The thought of relocating out of Nigeria to countries like the United Kingdom, Canada, Scotland, and others can be a thrilling experience.
This is as relocating outside the country for greener pastures, which is popularly called ‘japa’, if fast becoming the dream of many of the country’s teeming population of young people.
James Adefemi, a young man in his late twenties is one of many Nigerians who scaled several travel hurdles to start a new life in the United Kingdom.
According to him the decision to relocate to the United Kingdom was both an exciting and adventurous experience that he had looked forward to.
However, nothing prepared him for the financial and emotional challenges that come with migrating to a new country.
Adefemi says, “Relocating out of Nigeria is a very demanding process and I think that’s the part most people don’t get to talk about. It is demanding financially, mentally, emotionally, and time demanding.”
He narrates that his journey started in 2018 after his national youth service. “I decided to travel to the UK for my master’s programme, but money was a major issue; so, I decided to give my plans one more year so that I could save up,” he says.
This did not go as planned, adding, “Considering my monthly salary that year. Anyway, I applied to a few schools and got admission. I also applied for a scholarship that took most of my time because it went from one stage of essay writing to another.
“Thank God for the scholarship because it lifted quite a lot of my financial burden in terms of tuition. It wasn’t a full scholarship, so I still had quite some money to pay.”
He says the major factor that makes relocating out of Nigeria a huge financial burden is the exchange rate. “It’s crazy how you are converting a few pounds or dollars to millions of naira,” he says.
Adefemi’s story replicates the case of many Nigerians looking to relocate overseas.
According to a recent by Pew Research survey, an estimated adult population of 45 per cent in Nigeria has plans to relocate to another country within five years.
From the 12 countries surveyed, Nigerians topped the list. A report by the African polling unit in 2021 further revealed that seven out of every 10 Nigerians were making plans to leave the country. But as much as the idea of relocation may be the answer to many problems, preparing adequately will prevent the stress associated with relocation.
Adefemi explains that, apart from the tuition fee, the visa application process was another financial burden., from the visa fee to health insurance even to the flight ticket.
“At some point, it felt like the expenses couldn’t stop coming. I remember I had to pay for priority visa application because the standard visa application process was taking more time than normal and I needed to be in school as soon as possible.”
According to him, his family was a major support system during this period and that helped to make the journey easier.
Generally, personal finance experts urge Nigerians to focus on putting up a financial plan for the long and short-term of their migration goals.
Former Financial Manager at Wales Bank Asset Management, Rachael Alabi, says that she made research into the cost of relocation.
According to her, the first thing for anyone looking to relocate is “to do research; otherwise, they wouldn’t know that it costs so much to relocate. And that’s where financial planning comes into place.”
Alabi explains that individuals must also ask crucial questions in order to get clarity and plan well.
Questions like, how much is a flight trip? What am I going there to do? Do I want to study? How much will my tuition cost even if I have a scholarship? etc., should be considered.
It is also important to review one’s current financial status, Alabi reveals. She says, “My friend who has relocated made this decision two years ago but knew at the time that he did not have the financial capacity to embark on such an action. What he started doing was taking on multiple jobs. This is where financial planning comes to play.”
Individuals also need to create a structured budget system to ensure that every relocation goal is met because migrating to a new country largely depends on ability to finance your decision.
Alabi says, “You want to have a budget too. For instance, if I know that relocating to the United Kingdom will cost $50,000 and I have only $5,000, I need $45,000 to go. What should I do? I have to increase my income. But this does not translate into anything if I do not have a budget and massive saving plan.”
Alibi says that, “After you leave the country, individuals must have emergency funds because they are moving into a new environment. Sometimes, it also helps when the migrant knows someone that stays there; it reduces the burden of rent. But the emergency fund will prepare you for any financial shock because anything can happen.”
Emergency funds will sustain you up till the time you get a stable income and protect you from financial pressure. So, it is advisable to have up to six months of emergency funds saved up.
Travel Manager, Wayfare Travels, Omoyeni Kolawole, advises that Nigerians who want to relocate should ensure they have all the necessary documents to travel and reside in the destination country.
“This may include a valid passport, visa, work permit, and any other relevant document,” Kolawole says.
Building a network is a secure way to ensure that you don’t run into any hiccups in the new country.
Kolawole explains, “Other Nigerians in the destination country can help Nigerians who want to relocate to find job opportunities, housing, and other resources. This can be done through social media platforms like LinkedIn, attending networking events, or reaching out to professional associations.”
Kolawole says this is one area that is applicable when Nigerians are travelling to a country where English is not the lingua franca.
The travel manager says, “We do not talk about this enough, it is either you are learning the language of the destination country or you are going to an English-speaking country which limits your options.
“Learning a language can help someone who wants to relocate to communicate effectively and integrate into the new culture. They can take language classes, practice with native speakers, or use language learning apps.”
He adds that Nigerians looking to relocate should seek professional advice from travel consultants who are vast in relocation
“Nigerians should research the visa and immigration requirements for their destination country to ensure they have the necessary documentation to enter and reside in the country legally,” he says.
This article first appeared in The PUNCH