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An increasing number of Africans are leaving Europe and the West to return to Africa
They return to their continent seeking jobs and new economic opportunities
Economic growth, better governance and technology boom are factors in rise of returnees
The economic slowdown in the West in recent years is also a factor
For decades, many African countries saw some of their most skilful young people take their talents to other parts of the world, lured by the financial prospects outside the continent.
But lately, as much of Europe continues to shrink under the weight of austerity, an increasing number of Africans are turning their backs on cash-strapped western economies to return to their continent, seeking jobs and new economic opportunities.
One of these returnee Africans – known as “repats” – is Nigerian Joshua Egba. The 33-year-old financial consultant left the West African country a decade ago to continue his studies in London, UK.
“Things weren’t really happening in Nigeria in about 2002,” he says. “People were going to the UK for better opportunities.”
But this picture changed completely in 2008, Egba notes, when the global financial crisis hit Britain, bringing with it a feeling of fear and job insecurity.
“Business are laying staff off, the government is laying staff off, so you’re not safe,” he remembers. “I thought really it’s time for me to go home because I’m hearing all these stories, all these success stories coming from Nigeria, coming from Africa.”
For Nigeria, 2008 was a turnaround year as a series of government reforms boosted the country’s economy that has continued to grow since then: in the past three years, the oil-rich West African nation has seen growth of more than seven percent while much of the western world remains mired in financial turmoil.
While the evidence over the returnee figures in Africa is largely anecdotal, observers cite the continent’s impressive economic growth, coupled with improvements in governance, a boom in telecommunications and the economic slowdown in the West, as the key factors for the apparent increase in the number of Africans coming back to the continent.
“People who wouldn’t have considered coming back in the first instance started looking at the possibility of actually going back to Africa to look for better opportunities,” says Funto Akinkugbe, managing director of findajobinafrica.com, an online platform that facilitates the connection between recruitment agencies, employers and jobseekers.
Akinkugbe notes that his site, which he says receives around 43,000 - 45,000 visitors on a monthly basis, has recorded an increase of 35-40% in the last two years over the number of people applying for jobs in Africa. He adds that this increase is supported by the ever growing number of the Africa-focused job portals, which now number in hundreds.
Akinkugbe says that the main areas of employment activity are the mining industry in Central African countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, agriculture in West Africa and the oil and gas sectors in countries such