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Africa bound

OPPORTUNITIES: Lagos

WITH MORE than one million young people unemployed in the UK, a new wave of enterprising graduates are looking to Africa to fulfil their career aspirations.

The 2011 International Employee Engagement study done by research firm GfK showed that 38 percent of people with UK degrees would consider going overseas to secure better jobs. Many tended to fall into a younger age bracket.

Atiyah Wazir-Meadows, online editor of Eurograduate, said last year people were drawn to jobs in other countries because “working hours and work ethic are often different and the quality of life is seen to be better.”

In February, veteran social enterprise campaigner and head of Lambeth Enterprise group Devon Thomas urged black Britons to look for opportunities in the countries of their ancestors or where they originally came from.

He told The Voice: “Opportunities are now in our countries of origin, so for cultural and practical reasons it may be sensible to think about studying [and] looking for economic opportunities elsewhere. We are going to have to be like Marcus Garvey. We’ve got to create an international network that links us back to where we are born if it is here, where we [or our families] originated from – whether the Caribbean or Africa.”

It appears young people have heard the message and are heading to countries like oil-rich Nigeria, also home to the multi-million dollar Nollywood film industry.

The West African nation is also on the cusp of a technology, industry and media boom, creating opportunities that can produce billionaires such as cement baron Aliko Dangote and tycoon Mike Adenuga.

“You just have to be creative, have little funds and transferrable skills from abroad. With these an individual can attract many opportunities,” said Benson Osawe, general secretary of Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation Europe (NIDOE). The organisation encourages Nigerians to return home to the country considered Africa’s second fastest growing economy.

With more than 150 million potential consumers, the country has seen top brands such as Nestle, Citibank, Guinness and OK Magazine target consumers there.

Despite fuel subsidy protests and a recent spate of terrorist attacks, Nigeria is still one of Africa’s most promising countries for economic investment. It is expected to see growth of between six and eight percent this year and Lagos is forecast to be the sixth fastest growing city in the world by 2025, said Business Day in April.

Here, The Voice profiles two young people seeking new lives in Nigeria.

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Anthonia Kehinde

LAW GRADUATE Anthonia Kehinde, 24, was born and raised in north London. After graduating from King’s College with a degree in law, she went to BPP Law School. Two years ago, she took a bold step and moved to Nigeria.

“I thought my dream of becoming a judge was more realistic in Nigeria than in the UK, and that is the main reason why I left,” she said.

Since then, she has completed the country’s national youth service, which enables her to work.

She has also graduated from law school in Nigeria’s commercial centre, Lagos, and now lives with her fiancé, who she met there.

“Life in Nigeria is so carefree. You have time to socialise and the cost of living is so much cheaper than Britain,” Anthonia said.

“Here, you could wake up and be a multi-millionaire,” she said. “It is a land of untapped opportunity. You dare to dream big, and more than likely it happens.”

Nigeria’s cities are notorious for gridlock traffic, pot-holed roads and crime, making moving around the country a bit of a chore.

“Transportation is annoying and an effort,” she admits. “That is one thing I miss about London – the Tube,” she chuckles.

“Crime is still an issue but it has improved immeasurably in the last few years,” she said. “But it’s about being street smart as you’d be in any city.”

Anthonia is now a local government lawyer in the Lagos State House of Assembly.

“I have no plans to move back to Britain, I still have a lot to do here,” she said. “I love this country.”

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LIVING COSTS
(Source: Numbeo.com)

* Monthly Rent (1 bedroom in city centre)
Lagos, Nigeria: £155
London, UK: £1,372.45

* Groceries (milk, 1kg chicken, eggs, 1.5 litre water, bread, mid-range wine)
Lagos, Nigeria: £16.56
London, UK: £19.03

* Travel (monthly pass)
Lagos, Nigeria: £43.06
London, UK: £107.93

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Ibrahim Ajani-Owolabi

Ibrahim Ajani-Owolabi, 27, moved to Lagos in November 2010 in search of a better lifestyle.

He had lived in London since the age of seven, but said he began to look elsewhere for opportunities because of barriers facing young black people in Britain.

Ibrahim says in the UK success is too often linked to colour. “People will either see you as a young black male doing well or ‘a sell-out acting white’,” he said.

“You are never just doing well. I was desperate to be something other than ‘an inspired black youth in London’,” he said.

Ibrahim’s girlfriend remained in London but the pair have maintained a long-distance relationship.

“I knew before I left I had every intention of spending my life with her,” he explained. “We’re expecting a baby now and will raise our child in Nigeria.”

Ibrahim said living in Nigeria gave him not only a better quality of life but allowed him to make better use of family connections.

“In the UK, you are just part of the rat race but in Nigeria I am somebody,” he said. “My surname carries weight because of who my father is (a politician). I could even be president of Nigeria one day. This could never be the case in UK.”

Ibrahim hopes to follow his father’s footsteps into politics.

“My next step towards manhood is building a strong unit with my new wife and son and winning my first political campaign,” he said.

“Britain brought me up but it’s Nigeria who will raise me.”

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