RENEW Strategies

The Rise of "Re-Pats" -- African Talent Returns Home

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Tim Shirk
| January 11, 2010

The financial crisis is not all bad news. One interesting repercussion is the effect on decades of immigration into the United States for a “better opportunity.” While immigration overall has slowed down, there is new phenomenon which is uniquely affecting Africa: people leaving America for greater opportunity in their home country. Caroline Duffield’s BBC article tracks the influence of this dynamic in Nigeria.

The trend follows high quality business talent in the U.S. leaving either by choice or via a lay off, back to their home country where they had been watching growth and opportunity soar from afar. Now is the time to return ‘home’, bringing a wealth of business acumen to countless endeavors. One such individual quoted in the article said, “I came back to Nigeria after 10 years. I realised this place was calling for young entrepreneurs - to breathe new life into the system.”

This shift has gained enough momentum to earn a catchy name, “re-pats”, taking cue from the original expatriate movement that marked last century. The success of a recruitment agency that specializes in bringing Nigerian talent back to Africa truly underscores the process, “In 2003, we thought around 5,000 people a month were coming in," says Funto Akinkugbe from Find A Job In Africa. "That's multiplied by three now. We're looking at the best part of 15,000 people on a monthly basis."

While the challenges facing business in Africa still exist, this influx of new and experienced talent is better equipped to overcome barriers and continue to post strong growth in the region. One entrepreneur simply sums up the opportunity to become a re-pat, “It's changing fast - and you're either part of it, or not."

Stories like this and many others focused on the growing business opportunities in Africa can be found on the new BBC program, Africa Business Report on BBC World News.