TOPIC : YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT IN NIGERIA

INTRODUCTION Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and the eighth most populous coun try in the world with a population of 154, 729,000 citizens. Our nominal GDP is $207. 116 billion and we have a nominal per capita income of $1,4011. Nigeria al so has the second largest economy in Africa . If I may ask, is this country not blessed? Yet, it is still plagued by youth unemployment which had been one of ou r major problems in recent years. Both government and the private sector had dis cussed this issue at forums and conferences but have not found a solution to it. Its continued existence had been linked to lack of power supply and financial e mpowerment for youths. Youth unemployment in Nigeria is mostly referred to as gr aduate unemployment and this means that only the skilled youths are seen as unem ployed while the unskilled youths are not given any consideration. However, yout hs are not a homogeneous group and their employment prospects differ according t o numerous factors ranging from region to gender to schooling. As I write this paper, there are thousands of youths in Nigeria that are unemp loyed and it is as if there won’t be a solution to this problem.

THE EFFECTS OF YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT ON NIGERIA Various crimes and social vices in Nigeria had been on the increase since mid – 1990s2 and they include prostitution, internet scam, political violence, kidnapp ing, militancy (in the Niger Delta), drug trafficking, armed robbery etc. The co ntinued existence of these vices has been linked to the scarcity of jobs in Nige ria .

Prostitution, for instance, rose during the mid – 1990s with female Nigerian you ths being trafficked to Italy.3 Internet scam had also been on the increase in r ecent years. Political violence, kidnapping and other vices had also been increa sing recently. These vices have a negative effect on the country because they have been the fea r of most foreign investors and they are also giving the country a bad reputatio n internationally.

CHALLENGES YOUTH FACE IN THE LABOUR MARKET In Nigeria , it is common practice for employers to ask for work experience befo re employment. For most graduate youth who have nothing more than what they have learnt in school, it is always a very difficult race with experienced adults. S ome youths go up to the extent of getting a post graduate degree but they still don’t get a job.4 It is the unskilled youth, who are mostly migrants from rural areas that are mor e affected by this situation.5

THE LESSONS FROM EXPERIENCE Although I’m not an entrepreneur but I gained some experiences on en trepreneurship from a group I joined in my university more than a year ago. The name of the group is SIFE (Students in Free Enterprise). Last year, we did some entrepreneurial projects and I would like to share them briefly. · Firstly, we did a project called Making CEO, in collaboration with a c ommercial bank in Nigeria (Guaranty Trust Bank). In the first phase, we educated about 300 undergraduates on the benefits of self – employment and the ethics of business. In the second phase, we partnered also with the GREEN project (an NGO owned by a member of our team) and we taught about 50 secondary school students the qualities of a good business leader. * Secondly, we identified that our university is one of the few universities in Nigeria that offers Industrial Design. Due to this peculiarity, these studen ts might face ostracism in the labor market after school. To avoid this, we deci ded to educate interested students of this department the practical application of their course using computer graphical application like Corel Draw. With the t raining at hand, some of them could open an art studio or a photography shop if they are unable to get a job after school.

The following are the lessons that I learnt as a volunteer: Workshop and Seminars are one of the best ways to educate young peopl e (youth). Youths should be taught financial literacy at a more tender age. The media is the best way to get to the people. No knowledge is lost. Knowledge gained from workshops and seminars could be used by participants at any point of their lives.

It is better done than said. Things look easy when they are said but it is only when we make moves to actualize them that we realize their complexiti es, the constraints involved and the possible outcomes.

MY PERSONAL PROJECTS

- WHAT HOPE FOR THE PHYSICALLY CHALLENGED YOUTHS? The physically challenged account for about 5% of Africans (1% of Africans are b lind)6 and Nigeria as well as her youths are not left out. For this reason, I vi sited the closest HANDEF (Handicapped Education Foundation) centre to my univers ity and I learnt that most of the challenges they face are rejection and depriva tion, and these have a psychological effect on them. No wonder, most of them end up on the street begging.

The government is working hard to solve this problem with four schools already i n place in the state that trains them up to the university level. From my observ ation, little results had been achieved from these great efforts, because I have not seen any physically challenged person working in a bank or even in a govern ment institution like the post office. The sad part of the story is that most of these physically challenged people are youths.

PRACTICAL SOLUTIONS

I think the youths, the government and the private sector should be involved in solving this problem.

- WASTES TO WEALTH Most drainage systems in Nigeria are blocked by pure water sachet (PWS) and othe r non – biodegradable items. This blockage has led to water logging on the stree t of most cities in Nigeria especially Lagos . A research7 has shown that PWS could be used in making candles, lubricating grea se, shoe polish and other products. My team could gather lots of PWS and bring the researcher to a workshop to train unemployed youths the methodology of changing these wastes to wealth. After the workshop, the youths could be given loans for start ups by the governm ent while my team could do the mentoring and evaluation to safeguard the loan.

- TRAINING FOR UNEMPLOYED YOUTHS WITH TECHNICAL SKILLS Unemployed youths that have technical skills could get training on the developme nt of solar cookers, solar panels and lead acid ( accumulator) inverter which has zero carbon emission compared to local stoves and generator. If the solar co okers are sold to rural dwellers, there would be a reduction in deforestation. This training segment of the project could be carried out by my team in collabor ation with the government and private sector.

