There is need to encourage entrepreneurship development, especially among the growing youth population, as a way of tackling the unemployment problem, writes Obinna Chima
The increasing rate of unemployment continues to be a source of concern for the country. The effect of the high level of joblessness has been seen in the upsurge in crime and other social vices, such as youth restiveness in almost every part of Nigeria.
The unemployment report recently released by the National Bureau of Statistics shows that no fewer than 5.5 million Nigerians became unemployed in the two years of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration. The unemployment rate rose to 14.2 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2016, from 13.9 per cent in the preceding quarter. Besides, a recent nationwide survey conducted by BudgIT showed that Kogi, Benue, Bayelsa, Abia, Ondo, Oyo, Ekiti and 14 other states owed their workers and retirees salaries and pensions ranging from one to 36 months.
According to the latest report released by the NBS, the unemployment rate is 4.2 per cent higher than the rate recorded in the fourth quarter of 2015. Consequently, 61.6 per cent of Nigerians in the labour force (not the entire population), aged between 15 and 24, were either unemployed or underemployed in Q4 2016, compared to 59.9 per cent in Q3, 58.3 per cent in Q2, 56.1 per cent in Q1, and 53.5 per cent in Q4 2015.
The statistical agency also said the population of the unemployed rose from 11.19 million at the end of the third quarter of 2016 to 11.55 million in the fourth quarter of 2016.
Â The countryâ€™s rising unemployment rate, especially among the youth, is now a major source of worry for all stakeholders. The World Economic Forum and the Lagos Business School say the country sits on a â€œtime bombâ€.
The Nigeria Economic Transformation Map co-curated by the Lagos Business School show that the high rate of unemployment â€œcan be attributed to many factors such as high dependence on oil revenue and limited diversification of the economy.â€
Similarly, the Brookings Institution, a non-profit public policy organisation based in Washington, in a report titled, â€œYouth Unemployment in Nigeria: A Situation Analysis,â€ noted that several factors might be blamed for the prevalence of youth unemployment in Nigeria. According to the report, the country has a high population growth rateâ€”3.5 per cent per annumâ€”which accompanies its already large national population.
In addition, deficient school curricula and poor teacher training were listed as contributors to the failure of educational institutions to provide their students the appropriate skills to make them employable.
The Brookings Institutionâ€™s report said, â€œSince schools in rural areas are generally more deficient in infrastructure, teaching facilities and teacher quality than schools in urban areas, this may help account for the high growth in rural unemployed youth.
â€œIn fact, some experts suggest that the major jump in rural youth unemployment could be due to the mass failure in national examinations conducted among final-year secondary school students in 2010, which made many of them unemployable in 2011.â€
To address the worrisome employment situation, experts have stressed the need for youth empowerment and entrepreneurship development as Nigeriaâ€™s best option for wealth creation and economic growth.
Focus on SMEsÂ
Executive Director, North, Fidelity Bank, Mr. Mohammed Balarabe, said supporting Small and Medium-sized Enterprises would bring about economic empowerment and employment opportunities for a lot of youths in the country. Balarabe said the continuing slide in the price of crude oil was a clear warning that it was no longer business as usual for Nigeria.
â€œIt is against this background that I believe that fundamentally the Nigerian economy is going to change and for businesses to succeed going forward, they have to be ingenious and they have to come up with new ideas as to how to engage the environment to be able to success,â€ he said. â€œWith the drop in crude oil, demand for consumer goods would change, government spending pattern and even that of corporates would also change. Thus, SMEs must change the way they seek to do business.â€Â
Managing Director, Borodo and Co. Nigeria Limited, Alhaji Bashir Borodo, urged governments in the country to initiate friendly policies that will encourage SMEs. He called for development of the transport system across the country to ease the means of doing business.
â€œWe need the support of our government. That is the only way we can move. One key issue for us is railway. Without good railways, production would be very expensive. So, our government must support SMEs,â€ Borodo, a former president of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, stressed.
Chief Executive Officer of Fidelity Bank, Mr. Nnamdi Okonkwo, described SMEs as critical agents for economic development in any nation. Okonkwo said Fidelity Bank had designed structures that would support SMEs in the country and make them profitable.Â
According to him, â€œSMEs account for about 80 per cent of businesses. There are over 40,000 micro, small and medium scale enterprises employing over 60 million people in Nigeria.
â€œThat was why as a bank, in the past three years, we have continued to increase our focus on SMEs. We have a special unit that focuses on the challenges faced by SMEs in the country and we support them by a multi-faceted approach. One of them is capacity building.â€
Â Fidelity Bankâ€™s Entrepreneurship DriveÂ
In line with its drive to promote entrepreneurship, Fidelity Bank Plc has been empowering Nigeria youths with skills needed to thrive in todayâ€™s highly competitive business landscape. The bank recently entered into a partnership with Empretec Nigerian Foundation to organise a graduate entrepreneurship programme in Calabar, the Cross Rivers State capital, where over 200 youths were trained in the theoretical and practical aspects of entrepreneurship.
Wife of former Governor of Cross River State and founder of Empretec, Onari Duke, and the state Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Peter Egba, inaugurated the programme.
A flagship capacity-building programme of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Empretec is dedicated to promoting entrepreneurship and micro, small and medium scale enterprises (MSMEs) with a view to facilitating sustainable development and inclusive growth.
The bank has also collaborated with Gazelle (Vocational Centre) Academy to introduce a national youth empowerment initiative. The empowerment programme, which is part of the bankâ€™s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives, is primarily targeted at creating a new breed of entrepreneurs among Nigeriaâ€™s youth population.Â
Dubbed the Fidelity Youth Empowerment Academy (YEA), the programme was designed strategically to drive awareness as well as empower undergraduates with requisite entrepreneurial skills that will not only help them establish sustainable businesses but also eventually turn them into bg employers of labour.
In a similar vein, last month, the bank, in collaboration with the Federal Polytechnic, Oko, venture, concluded an entrepreneurship training programme for 400 students in Anambra State. Organised under the YEA stream 3, the week-long training programme was aimed at equipping the students with skills and capabilities needed to start businesses even while in school.
Some of the skill areas participants were trained in included fashion, accessories, cocktail, tailoring, makeup, shoe making, and digital marketing.
Speaking at the closing ceremony of the third edition of the Fidelity Youth Empowerment Academy held in Anambra State, Okonkwo noted that the initiative sought to empower the polytechnic community by creating thriving business owners among students.Â
He explained that this was in furtherance of the financial institutionâ€™s quest to not only tackle the countryâ€™s unemployment challenges but also improve the wellbeing of communities where it does business.
In the same vein, the founder, Gazelle Academy, Muna Onuzo, noted that entrepreneurship remained the most viable solution to the current economic challenges. He encouraged the students to use the platform to gain financial freedom and self-reliance.