There are not enough jobs in Nigeria and this fact has been glaring for quite some time. In 2014, the Nigerian Immigration Service conducted a recruitment exercise for open positions within the service and about 6 million young people from across Nigeria’s 37 states applied for the 4000 open positions.  The result was a stampede that resulted in deaths and injuries of applicants. Just a few days ago, Paystack advertised for 20 open positions and received 15,000 application entries. There are many more similar examples which show that despite several efforts by the government, the jobs situation is getting worse.

There are several drivers to Nigeria’s unemployment challenge which include the country’s heavy focus on the oil sector, an out-of-date education curriculum and a rapidly expanding population. Nigeria’s oil sector accounts for only 10 per cent of Nigeria’s GDP and has failed to create enough jobs to make any real difference to the country’s unemployment challenge. The dated education curriculum consistently fails to prepare students for the realities of the job market in Nigeria. With a population of 190 million people and a labour force which grows at the rate of 2.9% annually, it is no surprise that there is a jobs crisis in Nigeria.

And the crisis is worsening. Between 2014 to 2018, unemployment rate in Nigeria grew from 4% to 23% and the demography most affected have been young people. To mitigate the jobs crisis, recent governments in Nigeria have attempted to push forward several initiatives targeting young people. Youth empowerment Initiatives like YOUWIN and YES-P, were deployed by government agencies as a nudge towards entrepreneurship so that young people could start up their own businesses and become employers of labour. However, a harsh business climate caused by punishing taxation regimes, poor infrastructure (roads, electricity) and limited access to capital and mentorship has caused many businesses to fold up in their startup stage. Other initiatives such as Npower, Sure-P and the Graduate Internship Scheme which have been deployed as temp employment and internship arrangements have also had limited success.

The jobs crisis requires a holistic effort that addresses all the various facets of the problem. Currently, a bursting population with few jobs and numerous unemployed youths is a recipe for disaster and this is manifest in Nigeria’s increasing security challenges. While it is laudable that the government has attempted to spearhead initiatives on its own, the focus should be on creating an enabling atmosphere for jobs to be created for both skilled and unskilled labour. A report by FHI 360 and the Education Policy and Data Center has shown that for young people between 15-24, secondary school leavers are the highest percenters at 41%, those who complete secondary school are 20% and those with post-secondary education represent only 9%. This means that conversations on job creation that focus strictly on white collar jobs creation are targeting less than 10% of young people.

There are several promising ways for the government to improve the outcome of job creation efforts. Nigeria has arable land and agriculture requires basic to no skills for entry. However, the share of revenue and the number of jobs created remains low as the agriculture value chain remains undeveloped outside of farm activities. Beyond the farm, processing and packaging of finished products holds the greatest market share for agricultural produce and Nigerians remain excluded. Industrious entrepreneurs can capitalize on the readily available labour force to turn large portions of processing activities manual until enough profit is generated or market share is captured to support expanding operations. In this case, the Ministry of Agriculture can secure partnerships with regulatory agencies like the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) as well as the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) to sensitise farmers and entrepreneurs so as to guide their expansion into processing.

The service sector, makes up the largest share of Nigeria’s GDP with a contribution of 53%. This includes retail and wholesale trade and would suggest that initiatives like TraderMoni which provide micro loans to businesses are not so far off the mark. The challenge remains that TraderMoni is insufficient to jumpstart micro businesses into providing the amount of jobs that will benefit the economy as the traditional lending sector retains processes that are unfriendly to micro and small scale operators. However, emerging trends in the financial sector provide a ray of hope. Digital lending facilities like Paylater, Renmoney and Kwik Cash, among others are revolutionalising how Nigerians obtain and pay back loans. With their more flexible processes and repayment options, Nigerian entrepreneurs are getting the needed access to capital to expand their business rapidly. Even though their interest rates are comparable to traditional lending institutions, the processes to obtaining a loan are more lenient and has meant that they have come to occupy a large share of the lending market in a short time.

The creative and entertainment sector in Nigeria also shows great promise. The Nigerian music, movies, beauty and arts industry generates millions of dollars annually, and the music and entertainment industry alone is expected to hit to $16.33 billion by 2021 with the support of digital technology and smart phones penetration. I have shared my thoughts on the potential of the creative sector to transform Nigeria in an earlier article and I maintain that the sector holds immense opportunity to provide jobs if properly invested in and cultivated for growth.

The government cannot hope to manage the jobs crisis alone and its greatest responsibility resides not in being the driver for initiatives but in curating an enabling atmosphere for the private sector to thrive. There must be deliberate effort to collaborate with the private sector locally and work harder to attract FDI for sectors with high growth potential. To do this, provision of infrastructure must improve all around and corruption must be tackled with an effective and efficient judiciary. Government must also begin to direct efforts towards population control through incentives around social care for limited dependents. Finally, the education sector should be improved by updating the learning outcomes so that they are more targeted towards Nigeria’s realities.

The jobs crisis will not disappear magically overnight. However, through connected and consistent efforts as well as improved collaboration between the public sector, private sector and civil society, an enabling framework can be designed for the desired goal to be achieved.

Zainab Haruna is a development practitioner. Her work focuses on youth, education, job creation, gender, good governance and poverty eradication efforts in Nigeria.

The views expressed in this post are those of the author and in no way reflect those of Nigerian Diary