Unemployment: Wasting the Youths

Youths at a venue of the NDLEA recruitment test, Port Harcourt
Youths at a venue of the NDLEA recruitment test, Port Harcourt

By Vincent Nzemeke  |

TO gauge President Goodluck Jonathan’s performance in tackling youth unemployment in Nigeria, ask Godfrey Uyi and Awele Alabera. The duo were part of the legions of unemployed graduates who held high hopes of landing good jobs after listening to the president’s inaugural speech on May 29, 2011. In that speech, Jonathan, who was still basking in the euphoria of his victory at the polls, promised to tackle youth unemployment by harnessing the country’s natural resources and creating an enabling environment for small and medium scale businesses to thrive. “We are ready to take off on the path of sustained growth and economic development.  In our economic strategy, there will be appropriate policy support to the real sector of the economy, so that Small and Medium Enterprises may thrive. Nigeria is blessed with enormous natural wealth, and my administration will continue to encourage locally owned enterprises to take advantage of our resources in growing the domestic economy. A robust private sector is vital to providing jobs for our rapidly expanding population.”

Two years down the line, Jonathan’s promise to tackle unemployment is fast becoming a forgotten dream and has forced the likes of Uyi and Alabera to take up teaching jobs in a local private school in order to survive. Although his administration has initiated certain policies aimed at tackling the monster, unemployment is still rife in the Nigeria, especially among youths. There are thousands of youths like Uyi and Alabera roaming the streets in various parts of the country in search of unavailable jobs.

A frustrated unemployed graduate
A frustrated unemployed graduate

Recent records released by the World Bank shows that unemployment in Nigeria presently stands at 56 per cent. The bank’s finding corresponds with the data released by Temi Kale, statistician-general of the federation which says there are about 20.3 million unemployed Nigerians. Kale added that “Nigeria’s unemployment rate is spiraling upwards, growing at 16 per cent per year. The youths of the nation are the most impacted, with a youth unemployment rate of over 50 percent.”

Aside from the baffling statistics from various organisations within and outside the country, individuals and stakeholders have also expressed worry about the rise of unemployment in the Nigeria. Former president Olusegun Obasanjo recently declared that the unemployment situation in Nigeria had reached an alarming level which can trigger off a revolution in the country.  Obasanjo who was a guest speaker at a conference aimed at encouraging youths to embrace farming in Ilorin, warned that the country is sitting on “a keg of gun-powder” due to the inability of Jonathan’s administration to come up with a comprehensive policy to address the challenges of youth unemployment.  “We are sitting on a keg of gun-powder in this country due to the problems of unemployment of our youths. We have almost 150 universities now in the country turning out these young Nigerians but without job opportunities for them.”

In a similar development Olusegun Oshinowo, Director-General of Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association, NECA, also described unemployment as Nigeria’s biggest challenge. Oshinowo said the unemployment rate in Nigeria is more than the 56 percent figure quoted by the World Bank. “The 56 per cent statistic of unemployed youth is disturbing. To me, it’s even more than 56 per cent. It is between 60 and 65 per cent. Unemployment is the biggest, most worrying socio-economic incidence for this country today.”

Like Obasanjo, Oshinowo reiterated that the country would be in a more precarious situation in years to come if the unemployment crisis is not addressed. “We are in dire strait because unemployment has diverse implications. Security wise, large unemployed youth population is a threat to security of the few that are employed. Any transformation agenda that does not have job creation at the centre of its programme will not take us anywhere.”

Many youths have taken to arms due to unemployment
Many youths have taken to arms due to unemployment

It is not as if Jonathan is not making efforts to address the unemployment situation in the country. But considering the number of unemployed youths, his efforts appear insignificant and short of what is required to cater for all. Last year, the president and his economic team led by Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala,  minister of Finance, initiated YouWin, a youth empowerment programme aimed at reducing unemployment by creating entrepreneurs.

YOUwin, which stands for Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria, was initiated to generate jobs by encouraging and supporting aspiring entrepreneurial youth in Nigeria to develop and execute business ideas that will lead to job creation. The programme provides aspiring youths with a platform to show case their business acumen, skills and aspirations to business leaders, investors and mentors in Nigeria.

When YOUwin was launched, it was designed generate between 80,000 to 110,000 new jobs for unemployed Nigerian youths. So far, the scheme has produced 1,200 winners from various parts of the country. At the first presentation of winners which held in February this year, organisers of the scheme revealed that the winners were selected from a pool of over 24,000 participants because their ideas and business proposals were  adjudged the best in terms of innovation, job creation potential, and relevance to the nation’s economic needs.

In another effort at reducing unemployment, the federal government in collaboration with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation, UNIDO, recently inaugurated an Inter-Ministerial Committee on Job Fair, to address all the identified barriers to job creation and sustainable livelihood in the country. The committee’s task includes producing an action plan for the job fair with cost and timelines and arranging venues, date, time, programme, invitees, training session, target industries, companies, schools and youths. The committee is also expected to build and launch a web platform for entrepreneurship and job fair where employers can put online job openings and job seekers can directly register online. It is equally mandated to build a database for the teeming unemployed youths and showcase successful entrepreneurs.

Noble as these initiatives appear, it is still a far cry from what is required to exorcise the ghost of unemployment in Nigeria. The 1,200 entrepreneurs empowered by YOUwin and other initiatives represent less than half percent of Nigeria’s unemployed youths. Stakeholders like Oshinowo opine that Nigeria’s unemployment problem will not be solved with the creation of more agencies that can only empower a few people. Oshinowo said “Creation of government agencies cannot manufacture jobs. It is the manufacturing sector that provides jobs. There is need for good governance that will put in place a sound micro economic framework that will encourage people to start their own business.”

— Jun. 3, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

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