Solving Nigeria’s Unemployment Crisis

When the scriptures unemotionally declared “If anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either,” it created a moral burden. 2 Thessalonians 3:10 AMP. The moral burden is not just on the individual however. The moral burden also falls on the state. It is the job of the state to make sure there are jobs. It’s a policy challenge.

 As we have pointed out in this series there are three types of righteousness enumerated in scriptures. The first type of righteousness is the righteousness that creates legal standing before God from the conduct of the individual. It’s largely Old Testament. You do this righteousness. It’s a code of conduct. Isaiah 56:1. The second type of righteousness is assigned righteousness. It is not based on human conduct, it is a gift of God – a legal manoeuvre to sort out the criminal record of each individual. That’s New Testament righteousness. 2 Corinthians 5:21.
But the scriptures also mention a third type of righteousness – policy righteousness. It is governmental in nature. Has to do with governance: “Give the king knowledge of your judgments, O God, and the spirit of your righteousness to the king’s son to guide all his ways. May he judge your people with righteousness, and your afflicted with justice.” Psalm 72:1‭-‬2 AMP. The passage is referring to good governance. In fact the NLT translation reads as follows: “Give your love of justice to the king, O God, and righteousness to the king’s son. Help him judge your people in the right way; let the poor always be treated fairly.” Psalm 72:1-2 NLT. You can substitute “judge” in for “rule.” It will thus read, “Help him RULE your people in the right way; let the poor always be treated fairly.” Social justice means a lot to God. What is even more interesting is the fact that the passage links good governance to national prosperity: “May the mountains yield prosperity for all, and may the hills be fruitful.” Psalms 72:3 NLT. That verse came right after mention of good governance. ‬‬‬‬
The Bible incorporates social justice into good governance: “Please stand up for the poor, help the children of the needy…” it implores the king. Psalm 72:1‭-‬8 MSG. Given the statistics on poverty and unemployment among youths in Nigeria, Nigeria must focus on good governance. There’s an estimated 116m people living in poverty in Nigeria. According to Trading Economics, Nigeria has a 33% youth unemployment rate; that’s 19.2M young people without jobs. Bigger than the population of Lagos. But how do we tackle the unemployment challenge in Nigeria? ‬‬‬‬
Let’s walk through some ideas, but first let’s do away with the bad ideas. One of such is the idea government should just absorb the unemployed into civil service. Blanket absorption of the unemployed into the civil service is an inefficient means of solving the unemployment problem. It saddles the state with a huge cost profile. Besides, too many people doing few jobs creates crippling bureaucracy and encourages corruption. That’s not saying government should not employ as needed. Our social services desperately need staffing. We need doctors for instance. Many have left for greener pastures. It is estimated there are over 5,000 Nigerian doctors in the UK alone. But civil service is cost. It is a 20-30year commitment to salaries and raises to an individual. A bloated government generates waste through duplication of efforts. Illogicalities create inefficiencies. For example there are two fire services in Lagos. There’s the federal fire service and there’s the state fire service. Question: Why is the federal government tending to fire in Lagos? Is the federal fire service supposed to be dedicated to federal buildings while the state fire service focuses on state buildings? This is a legitimate federalism question. A blanket call on government to absorb unemployed youths into the civil service will not solve our unemployment problem. In fact we’ll be creating more problems.
One well known approach to the problem of unemployment is for the state to embark on massive infrastructure programs. America took this approach during the great depression. The Nigerian government seems to be taking this approach, among many approaches. There’s a continuation of an initiative for entrepreneurial grants for instance. We need to fine tune the objective of that initiative however to achieve our strategic objective. A subtle change is required to generate massive difference in outcome. What if our focus changed from funding good ideas to creating entrepreneurs who can create jobs? We want employers of labour not just those who can create jobs for themselves. Our strategic objective should not be getting people to start business, our strategic objective should be to fund start-ups that can create jobs. That potential should be our criteria. It’s a more efficient approach to our problems. If the strategic objective is for those start-ups to employ 20-30 people in the medium term, that’s 20m jobs if we seed a million SMEs. Even half of that will give us 10m employment return. We must therefore create a program for growth strategies for those SMEs. Those SMEs HAVE to grow to solve our unemployment problem. We can’t leave them alone after funding. We must create entrepreneurs who will create jobs to complement the efforts of government. And where fresh ideas are to be funded the boot camp curriculum must entail starting a business on site. The concept plan must show income and employment potential.
