Young people can turn Nigeria’s unemployment crisis around but they need better education, training and investment in entrepreneurship, says Abideen Olasupo.
If you walk down a street in Lagos, almost three in every ten people you see are likely to be unemployed. Unemployment rates have been a growing problem in Nigeria for years. In 2018 the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reported that 23.1% of people working age were unemployed. A steep rise from 14% just two years earlier. By the end of 2019, it was almost 24%. One would think that things couldn’t get much worse, but then came COVID19 and a nationwide lockdown. The outbreak has resulted in many businesses shutting down and many more downsizing. Resultantly, Nigeria’s rate of unemployment rose to an unimaginable 27.1% in the second quarter of 2020 – the highest in the history of Nigeria.
Nigeria’s unemployment problem is rapidly getting out of hand, with around twenty-two million unable to work and unable to earn. Unfortunately, Senator Chris Ngige’s, Nigeria’s, Minister of Labour, speaking in, suggested the worst is yet to come, predicting rates of 33.5% by the end of 2020.
What the government can do to address Nigeria’s unemployment crisis
One thing is certain – the rubber-stamp approach to solving the problem of unemployment in Nigeria has failed many times. We cannot expect a different result by doing exactly the same thing. We must adopt a new approach that is not only comprehensive, but also feasible, effective, solution-oriented and practicable. This starts with training and trusting young people. With the right financial and educational supports young people can turn these alarming figures around themselves.
We must re-design our curriculum to meet modern needs. The new curriculum should replace irrelevant subjects with ones that teach contemporary skills such as critical thinking, communication, creativity, information literacy, independent research, leadership, and digital literacy. It should focus on the practical aspect of learning; motivate students to learn; change final year projects from an avenue to display theoretical knowledge to a chance to practice problem-solving. This alone should be the first step for anyone trying to address the unemployment crisis in Nigeria.
2. Subsidise capacity building training
Nigeria boasts numerous world-class capacity builders who are committed to helping young people fulfil their potentials, but at a very high cost. For these vital services to impact the majority of people the Nigerian government must organise free or heavily subsidised training. Removing the financial barrier that scares a lot of young Nigerians away, will help bring the best training to those who need it.
The kind of capacity building trainings that Nigerian youth need are practically focused – not one or two-hour online trainings that have no value. They must equip job seekers with the right skills needed to land their dream job(s) or to start their own businesses. Young Nigerians whose aim is to work in a corporate organisation should not be forced to become ‘emergency entrepreneurs’ who cannot manage a business for long before it crumbles, but budding entrepreneurs must be supported also, so that they do not become job seekers, but job creators.
I have seen enough of my fellow young Nigerians to know that many will succeed as entrepreneurs if supported financially by the government. Many young Nigerians have viable business ideas but face the challenge of capital. Thanks to the Tony Elumelu Foundation and a host of other NGOs that have funded business proposals young people have been able to create more job opportunities for their peers. The government should follow suit by making more capital available to prospective business owners, whether as grants or interest-free loans.
Abideen Olasupo is the founder and executive director of Brain Builders International. He also championed the translation of the SDGs into local languages and is currently mobilising community campaigners to meet stakeholders across all the 774 LGAs in a bid to help in the localisation, and most importantly, the achievement of the SDGs.