It is not in the character of an African man to wine or wail over the situation they found themselves in. There is always the belief that things will improve and life will get better. Instead for the African man to complain, he would instead find a way to comfort himself and life goes on. What most African immigrants are facing in their countries of adoption leave much to be desired; but as always, the spirit of hope, the never-die character that things will get better continues to follow Africans wherever they call home.

I imagine what the continent of Africa would be like if it had responsive and foresighted leadership that took responsibility for the development of the continent. But alas, they would instead allow their best brains go adrift into the land unknown in search of survival for peanuts. African immigrants, like the proverbial fraternal twins, trading their hard earned qualifications for menial jobs. I wonder in awe, what would the African situation have been should these skills lying idle in far away America be allowed to manifest in the development of our continent!

A study by the Pew Research Center shows that African immigrants in the United States are among the most educated in with 69% having a college degree. This report might come as news to people who are strangers to Africans beyond the unsavory remarks about the continent. But for Africans, it is the spirit to go beyond limits in pursuit of determined goals in the face of daunting possibilities. The same untiring effort to defy limitations that lead many Africans to seek better opportunities many kilometers away from their fatherland on the soil of America!


True worth of an African immigrant in the U.S.

One question the African immigrant needs to ask is what is my qualification worth in the US? And as a rider, what can I do to have and live my true worth in America?

It is common to see a graduate working as a bartender in multiple bars, or it won’t be surprising to know that your cab driver is a qualified medical doctor from Africa. Many engineers of note are in the junkyard working on dirt to survive another day in the supposed land of opportunity. It is a familiar scene to see former bankers eke out a living as cleaners in public facilities across America.

The question, therefore, is why are these highly qualified African immigrants, who account for the brain drain of Africa taking up menial jobs; jobs, less than their educational worth and probably less than what they are worth back in their home countries?

The answer lies in the quality of life the average African seek in a foreign land, and the idea of greener pasture came as a result of low level of the human capital index in most African states particularly sub-Saharan Africa.


Reasons African immigrants take jobs less than their education qualification

    • Several reasons have been adduced as to why African immigrants are either unemployed or underemployed in the US and have to settle for low–skilled jobs than their qualifications. Top on the list of reasons are the following:
    • as much as one would want to avoid this controversial perception, it is on record that Africans in particular, and black immigrants at large never get the same treatment with immigrants from the developed countries.
    • Immigration status: Most African immigrants in the US are in search of opportunity and better living standard. While many have a college education and are in good standing, they need to find a way to survive and perfect their stay before looking for jobs that are worthy of their qualification.
    • Place of education. A foreign degree in the U.S. decreases immigrants’ chances of finding jobs that match their qualifications. There is the wrong perception of the quality of education in Africa. A study shows that immigrants with foreign education accounted for 1.2 million of the 1.9 million foreign-born who were either unemployed or underemployed between 2009 and 2013.
    • Degree level – The level of qualification of an immigrant will determine his chances of landing the right job. Immigrants with Ph.D. degree rarely suffer unemployment or underemployment in any guise. This shows that the skill of an immigrant is an essential factor in getting a deserving job for their qualification.
    • Country of origin or ethnicity. According to a report, college-educated Africans are far more likely to be in low-skilled jobs than Asian or white immigrants. Canadian immigrants, or their counterpart from China, the European Union, Australia, and India rarely suffer the same irrespective of where they had their education; this is because many of them had their H1-B, temporary employment visas, targeted at highly skilled workers before arriving the US; this is rarely the case with most African immigrants, except of course a few doctoral and highly qualified candidates from Africa.
    • Language skills. Apart from the Anglophonic states of Africa where the English language is their official means of communication, the non-English speaking countries in Africa have low English proficiency. This is perhaps the most critical employment barrier in the U.S. Skilled immigrants who reported lack of competency in English as a means of communication were five times as likely to land low-skilled jobs, while his English-only speaker’s counterparts have higher chances of landing a skilled job.


How African immigrants in the US can get jobs worth their qualification

America is indeed a land of opportunities; it is the largest economy in the world with a GDP in excess of 15 trillion dollars and a market, well over 300 million people. The country attains this status because of stable political, economic and legal structures. Which means everything in the US happens according to plan.

A society like this is a direct opposite of where most African immigrants come from, and if they can survive in their respective countries, it means no matter the situation right now in their country of adoption, the US, they can do much better.

Although there are reports of employment discrimination against blacks and indeed African immigrants, America makes into its coffers approximately $307,000 from an immigrant with a bachelor’s degree and an estimated $765,000 from immigrants with master’s degree in their lifetime, according to George Bush Presidential center. The publication argued that recent immigrants have a higher possibility of holding college and advanced degree than native-born Americans have.

The George Bush center’s publication points to the value of an African immigrant with regards to their qualification. The lesson from the Bush Center, however, is that every African living in America must follow a simple, yet determined plan to establish the true worth of their credentials so that they will not only continue to enrich America but also get a better return on their investment and efforts for coming to the US.


The following are what can be done to ensure African immigrants get true worth for their qualifications:

      1. Update your legal status. As at 2015, Pew Research center says 76% of immigrants are in the country legally, 44% were naturalized U.S. citizens, while a quarter are unauthorized immigrants. Unless you acquire the right immigrant status that allows you to work in your country of adoption, it would be difficult to use your real qualification for employment purposes. Therefore, reasonable efforts should be made to get a work permit to apply for jobs that worth your actual skill.
      2. Evaluate your qualification. Unless your qualification is recognized in the US, it would be difficult to work with your credentials. One way to do this is to evaluate your academic degree from an accredited body so that American employers can accept your qualification on the US rating. The following institutions assess non-US qualifications: AACRAO-OIES and AICE;
      3. Acquire US recognized education. College education in developed economies is tailored towards the job market. It is unfortunate that African colleges still graduate students in different qualifications but with limited skills. You need relevant expertise to work in the US.
      4. Start a business. African immigrants can learn from immigrants from other regions who have become employers of labor in America. With skill-based qualifications, the African immigrants can join the entrepreneur league to provide jobs for their kits and kins in the US like other immigrants are doing.
      5. Register with non-profit organizations such as Upwardly Global to rebuild your career in the United States and find a qualified job.



While every immigrant in the US scramble for limited jobs, it is certain that the real African spirit would place African immigrants in good stead to make ends meet. There is a saying that true African blood can survive anywhere in the world even under the ocean. This real African spirit has seen many African people survive the worse situation under the African sky, now that you are in your country of adoption; it’s time to ignite the African character of excellence!


Mikhail Adeoye

Mikhail is a content creator, a digital marketer, and an entrepreneur. He studied Political Science at the University of Ilorin Nigeria.



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