Labour Minsiter, Emeka Wogu
The unfavourable business environment has made it near impossible for micro businesses to thrive. The National Directorate of Employment (NDE) has introduced new programmes to address the immediate needs of small scale businesses, Linda Eroke writes
Globally, the wave of unfavourable business/economic climate has driven many businesses into turbulent and uncertain waters.
This has led to the collapse of many organisations with accompanying job losses and subsequently, increased poverty. In Nigeria, a lot of multinational firms have relocated to neighbouring countries due largely to challenges posed by inadequate power supply, and insecurity, among others.
The manufacturing sector of the economy is the hardest hit by this trend. Goods that were once manufactured in Nigeria are now imported into the country. Nigerians are compelled by this situation to buy these imported products they had always known as products of Nigerian-based companies at a higher prices.
In the face of these daunting challenges, one wonders how micro businesses will survive. Just recently, the World Economic Forum on Africa discussed strategies for integrating the youth workforce, investing in skills and education to boost labour productivity, and promoting sectors with strong employment potential.
This came as the International Labour Organisation (ILO) said that macroeconomic policies and youth programmes aimed at promoting employment are essential, if Africa is to sustain its recent economic growth.
At the meeting held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the international labour centre insisted that “improving the employability of young people, putting in place pro-employment macroeconomic policies, providing finance and venture capital and public works schemes, as well as investing in quality jobs are key to transforming Africa’s growth story into shared opportunities for present and future generations”.
Indeed, small and medium scale businesses anywhere in the world serve as a very potent force for job creation, poverty alleviation and overall healthy economic growth. In the last 25 years, the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) has championed the cause of mass job creation through skills acquisition in the areas of vocational, agricultural, entrepreneurial/business skills as well as transient job opportunities.
As at the end of 2011, over three million unemployed persons have been put to gainful employment through the various programmes of the directorate.
As a way of responding to the ever changing patterns and trends in the unemployment arena the directorate apart from its regular and wildly known programmes, introduced new ones targeted at addressing the immediate needs of the economy and supporting the micro-economic policies of the Federal Government.
Recently, the NDE launched some new job creations schemes aimed at supporting the cashless economy programme of government. It floated the Qik-Qik and Easy-Biz Business Ownership Schemes all designed to create employment opportunities for Nigerian graduates in the cashless economy platform.
Over the years, the NDE apart from assisting young Nigerians to become self-employed in diverse fields has equally shown a lot of commitment towards supporting the new businesses thus created.
Also, micro business concerns created by the NDE have enjoyed the privilege of exposure to some of the best world-class business platforms. NDE beneficiaries are regular participants /exhibitors at the three major international trade fairs in Nigeria namely: Kaduna, Enugu and Lagos international Trade Fairs.
The cost of participation in these international business gatherings which may be beyond the economic muscles of the young NDE supported entrepreneurs is made easy by the directorate. It buys an entire pavilion and allows its beneficiaries to exhibit their goods and services therein at no cost to them.
This way, the beneficiaries are able to rub shoulders with already established businesses. These trade fairs serve as a good ground for the cross-fertilisation of ideas among businesses, an opportunity to network as well as a learning process.
So far, the NDE has participated fully in the two Trade Fairs hosted in Enugu and Abuja. It is gratifying to note that the brilliant outing of NDE beneficiaries did not go unnoticed as the directorate was recognised and awarded different prices the various fair organisers. The objective of this noble effort by the NDE is to ensure that the small/micro business it has established for young Nigerians grow to their full potentials irrespective of challenging economic climate in the country.
Director General of NDE, Mallam Abubakar Mohammed, who spoke on the occasion of the NDE Special Day at the 23rd Enugu International Trade Fair said the directorate is one of the federal government agencies that had consistently participated in the annual business gathering.
Abubakar explained that the consistency was informed by the NDE’s drive to continue to support and nurture any enterprise established.
According to him, “a business platform such as the Enugu International Trade Fair and indeed the other two international Trade Fairs in Nigeria are veritable opportunities through which our beneficiaries can gain the necessary business exposure they need to remain competitive in a fast globalising world.”
Speaking further, the NDE boss commended the efforts of the Enugu Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (ECCIMA), organisers of the trade fair ECCIMA, for providing such an opportunity for both local and international business to network and exchange ideas.
He noted that the NDE being a responsible government agency schemes is constantly striving to introduce innovative schemes that would create jobs for the unemployed and at the same time complement the micro-economic policies of government.
“By the middle of last year, the NDE introduced the Enterprise and Finance Counselling Clinic (e.f.c.c.) designed to introduce graduates of our tertiary institutions to effectively identify viable business ideas which they can subsequently be guided to establish with soft loans from credit granting institutions.
