In the five years before COVID-19 Nigerian immigration to Canada more than tripled, and a new study shows this “Canada Rush” was driven by a longing for a more prosperous future.
In ‘Deconstructing the Canada Rush – A Study on Motivations for Nigerians Emigrating to Canada’, the Africa Polling Institute (API) said Nigeria’s weak economy, heightened insecurity and perceived poor performance by that country’s government are driving Nigerians to emigrate.
“In the last few years, the number of Nigerians seeking to emigrate to Canada has maintained an upward trajectory,” states the report.
“Canadian immigration policies have also in the last few years made the country emerge as an attractive destination of choice for many Nigerians – compared to the United Kingdom, with its imminent pre-and post-Brexit implications, and the strict immigration policies of the current United States administration.”
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) figures bear out the AFI’s conclusion that Nigerian immigration to Canada is on the upswing.
In the five years from 2015 through to the end of 2019, the number of Nigerians becoming new permanent residents in Canada more than tripled, rising from 4,090 to a high of 12,600 in 2019, just before COVID-19 hit Canada.
That made Nigeria the fourth most important source of new permanent residents that year, behind India, China, and the Philippines.
The IRCC’s figures for those five years also tend to support the AFI’s contention that Nigerians are coming to Canada for economic opportunities.
Economic programs, including the Atlantic Immigration Pilot, Canadian Experience, Caregiver, Skilled Trade, Skilled Worker, Investor, Federal Self-Employed Class and Start-Up Visa programs as well as the Provincial Nominee Program, accounted for 76.1 per cent of all Nigerians who became new permanent residents to Canada in 2019.
Economic Programs Attract Three-Quarters of Nigerians
Even after the first wave of COVID-19 hit in early 2020 and immigration from Nigeria fell by 41.3 per cent, those economic programs continued to make up the lion’s share of programs through which Nigerians became new permanent residents in Canada.
“The Top Five motivating ‘push factors’ for Nigerians seeking migration opportunities to Canada are: the search for better career opportunities (75 per cent), heightened insecurity and violence (60 per cent), the desire to provide a better future for their children (55 per cent), for further education (40 per cent), and perceived poor governance in Nigeria (35 per cent),” states the AFI report.
But while Nigerians may appreciate the economic opportunities Canada offers, it seems many of them are far less enamoured of The Great White North’s bitterly-cold winters. In Nigeria, a winter day may see the mercury rise to 40 degrees Celsius, a far cry from the 58-below winters of White River, Ontario.
Unsurprisingly, only one per cent of Nigerians cited Canadian weather as being a reason to want to come here.
The search for better business prospects motivated 12 per cent of Nigerians to emigrate to Canada and three per cent chose to come here to reunite with family.
Canada is Welcoming of New Immigrants
Canadian immigration policies and the acceptance and tolerance of Canadians to people from other countries and cultures also encouraged many Nigerians to come to Canada.
“There is a general perception amongst actual and prospective migrants that Canada offers a good quality of life and good health care services (78 per cent); Canada is a very safe country to live in (74 per cent); there are respects for human rights and dignity (73 per cent); and Canada is a place where Nigerians and other immigrants can easily integrate into the society (71 per cent),” write the authors of the report.
“To buttress this point, almost six in 10 of actual migrants (59 per cent) affirmed that, in retrospect, they consider their decision to migrate to Canada was an excellent decision.”
In order to get the data for their report, researchers sometimes disguised themselves as prospective migrants on WhatsApp and Telegram, two messaging platforms, to access groups of prospective migrants and to post-survey links and encourage others to complete their questionnaire.
“Given the difficulty in identifying prospective or actual migrants, a convenience sampling technique was employed to identify, and snowball off, personal contacts who are currently exploring the migration option and those who have already emigrated,” the AFI report states.
Nigeria Bemoans Loss of its Best and Brightest
Canada’s gain of some of Nigeria’s best and brightest with its immigration policies, however, means a net loss of such talent for the African country. The Post-Graduate Work Permit programs and international Study Visa programs, in particular, tend to attract Nigerians to Canada and then entice them to stay and become permanent residents.
“Nigeria is losing several generations of well-educated students and highly skilled workers in one swoop,” bemoan the authors of the African study.
They conclude that Nigeria must do more to prevent the brain drain to Canada.
“There is every need to strengthen current policies that stimulate economic growth and development in the country, which will make staying in Nigeria an attractive option,” states the report.
“At the very least, the government needs to invest more in basic infrastructure and actively tackle corruption. Furthermore, the country can position itself to more actively take advantage of its youth bulge to be a hub for technology, industry and manpower development.”