Then we need to go to the artisanal level. We must address the issue of why the business of “vulcanisers,” battery chargers and brick layers don’t grow. We need those businesses to grow to absorb people at that level. A major problem at the vulcaniser and bricklayer level is respect for work contracts. The people tend to do random according to whims or exigencies. Demands for money are often made not as per work or contract schedule but based on needs. They need to be taught systematic planning in business, as well as respect for contracts. We must improve capacity at the artisanal level. These skill-based systems can do with a little bit of education and sophistication to expand employment capacity.
We must also domesticate the trade mentoring system prevalent in Eastern Nigeria. We must turn it into science. It’s a complete system and it’s very practical. In that system the apprentice serves the “master” for a defined period of time and afterwards gets a take-off grant, as well as contacts and sources. That trade mentoring system is so complete it has an ethical component. It teaches the discipline of hard work, encourages ingenuity. The value of delayed gratification is also exemplified. The Eastern Nigeria trade mentoring system has minted many successful entrepreneurs who have in turn mentored other apprentices.
We can’t solve the unemployment problem however if we don’t tackle our educational curriculum. Indeed the best way to develop an education policy is to do backward integration from the markets. We can also start with the vision for the country. Yes, government needs to stimulate growth and consumption in order to drive demand in the economy; but if the education curriculum is inappropriate the stimulation won’t create jobs for graduates. Our school curricula must be fit for purpose. It must create students who can be absorbed by the job market, or stand on their own. As it is many corporations need to retrain potential staff. There’s no fit for purpose. Graduates must meet market standards. Or else they can’t be readily absorbed into the job market.
Then we need special focus on certain segments of the economy if we’re going to drive youth employment. There are 3 critical sectors we need to focus on to drive youth employment: IT, agriculture and culture. They have huge potentials. There are huge innovations going on in those sectors. IT for example has the potential to radically create enormous value. And it’s transnational. Many sectors of the economy need digitalisation. Uber changed the paradigm for taxis. Airbnb has radicalised hospitality industry.
We need more innovations in the field of agriculture. There are financing innovations already. Futures are being traded. We need more creativity. We need structures. We must never forget our focus is numbers – how do we get those innovations to generate employment. That’s our strategic objective. It’s a matter of thinking.
The creative industry has a huge growth potential. Culture is huge – fashion, food, fashion accessories, media, music industry, film, make up, entertainment… These are growth sectors. They’ll require more input. There are so many opportunities for growth in the film industry for example. The credits at the end of a Western movie are jobs! We are nowhere near. Special effects – SFX for example offers massive opportunities for growth. It’s in its infancy in Nigeria. And there’s script writing, wardrobes, stunts, trainers, choreographers, fight coordinators, location scouts, financing, production, catering, insurance, logistics, equipment lease… Our movie industry has huge employment potential. Government has to have a deliberate strategy for the creative arts. Nigeria’s movie industry is a big foreign exchange earner, and a major cultural ambassador.
We need vocational training for graduates in different fields in order to generate employment. The amazing thing about these trainings is that they don’t require major spend.The cost can be mitigated by partnering with faith-based organisations for instance. Many faith-based organisations will be desirous of such partnerships. The faith-based organisations are already doing capacity development for youths. They organise seminars beyond spiritual purview. All we need do is align these efforts to the vision of government. We must all sail in the same direction. The synergy between faith-based organisations and government for capacity development of youths has a humongous potential for the economy. All government needs do is present a vision and a plan to these organisations and get their buy in. A standard curriculum should be created. This makes the solution replicable. All the faith-based organisations need is recognition.
Government can again make use of the redundancies in faith-based organisations to reduce cost of vocational training for youths. For example faith-based organisations have redundancy in facilities. The average church uses her auditorium on average two times a week – for Sunday and mid-week services. A curriculum should be fashioned to take advantage of the redundance. The Redeemed Church has about 50,000 branches spread all over the nation. That’s 50,000 centres for youth development. In this synergy between church and state we see the approximation of policy and prophecy. We need fresh ideas if we’re going to rescue Nigeria out of her miasma. That the prophecy may be fulfilled: “May the king’s rule be refreshing like spring rain on freshly cut grass, like the showers that water the earth.” Psalms 72:6‭ NLT‬. ‬‬‬‬
If you’ll like to receive Jesus into your life please pray this prayer: “Father I acknowledge that I am a sinner, that Jesus died for me, that you raised him from the dead. Father please forgive me. I accept Jesus today as my Lord and my Saviour. Amen.”
© Leke Alder |