara region but this had dwindled, while noting that in spite of COVID-19, remittance flows remained resilient in 2020, registering a smaller decline than previously projected.

The 2021 National Diaspora Day was therefore an opportunity for the various stakeholders to fashion out ways to return remittances to pre-COVID era and ensure that nothing rocks the boat.

At the online forum jointly organized by Nigeria Magazine and Edo State Investment Promotion Office (ESIPO), the State government assured that it will continue to enable the business environment for Diaspora investments to thrive, provide timely information on investment opportunities in the state, work to resolve business complaints, partner with the Diaspora in the area of Health, Technology, Agriculture processing and manufacturing.

The Chairman of Nigeria Magazine, Mr. Kede Aihie said during the meeting that the publication celebrates all things synonymous with achievement in Business, Education, Technology, Politics, Sports, Arts and Culture.

Meanwhile, in commemorating the National Diaspora Day, Ecobank Nigeria is providing free of charge, transactions on its proprietary money transfer app, Rapidtransfer and the promotion is on till October.

In a commemorative message, the Managing Director of Ecobank Nigeria, Mr. Patrick Akinwuntan stated that Nigerians in the diaspora contribute significantly to the socio-economic development of the country and commended the decision of the Federal Government to set aside a special day every year as the National Diaspora Day. He said that the recent launch of the National Diaspora Policy (NDP) by the government would further promote and harness the resources and capacity of Nigerians in the diaspora towards national development.

Mr. Akinwuntan said Ecobank was pleased to work closely with NIDCOM, in the engagement of Nigerians in the diaspora on policies, projects and other initiatives geared at developing the nation. He stated that, “From our constant engagement with Nigerians in the Diaspora, we understand their peculiar needs and have created tailor-made solutions to serve them effectively.” He noted further that Ecobank had partnered with NIDCOM on webinars, diaspora quarterly lecture series and will continue to seek other collaborative opportunities to deepen engagement with the diaspora community.

Ecobank Nigeria’s Head of Consumer Banking, Mrs. Korede Demola-Adeniyi Ecobank Nigeria said Ecobank will apply zero fees to all Rapidtransfer transactions from 1st July till the end of October, 2021,  thereby enabling Nigerians living abroad to send money to their loved ones affordably. The decision to waive charges, she said, underscores the bank’s commitment to helping Nigerians abroad remit money home without placing an additional burden of charges on them, especially at this period of global economic downturn.

 

 

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