JAPA: A Syndrome, Buzzword, or a Tough Reality?


Japa is originally a Yoruba word that means “to run, flee, or escape.”

But recently, this word has taken on a new meaning in Nigeria and various parts of the world.

It is now popularly used to represent the unending aspiration of many Nigerian youths to leave the country and find a better life overseas.

In fact, famous Nigerian singers Naira Marley and Barry Jhay have songs titled “Japa.”

The 2018 Naira Marley song titled “Japa” was a significant shift that led to the term becoming a new cultural personality and comic material. 

But if you dig deeper, you will realize that JAPA has become a movement that extends beyond Nigeria to several other African countries. 

JAPA: A Syndrome, Buzzword, or a Tough Reality?

So, what exactly does Japa mean to young Nigerians and other Africans with similar passions?

Is it just a funky buzzword for emigration or a crazy syndrome ravaging the continent?

This article explores a deeper side of JAPA and why it means much more than people think.

Buckle up as we dive in.

The Japa Syndrome and Its Root Cause

Naturally, it seems ridiculous that many young Nigerians and other Africans have an unquenchable desire to flee their home country. 

But that raises the critical question: Why?

Well, the reasons are not far-fetched.

Here’s a quick list of the “whys”:

But wait, what you are about to read next will blow your mind.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the following is true of the African continent.

  • Africa has 40% of the world’s gold and up to 90% of its chromium and platinum.
  • The world’s largest reserves of cobalt, diamonds, platinum, and uranium are in Africa.
  • The African continent holds 65% of the world’s arable land and 10% of the planet’s internal renewable freshwater source.

Unbelievable, isn’t it?

The continent with a high unemployment rate and a ridiculously high poverty rate is richly blessed with so many natural resources.

How about this…

Nigeria, the headquarters of the Japa movement, has substantial petroleum deposits, making it Africa’s largest oil producer

On top of that, OPEC says Nigeria is also blessed with other natural resources like natural gas, tin, iron ore, coal, limestone, niobium, lead, zinc, and arable land.

This is the same country where the youths are dying to “flee” so they can get a better life overseas. 

If Nigeria’s resources are properly utilized to benefit its people, do you think most youth would want to “Japa”?

Maybe Japa is not a syndrome after all; maybe it is indeed a life-or-death escape for the young and hopeless in a rich continent. 

How Japa is Affecting Businesses in Nigeria and Africa

Having a huge number of brilliant young minds migrating abroad is taking a toll on Nigeria and Africa. 

The major effects of the JAPA movement on businesses include:

1. Brain Drain

Many African businesses and organizations are losing their most talented and educated experts to foreign countries because of JAPA.

You can imagine a young doctor earning very little salary in Nigeria despite having rent to pay and other bills, including supporting his family. 

But suppose he JAPA and successfully gets a job in the U.K.. 

His earnings will increase dramatically, and he will gain access to world-class medical equipment, which Nigerian hospitals lack. 

This is why many genius and super-talented Africans are trooping abroad, causing a brain drain that negatively affects economic growth. 

2. Loss of Skilled Workers

Due to the JAPA trend, businesses in Nigeria and parts of Africa are now losing many of their skilled workers to foreign countries.

Some African companies have lost many of their skilled workers after spending huge amounts to train them for the job.

This negatively impacts profitability and productivity for affected businesses, especially when they can’t get good replacements for the staff that JAPA. 

3. Difficulty in Retaining Employees

Image credit: Grammarly

The JAPA trend keeps making it difficult for businesses to retain their high-performing employees even with high pay. 

So many African companies can’t maintain a stable workforce anymore because they keep losing employees every year to the JAPA movement.

There are a few cases of startups suffering big losses because a critical employee found a better opportunity abroad and left at a bad time. 

How to Curb the Japa Movement

The issue of young Africans fleeing to overseas nations is quite complex.

Many things must be put in place before the trend can be effectively subdued.

Some possible solutions include:

1. Improved Government Policies to Tackle Poverty

Africa’s poverty will greatly reduce when governments invest more in infrastructure development and youth empowerment.

You can’t tackle poverty if you keep ignoring the ridiculously high unemployment rate and continuous shortage of basic amenities like water supply, electricity, and good roads.

Even worse is neglecting the vibrant youths by not investing enough in their small and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs). 

The governments of Nigeria and other African nations need to be more intentional about empowering the youth. 

Beyond giving out loans, it is also imperative to give more incentives to SMEs and roll out new policies that protect and empower them.

Encouraging small businesses will not only reduce unemployment but also boost the economy and attract foreign investors. 

2. Higher Investments in Science and Technology

Image credit: Open Access Government

A large percentage of African youths fleeing abroad for greener pastures are skilled in science and technology fields. 

Such brilliant minds would never leave Africa if their skills were appropriately utilized and compensated with good salaries. 

