Pragmatic solutions to tackling youth unemployment in Nigeria

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“One of the focal points of this administration is job creation. Job creation will help in the achievement of other objectives of the government such as poverty reduction. Insecurity cannot be divorced from unemployment and poverty because an idle mind, they say, is the devil’s workshop”. – President Muhammadu Buhari“We have weapons of mass destruction we have to address here at home. Poverty is a weapon of mass destruction. Homelessness is a weapon of mass destruction. Unemployment is a weapon of mass destruction”. – Dennis Kucinich, American Politician

“Outsourcing and globalization of manufacturing allows companies to reduce costs, benefits consumers with lower cost goods and services, causes economic expansion that reduces unemployment, and increases productivity and job creation”. – Laurence Allen “Larry” Elder, American lawyer, writer

 

The level of unemployment in Nigeria today is alarming; with more than 60% of our youths unemployed and 1.8 million graduates joining the labour market yearly, one could conclude logically that the outgone leadership did not only mess up the economy, they were also clueless in combating youth unemployment. According to the national Bureau of Statistics (NBS), unemployment is at a record 24 per cent while poverty is at an all-time 71 per cent. The remote causes of unemployment are inadequate power supply, poor education and bad economic policies. The YOUWIN employment programme of the Jonathan Administration was described by a job seeker as a lottery in which only a few lucky winners were the beneficiaries.

The Buhari administration needs a practical, transparent and holistic approach in tackling youth unemployment. The three tier of government must partner with the private sector, empowerment NGOs and the Academia in order to find a lasting solution to this menace. There is a great need for an ad-hoc employment committee comprising of personnel management experts, successful entrepreneurs, and competent civil servants, with a mandate to identify the employment variables that are required by employers of labour, and entrepreneurial variables that are expected from prospective entrepreneurs.

The drastic reduction in revenue generation as a result of the sharp drop in the international price of oil will further contribute to the problem of unemployment as many people in the private and public sectors will lose the jobs in the near future. The Federal Government must as a matter of urgency and necessity reduce spending on capital projects by stopping newly started ones, completing those that are nearly completed; and borrow funds from internal and external sources for investment purposes only. The government must pump fresh capital into the economy by revamping our textile and coal industries; and aggressively diversify the economy in order to create jobs massively.

Also, the creation of an enabling and favourable environment to attract genuine foreign investors, and not conspirators who only come to Nigeria to assist corrupt politicians and public servants to setup offshore accounts where stolen monies from Nigeria are channelled into. The government can attract genuine foreign investors with steady power supply, better infrastructure, low corporation tax, tax incentives, increased import quotas on machinery, and government’s commitment to transparency, accountability and due process in policy formulation and implementation; and the award of government contracts.

Again, since the Federal government has no robust technological system to monitor and manage the activities in the employment sector, the government should urgently set-up a database system to register all those that are unemployed, particularly youths (their genuine details or biometrics must be recorded). This will enable the government to easily access accurate and adequate information that are necessary for policy formulation and implementation from time to time. For example, the idea of paying a monthly stipend of N5000 to unemployed youths will not be technically feasible without a system that will checkmate frauds. Personally, i don’t think paying them such amount is politically and economically viable. Depending on when the government will start the payments, the opposition may see it as a way of bribing the youths in preparation for the electoral battle in 2019, and secondly, the economic implication or cost is presently unsustainable, coupled with the social implication of creating lazy bones within the economy.

Unstable power supply is another major contributor to the high rate of unemployment. Nigerians continue to pay for darkness despite the privatisation of PHCN (formerly NEPA). Many companies and artisans have resorted to the use of generators and inverters to provide electricity for their businesses. Those that could not afford such arrangement had closed down or relocated to a better location like Ghana. The Federal Government must urgently turn this around by formulating radical policies that will increase power generation and improve power distribution. The government can also encourage private investors in the electrification of the rural areas; and big corporations to follow the footsteps of the Lagos State Government through the Independent Power Plant (IPP) initiative to provide their own power. This will drastically reduce the pressure on the national grid. More so, other sources of power generation such as solar, hydro, etc. should be explored and encouraged.

The Federal Government must also revisit and implement the laudable idea of introducing the teaching and learning of entrepreneurial skills in our national curriculum with the sole objective of making all graduates prospective entrepreneurs. The reality on ground is that not all graduates can be gainfully employed due to the economic downturn. If they are armed with these entrepreneurial skills, those that are unemployed can either start their own businesses or form partnerships with the support and assistance from the three tiers of government, instead of begging to apply for non-existent jobs. This will partially achieve the new government’s twin objective of wealth creation and poverty reduction, but then, the Government must create an enabling environment for such businesses to thrive.

Now is the time for Nigerian youths to discover their true potentials, and such potentials to excel are mostly discovered when they find themselves in unpalatable situations. They should start thinking logically on what they can do to change their situations and not wait for what the government can do for them. Let me use this opportunity to remove the veils covering the eyes of most of our graduates by informing them that there are several businesses they can start in Nigeria or anywhere in the world without initial capital outlay or with low capital outlay. Examples are printing contracts, marketing, blogging, repackaging, among others. Some of them can also turn their hobbies into viable businesses.

Marketing is the easiest way of making money without investing a dime. Some of our graduates can set up marketing companies which could be used to approach manufacturers and service providers who are prepared to do business with them on trust. Since the essence of education is to develop the mind, they can pick up some good textbooks on sales and marketing to arm themselves. Anyone, who can market any product/service and his or herself successfully, is a dude sitting on a goldmine without realizing it. There are many companies looking for independent marketers or salespersons to push their sales upward, and very soon the Nigerian Banks and insurance companies would start outsourcing their marketing services to trusted head-hunting companies specialising in recruiting independent marketers.

Often times, we tend to forget that what we become in life is conditioned by our destinies. For example, one can train as a Medical doctor and still aspire to become a Dangote. Again, some of our new medical doctors, engineers and others can form partnerships. For instance, about four or six medical doctors can set up a medical centre with the support and assistance of the government. Engineers can form engineering firms. The opportunities are limitless. As for the youths who are non-graduates, the Federal Government and State Governments should establish vocational centres where they can gain vocational, literacy, numeracy, and computer skills that will empower them to become self-employed and/or employable. The Government can also introduce apprenticeship programs for non-graduate trainees to gain relevant experience. I strongly believe that apprenticeship programs will work in Nigeria if the public and private sectors are truly committed; and such training should start from high school.

As plausible as the job placement schemes may be, the three tiers of government and the private sector should be actively involved, and some sort of “motivational incentives” must be packaged for all graduate participants. All the stakeholders will benefit enormously from this scheme.

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