“A total of 135 graduates took part in the pilot phase of the counselling clinic. I am proud to inform you that most of the participants of this scheme are right now assessing the YOU-WIN programme of the Federal Government which was introduced shortly after e.f.c.c. came on stream.
“Let me draw attention to the federal Government’s commitment to job creation as encapsulated in the transformation agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan. The launching of the public works women and youth employment (PW/WYE) symbolises government’s determination to propagate the public/private sector partnership policy.
“Under this arrangement, private sector contractors will be engaged to implement labor-intensive public works like the renovation and maintenance of public buildings such as schools, hospitals, roads rehabilitation among others,” Abubakar explained.
He said the NDE would continue to collaborate with the ILO and explore the boundless opportunities available in the labour based approaches to infrastructural works.
He explained that the labour based method is a very important tool towards infrastructural development and job creation in Nigeria, adding that statistics had shown that the labour based technology boosts economic activities at the rural/grassroots level and equally stimulates small-scale enterprises activities over and above the highly mechanised method.
“I wish to draw attention to the young men and women who are today exhibiting their goods and services in the NDE pavilion. This group of Nigerians represents the efficacy and desirability of self-employment. Having passed through one of the programmes of the NDE, today they stand out as eloquent testimonies to the ‘can-do spirit’ of the average Nigerian.
“They also represent the future of this great nation. This is against the backdrop of the glaring fact that paid employment is not only in very short supply but hardly leads to actualisation of the full potentials of any serious and hard working individual. Therefore, let me use this opportunity to call on Nigerian youths to redirect their thinking and energies towards the opportunities self-employment offers,” he added.
In his welcome address, Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chief Emeka Wogu, recalled with satisfaction, the outstanding performance of the directorate at the last Kaduna International Trade Fair, where it was adjudged the most valuable participant.
Wogu noted that the long-standing tradition in the NDE whereby its beneficiaries are encouraged to aspire to count among the best in their chosen areas of endeavour is not only commendable but supports the transformation agenda of the present administration.
“Over the years the NDE has used the platform of the three international trade fairs in Nigeria to expose her beneficiaries to a world class business forum designed to give them the necessary leverage to move their business to the next level.
“I wish to recall with satisfaction and pride, the outstanding performance of the Directorate at the last Kaduna International Trade Fair where it was adjudged the most valuable participant. I am delighted to note that the long-standing tradition in the NDE whereby its beneficiaries are encouraged to aspire to count among the very best in their chosen areas of endeavour is not only commendable but supports the transformation agenda of the government of President Goodluck Jonathan,” Wogu said.
Speaking further, the labour minister said the theme of the fair which is ‘Transforming the Nation’s economy through Policy Reforms and Enhanced Infrastructural Facilities’ was timely and completely aligns with the policy thrust of the Federal Government.
He recalled that government had shown more than enough commitment to the revamping of infrastructure in the country, which he said, was critical to the nation’s aspiration to rank among the 20 most developed economies of the world by year 2020.
He noted that the current policy thrust of government backed-up by huge financial investments in the power sector is one area where government has exhibited a strong commitment towards a better Nigeria.
He assured listeners that the public /private partnership efforts of government in improving and sustaining infrastructure in the country will soon begin to yield the desired dividends. He noted that the directorate is championing a new culture that will make the provision and maintenance of public infrastructure less cumbersome, cost effective and sustainable.
“Through the Labour Based and Light Equipment Supported method of public works activities, the NDE is able to play a very significant role in the infrastructural sector of the economy. The beauty of this method of construction and maintenance of infrastructural works is in its very high job creation potentials. Equally commendable is the fact that this construction method delivers to you the same job quality comparable to the heavy equipment method.
“NDE with technical support from the ILO is pioneering this innovation in Nigeria. I am glad to inform this gathering that many state governments are already partnering the NDE towards mainstreaming the Labour Based method in their quest for infrastructural development.
“Last year, in the month of July to be precise, I inaugurated a national Working Committee (NWC) consisting of highly placed state government professionals who are working with the NDE with a view to fashioning an acceptable policy framework to institutionalise the Labour Based method of infrastructural works in government business at all levels.
“Let me at this point reassure Nigerians that the Federal Government will spare no effort at putting in place, policies that will deliver to our people the much-needed dividends of democracy,” Wogu stated.
Through implementation of the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P) the minister said the Federal Government intends to create over 750,000 jobs for Nigerian youths using various strategies, noting that the NDE has made a significant contribution to the programme. He reiterated that the government will continue to support the NDE towards the effective discharge of its mandate.