Girls at a programme in Kaduna

Kaduna State is said to be one of the 10 states with very high rate of unemployment in the country. But the state governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai is exploring various avenues, including opening up the state to investors to create jobs. John Shiklam writes

The growing rate of unemployment in Kaduna state is one of the challenges the state government is grappling with in its attempt to address the situation. Recent statistics from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) indicate that the Kaduna is among the 10 states in the federation with high rate of unemployment.
Realising the danger this poses, the state governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai is exploring all available avenues to create jobs for the growing population of jobless youths in the state.

Job Priority
Since his assumption of office in 2015, the issue of job creation has remained in the front burner. Various programmes aimed at creating jobs had been initiated in the past one year as part of efforts to reduce unemployment rate to the barest minimum.

These efforts seem to be paying off with a recent disclosure by the governor that over 125,000 direct jobs were created in less than one year through the ongoing interventions in the education, health and environmental and other sectors as well as entrepreneurial training scheme.

According to him, the massive renovation and equipping of schools across the state and the free feeding programme introduced in primary schools in the state also led to the creation of about 85,000 jobs which include food vendors, their staff members and supervisors while the provision of free school uniforms created about 11,100 jobs.
“We are making concerted efforts to ensure that people benefit from all our programmes. There is something for everyone in the School Feeding Programme. In seeking to take care of our children, we are creating jobs, boosting demand and exposing our people to new skills”, the governor said at the launching of the school feeding programme in January.

Vital Initiatives
Also, the establishment of the Kaduna State Traffic and Environmental Law Enforcement Agency (KASTELEA) on May 24 has also provided employment opportunities to 2,503 youths who were recruited to enforce traffic rules, check vehicles plying the various roads as well as ensure a healthy environment.

Furthermore, the “Keep Kaduna Green” project which was launched in June by President Muhammadu Buhari, in addition to tackling problems of desertification, will create thousands of jobs in the state.

According to the governor, “the projection is to engage about 26,000 persons across the state in the massive tree-planting effort we have embarked on. I believe that we can persuade our people to invest their efforts in protecting our environment, in beautifying our cities and in creating jobs.”
The Keep Kaduna Green project involves the planting of economic 65,000 trees in the 23 Local Government Areas of the state every year.

“We have deliberately chosen economic trees for this project so that those who nurture them will have a share when the trees begin fruiting. Trees are valuable in themselves, but we hope the bonus of fruits will help make them much more valuable to many more people” the governor added.

Budding Entrepreneurs
Perhaps one of the laudable initiatives aimed at job creation is the introduction of the Kaduna State Entrepreneurial Training Programme otherwise known as KAD-STEP by the state government.
The programme is being implemented in collaboration with the Kaduna Business School (KBS) and the Bank of Industry (BoI) aimed at promoting entrepreneurship among unemployed graduate by providing them with un-matched skills and attitudes that could propel them become the drivers of any economy given the right atmosphere.
According to the governor, KAD-STEP is targeted at training 5,000 unemployed graduates drawn from the 23 local governments of the state in the next three years in various entrepreneurial skills.

The first batch of 270 beneficiaries of the programme have already completed the training successfully. Of the 270 participants who underwent the two-month intensive entrepreneurial training programme and one month practical session in business plans development, 15 of them got credit facilities ranging from N2 million to N5 million from the BoI.

The beneficiaries were those whose business proposals met the bank’s risk acceptance assessment.
The governor had directed that another batch of 500 trainees be inducted so that they could also benefit from the programme.

El-Rufai noted that “as business creators, they will strengthen the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) sector as a driver for job creation”, stressing that empowering the youths with the skills and the funding to establish businesses is not a trivial matter.

According to him, “the challenge of unemployment is largely a youth issue and people under 35 years constitute the significant majority of 8 to 10 million people that live in Kaduna state. Indeed 88 per cent of people in Kaduna are aged 35 years and below.”

Under KAD-STEP, successful small business operators would also have opportunities to leverage on existing N1billion matching fund instituted between the bank and the state government.

Investment Summit
In his quest to attract investments to the state, the governor hosted the Kaduna Economic and Investment Summit, the first of its kind, in April.

Tagged KADINVEST, the summit was informed by the fact that private investment is the best vehicle for job creation, hence the need to bring together the private sector, international development partners and development finance institutions to identify opportunities in the state and take the investment initiatives that create growth.

The summit has helped in highlighting opportunities for investment, joint ventures and trade in Kaduna as well as afforded both local and international business concerns the opportunity to have first-hand information about the abundant resources in the state, especially in the agriculture, health, solid minerals sectors.

This goes to show that the state government understands the critical significance of mobilising domestic and international financial resources, leveraging international trade, and increasing international development cooperation in achieving sustainable development goals (SDGs).

Agric Pivot
Already, Olam Group, one of the leading companies in the world is establishing the largest poultry farm with integrated feed-mill in sub-Saharan Africa in Kaduna. The ground breaking foundation was performed by governor El-Rufai in April. This is expected to generate thousands of jobs and business opportunities for the people of the state.

The governor said, amidst the challenges confronting the state, his administration is drawing attention to the opportunities that abound.

According to him, “Kaduna state has comparative advantage in agriculture and mining; the government is delighted that many investors agree that we indeed offer a decent business proposition. The government has ambitious goals for Kaduna Investment Promotion Agency (KADIPA) because we know that investments and jobs are fantastic in themselves, but they are also enablers of individual dignity and social harmony.

“We believe that the return of vibrant economic activity and the reduction of poverty will drive prosperity and reduce the divisions that became pronounced as the state’s economy entered dire straits from the late 1980s.

“As a government we can directly employ only a tiny proportion of our citizens. But we can enable the conditions for the private sector to create millions of jobs. In being business-friendly, the government is actually being pro-people, doing what we were elected to do to improve their lives.

“We will continue to take steps to make it easier to do business in Kaduna State. The laws and policies, the tax code, the ease of obtaining and registering title have all been simplified so that procedures and processes do not thwart significant projects”, he added.