High mobility among Nigerian and Ghanaian professionals seeking jobs abroad

Despite global challenges such as geopolitical tensions, economic concerns, and virtual mobility trends, many workers still dream of moving abroad for work. A new report reveals that 23 percent of global professionals, 64 percent of Nigerian professionals, and 74 percent of Ghanaian professionals are actively seeking jobs in other countries. Younger individuals and those from fast-growing populations are the most mobile, with English-speaking countries like Australia, the US, Canada, and the UK being the top destinations, and London topping the list of cities, with New York also in the top five.

Nigeria ranks 67th and Ghana 72nd in overall attractiveness to global workers, with Abuja ranking 63rd and Lagos 103rd in desired cities. Professionals from Kenya, Uganda, and South Africa are interested in working in Nigeria, while those from Nigeria, Uganda, and Kenya seek opportunities in Ghana.

Published today by Boston Consulting Group (BCG), The Network, The Stepstone Group, and The African Talent Company (TATC), the Decoding Global Talent 2024 report is based on survey data from over 150,000 respondents from 188 countries, including Nigeria and Ghana. This fourth installment follows previous editions from 2014, 2018, and 2021.

Regions with labour surpluses, like the Middle East and Africa, show high mobility, with 64 percent of workers willing to relocate. In contrast, North America and Europe report much lower figures, at 16 percent and 10 percent, respectively.

‘The world’s major economies are facing a great people shortage due to declining birth rates and job market mismatches,’ said The Stepstone Group CEO Sebastian Dettmers. ‘Labour migration represents a prime opportunity to bridge this gap. We must adapt our job markets to be more versatile, enabling workers to move to where they are most needed and where they can find the best positions for their skills and aspirations.’

‘West Africa continues to offer attractive job opportunities for local professionals and for others from the rest of the continent and overseas, who are seeking to advance their careers. There are some clear reasons why people are choosing to relocate to Nigeria and Ghana, most notably the quality of job opportunities, and the region’s welcoming culture and family-centric environment,’ says Adwoa Banful, Principal at BCG, Johannesburg.

The top 10 countries Nigerians prefer to work abroad include Canada, the UK, the USA, Australia, Germany, the UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, and France. This marks a slight change from the 2020 survey, which included the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Ireland in the top 10. Ghanaians’ top choices are Canada, the USA, the UK, Australia, Germany, the UAE, Finland, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Belgium.

The survey results reveal that global talent moves abroad primarily for professional progress, with financial and economic reasons (64 percent of global, 60 percent of Nigerian, and 69 percent of Ghanaian respondents), career considerations such as work experience (56 percent of global, 69 percent of Nigerian, and 73 percent of Ghanaian respondents), better overall life quality (55 percent of global, 51 percent of Nigerian, and 57 percent of Ghanaian respondents), and concrete job offers (54 percent of global, 51 percent of Nigerian, and 50 percent of Ghanaian respondents) as the top reasons for doing so.

Nigerian respondents also highlight better educational and training opportunities (64 percent versus 37 percent of global respondents) and more interesting or challenging work (63 percent versus 48 percent of global respondents) as top reasons to relocate. Similarly, Ghanaian respondents would relocate for better educational and training opportunities (70 percent) and more interesting or challenging work (68 percent).

For global respondents who listed a specific reason for choosing a particular country, the quality of job opportunities was the top decisive factor (65 percent), with quality of life and climate ranking second (54 percent). Other country-specific characteristics, such as opportunities for citizenship (18 percent) and health care (15 percent), also play a role but are secondary factors.

Reasons to relocate to Nigeria include the quality of job opportunities (52 percent of respondents), a family-friendly environment (40 percent), and a welcoming culture and inclusiveness (34 percent). Reasons for choosing Ghana include the quality of job opportunities (48 percent of respondents), a welcoming culture and inclusiveness (40 percent), and safety, stability, and security (38 percent).

‘The biggest reasons highlighted by Nigerian and Ghanaian respondents, who are not willing to move overseas, are the inability to bring family members or a life partner with them when they relocate (43 percent and 50 percent respectively) and the cost of relocation (39 percent and 36 percent respectively),’ says Banful.

‘People don’t associate countries with certain generally attributed advantages and choose them on that basis,’ said Sacha Knorr, co-managing director at The Network. ‘Instead, they opt for the destination region that most closely matches their own personal criteria for their future job choice. Companies should take advantage of this, as they can score points here with job offers that match talents’ expectations.’

The study also highlights that workers who move abroad expect employers to take the lead in supporting their relocation and onboarding and to cultivate an international, inclusive culture. Nearly eight out of ten global respondents expect to get help with housing (79 percent), and 82 percent of Nigerian and 86 percent of Ghanaian respondents expect help, as well as visa and work permit assistance (78 percent of global, 90 percent of Nigerian, and 95 percent of Ghanaian respondents), and count on relocation support (69 percent of global, 74 percent of Nigerian, and 71 percent of Ghanaian respondents) and language support and training (54 percent of global, 55 percent of Nigerian, and 59 percent of Ghanaian respondents).

‘More than eight in ten Nigerian (83 percent) and Ghanaian (82 percent) respondents have expressed a willingness to work remotely for foreign employers in Nigeria and Ghana respectively compared to 66 percent of global respondents, which could present international organizations with access to resources to meet people shortages in important economies,’ adds Banful.

‘Other countries can be a great source of talent. But establishing a channel of workers from abroad requires employers to fundamentally overhaul how they recruit, relocate, and integrate talent,’ said Jens Baier, managing director, senior partner, and leader of BCG’s work in HR excellence. ‘They may have to challenge their own biases and look for talent in markets and regions that they had not previously considered. Governments also play a strong enabling role in this process. They must establish policies, incentives, and frameworks that help employers bring in the talent they need. Employers and nations that tap into such positive energy from the millions of workers with mobile aspirations will gain a major competitive advantage and source of growth.’

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