The JAPA trend will reduce when high-paying jobs and opportunities arise in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

African governments and indigenous investors would reap huge profits if they invested more in industries that could absorb STEM professionals. 

Today, we have an annually increasing number of African university graduates who need an industry to absorb them and put their STEM skills to good use. 

3. Increased Training and Development Programs

Image credit: FPSA

When discussing unemployment in Africa, we often think of the young graduates from higher institutions like universities, polytechnics, and several colleges. 

But what about the young people who cannot afford such a level of education?

The thousands of unemployed and uneducated folks are also part of the problems Africa needs to solve to reduce JAPA. 

An excellent way to help such people is by providing training and development programs to equip them to become self-sufficient. 

It would also make more sense if special types of scholarships are given to young people with exceptional vocational skills. 

4. Promoting Hybrid and Remote Work in Africa

While everyone is busy talking about JAPA and brain drain, only a few realize that Africa now has a huge population of young folks working remotely for foreign employers. 

Yes, they are still physically here in Africa, but overseas companies are harnessing their skills and expertise. 

But why?

Well, the ridiculous answer is the fact that many African employers still don’t want to accept fully remote or hybrid work arrangements.

The few ones allowing fully remote arrangements are hard-pressed to pay lower salaries because they feel you are not commuting to work.

Such excuses may seem reasonable, but they aren’t good enough for you to offer peanut wages while foreign companies are willing to pay ten times more. 

Until this work arrangement issue gets settled, many African youths with valuable skills will keep exporting their talent to foreign employers.

Looking from many angles, you will quickly see that JAPA has many benefits that Africans can’t resist.

That is why thousands keep trooping abroad yearly, and the others still here continually hunt for remote jobs to work for foreign employers.  

But do you know JAPA itself has some harsh sides?

Many people are intentionally silent about this unenticing side of the JAPA movement. But not us!

Check the last section below for some “real” truths. 

10 Hard Truths People Often Hide About JAPA

Migrating to another country is not all sunshine and roses when searching for a greener pasture. 

Here are the top 10 truths everyone deserves to know before attempting to relocate abroad:

  • JAPA (relocating abroad) can be expensive if you don’t have good savings or sponsors.
  • There are legal and illegal ways to JAPA. (if you want to JAPA without trouble, contact us now at Sproutly Careers for expert guidance.)
  • Nothing like FREE money or surplus jobs exist in any foreign country. (you need to hunt for jobs and work to make the dollars, pounds, or euros.)
  • You won’t become INSTANTLY rich after relocating and getting a job abroad. (Becoming rich abroad will take time, savings, and good investment.)
  • Foreign jobs often give additional benefits like health insurance, which will provide FREE treatment if you fall sick. (but terms and conditions apply.)
  • All VISAs are not the same. (there are student visas, tourist visas, business visas, investor visas, etc.)
  • People who exaggerate that life is VERY EASY abroad are LIARs. (life abroad is generally better but not as easy as they claim.)
  • Attempting to JAPA with no vocational skill or higher education is a terrible mission. (those who try it end up facing a life of hardship and overwork to earn a living.)
  • When aiming for JAPA, the best way to avoid getting SCAMMED is to consult a legitimate agency like Sproutly Careers.
    (we charge a small fee because we prefer to guide you to do the process by yourself rather than asking millions to do everything for you.)
  • Just as the JAPA emigration trend is common in Nigeria and African countries, it is also a real issue in other parts of the world, like India, Mexico, and so on.

Final Thoughts on the JAPA Movement

From all that we have discussed above, it’s pretty clear that JAPA is more than a syndrome or a buzzword; it’s a harsh reality fueled by critical issues in Africa. 

No one living a good life in their home country would ever desire to relocate abroad and start from the bottom. 

Today, you can’t brush aside the JAPA movement because it is helping thousands of people pursue a better life overseas.

JAPA is not as easy as many make it seem, but for big dreamers, the end goal is worth it.

Thanks to agencies like Sproutly Careers Services, many people are now getting professional guidance on the best way to Japa abroad for work or study. 

What is most important for everyone to know is that JAPA is more than a trend; it’s an ongoing reality that should never be downplayed. 

FAQs on Japa

  • What Does Japa Mean in Nigeria?

In Nigeria, “Japa” is a term used to describe the act of leaving one’s country, usually due to economic hardship or political instability, in search of better opportunities abroad.

  • What Is Japa in Pidgin?

The word Japa does not yet have a pidgin variant in spelling, meaning, or pronunciation. It still refers to the same concept of leaving one’s country in search of a better life abroad.

  • What Is the English Word for Japa?

Japa is still written and pronounced the same in English conversations. But when it comes to its translation in English, the word Japa means “to run away,” “flee,” or “escape.”

  • What Are the Causes of Japa in Nigeria?

There are several interrelated causes behind japa in Nigeria, including economic hardship, political instability, high poverty rate, lack of opportunities, and the hunger for quality education and skills development.

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