Leveraging diplomacy to tackle unemployment

“I am Hajia Ramatu Damba, wife of the Ambassador of Ghana to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This message is in response to your article concerning the maintenance of mosques in Saudi Arabia. I read the article and feel I should contact you for more details because it happened that I travelled from Riyadh to Makkah and I saw so much filth in some of the mosques that I prayed in. So I ask you to direct me to the appropriate authorities to see if I could arrange for them to get some workers from Ghana for the cleaning of the bathrooms and the mosques. Both male and female.” 


This largely self-explanatory note was a response to an article written by one Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi; a Saudi columnist with a leading Jeddah-based Saudi Gazette newspaper who had written an article lamenting the poor sanitary condition of public toilets attached to mosques along highways across his country, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. He quoted the ambassador’s wife in a follow-up article titled “A suggestion from Ghana” (Saudi Gazette, Wednesday, July 18, 2018). 

When I read this response my first impression wasn’t admittedly positive having found it quite odd for an ambassador’s wife to offer facilitating services for the citizens of her country to be employed in her host country as toilet cleaners. I had regarded her offer as an unwarranted concession undermining not only her diplomatic prestige, but also the dignity of her country and pride of her countrymen and women. 


Looking at it that way, I was certainly under the influence of the typical black man’s instinctive emotional allergy to any seemingly racist insinuation against him. This is, after all, knowing that a black man doing menial jobs in a white man’s land is particularly vulnerable to racially-motivated contempt and even abuse.   

But then I began to look at it logically away from such emotions and I was in fact consequently able to realize the need for many developing countries especially in sub-Saharan Africa to leverage their respective diplomatic relations to bring real and relatively easily achievable economic benefits to their respective citizens, instead of wasting time and resources pursuing an apparently unrealizable foreign direct investment (FDI), which even when it materializes, it comes at disproportionate costs and in most cases without corresponding employment opportunities for the citizens. 

Convinced of the viability of this idea, I believe, with its extensive network of diplomatic relations and massive human resources, Nigeria is particularly advantaged to adopt it and explore means to leverage its diplomatic relations to facilitate organized and regulated supply of skilled and unskilled manpower from Nigeria to countries in Europe, Middles East and even as far as Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States.  

Obviously, the short, medium and long-term micro and macroeconomic advantage of this arrangement can’t be overemphasized. Because even without government involvement as currently obtains, the regular remittance by foreign-based Nigerian workers to their respective families and relatives in Nigeria amount each year to more than two-third of the country’s total annual budget. For instance, according to the World Bank, Nigerians working abroad remitted home $22 billion in 2017. By the way, inasmuch as the World Bank’s estimation is obviously based on the records of remittance transacted through official fund transfer channels, one can imagine the amount when the funds sent through informal channels are also considered.   

Though many Nigerians especially those with limited or no foreign exposure may nonetheless cling to their largely empty pride-inspired delusion to dismiss this idea, yet the reality doesn’t only justify it, but it in fact warrants its adoption. Besides, there are already millions of Nigerian menial and other blue-collar workers scattered across the world many of them stuck in grossly exploitative working conditions and enduring all sorts of humiliation, which is partly due to the absence of government involvement in their recruitment processes and working conditions. Many others also are engaged out there in illegal hustles and activities, while many more are still being lured into embarking on extremely dangerous illegal immigration journeys across desert and the Mediterranean Sea where they end up enslaved before and after managing to reach their destinations or lose their lives on the way. 

Therefore, government involvement to facilitate strictly regularized supply of skilled and unskilled Nigerian manpower to foreign employers abroad would not only protect Nigerian workers out there from exploitation but would also increase their job market value to enable them to earn renumeration befitting the qualifications of the skilled among them and the capabilities of the unskilled ones. There is nothing shameful in that. After all, many equally developing countries many of which are even economically richer than Nigeria have been able achieve and maintain their respective increasingly growing economies thanks to the regular remittance of their respective citizens working in different countries around the world. 

Now, it’s high time concerned government ministries and agencies in Nigeria e.g. Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Labour & Employment began coordination to come up with appropriate policy to leverage Nigeria’s diplomatic relations in pursuit of this strategy. This coordination should also include reputable foreign recruitment agencies in Nigeria to the exclusion of the unscrupulous ones, which connive with their foreign accomplices to defraud unsuspecting Nigerian foreign job applicants and/or abandon them to the mercy of exploitative employers in abroad.  

The Ministry of Labour & Employment should keep a Labour Attaché(s) in major Nigerian embassies, high commissions and consulates abroad to maintain close coordination with relevant authorities, recruitment agencies and prospective employers in their respective host countries. This would prove more profitable economically for Nigeria than maintaining most of its embassies abroad, which instead of attracting foreign investment to Nigeria from their respective host countries as they are supposed to do among other things, have ended up being a burden on the federal government that effectively wastes massive resources to maintain them without appropriate returns.


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