- THE USE OF THE MEDIA From my experience as a volunteer, I realized that it is not so difficult to get loans for business start ups but must people are ignorant of this fact. Therefo re, I propose that the government gives my team an airtime to broadcast a weekly Business Idea Competition on the local radio. The competition would be opened t o unemployed youths between the ages of 18 and 25 and it would be judged by busi ness executives. The government would later give loan to the overall winner of t he month and consolation prizes to the weekly winners. At intervals of the progr am, we would analyze the benefits of acquiring loans from the government and how loans could expand small businesses.

The mentoring and evaluation for the loan receiver would be conducted by team so the loan could be recovered.

- THE PIGGY BANK ACCOUNT Most unemployed youths’ complain is the lack of start up capital. But in the rea l sense, this is not absolutely true, because there are times in our lives espec ially undergraduates that we have surplus of funds but end up squandering them. I propose that undergraduates in my school open a piggy bank account with my tea m where they save a stipulated amount of money twice a month. The account would be different from a normal bank account in the sense that they can only deposit but can not withdraw (except the account holder is no longer interested in opera ting the account). An intermediate person would be involved (may be a lawyer or a staff in the university) and the three parties would have an account record th at shows how much had been saved. The account holder would also be obliged to at tend my team’s workshop and seminars on entrepreneurship. Upon completion of the student’s education, the money he had saved would then be given to him to start a business of his choice. Neither my team nor the interme diate person would have a stake in the money. The truth is, this kind of business might not be massive but it would sustain th e person involved, and with the knowledge he had gathered from our workshops and seminars, he would prepare his mind to think big.

- HEALING THE SOCIETAL ILLS Nigeria is faced with critical issues like infant mortality (which is 95.5 per 1 ,000 live birth)8. This is far too high when compared to developed countries lik e Sweden , Switzerland , the United Kingdom and the United States of America . T his problem could be place under control if my proposal could be followed. In Nigeria , there is a compulsory one year service for every tertiary instituti on graduates in which they are asked to serve the government. This exercise is c alled National Service Youth Corps. This model could also be adopted for unemplo yed youths where they would undergo a year of entrepreneurship training alongsid e humanitarian training. This exercise would be called the Work Corps. During th e year of training, the youth would spread the message of infant mortality, poli o, and malaria to rural dwellers that are mostly affected by these problems. Aft er their training, the youths would be given a certificate of entrepreneurship a nd service; and they would be given allowances to start up their own business. My team would assist in the training alongside different tutors from the governm ent and the private sector. We also help in building a sustainability plan for t he project. This project would add values to the lives of the participants, beneficiaries an d solve the problem of youth unemployment, infant mortality among others.

- TRAINING THE YOUNG MINDS From the experience I shared earlier about the project we did with secondary sch

ool students. I believe that the project could be expanded if my team could get adequate support from the government and the private sector. Besides, educating the student on how to become business leaders, we could also organize a competition for all the secondary schools that we have taken the MAKI NG CEO project to. The competition would involve the exchange of business ideas between competitors and exhibition of entrepreneurial projects, and the winner w ould be published in the state newspaper. With this, we have given a forehand knowledge of entrepreneurship to children an d they would be able to face the challenges ahead.

- USING OTHER RESOURCES Nigeria ’s dependence on oil revenues is also one of the major cause s of youth unemployment and youth unrest in the country. In view of this, my team could educate unemployed youths to start th e cultivation of agricultural resources like banana, plantain, cocoa etc, and th en push it to the policy makers of the state to support mechanized farming which would help these young farmers improve their farm produce. These produce could then be exported out of the country, then we would successfully increase the GDP of the state and also that of Nigeria , thereby making the government create mo re jobs. We could later invite foreign investors to invest in the lucrative v enture. Couple of years after this successful project with the State Governm ent, we could then move a motion to the Federal Government to invest in the exp loitation of mineral resources like bauxite, tantalite, tin, lead, zinc etc whic h are in abundance in the country. As part of our negotiation, with the Federal Government, we would make sure the 70% of the employees in this industry are you ths.

- GET THE YOUTHS ALREADY IN BUSINESS I believe that with my team’s collaboration with the State Government, we could organize a trade fair for youths whose businesses are not thriving. The trade fa ir would be statewide (and broadcasted on the State Television) and it would be organized at the state trade fair complex and other strategic places like the un iversities and the local markets. In addition, a website should be created for potential buyers who we re not able to purchase items on display during the trade fair.

- A BETTER LIFE FOR THE PHYSICALLY CHALLENGED YOUTHS From my experience with HANDEF, I would sincerely say that a lot had been done by this people but there is nothing good that cannot be improved. I propose that the physically challenged youths could be trained ho w to organize bridal arrangements; plan a wedding and other events. This could b e coupled with fashion designing; hat making and bead making which I was told we

re the vocational training they get. Even the visually impaired could go into th is business since they won’t be left alone without an assistant. This business i s one of the fastest rising businesses in Nigeria . My team would help in part of the training (i.e. bring experienced w edding planners) and lead a campaign against the discrimination of physically ch allenged people in our community.

CONCLUSION

The truth is, if youth alone could solve the problem of youth unemployment, then it wouldn’t have occurred in the first place. That was why I illustrated how we could work with the government and private sector in solving this problem. If the essence of this essay competition is for us, as youths, to do what we hav e written, then we won’t only say goodbye to youth unemployment but also solve t he problem of drug trafficking to foreign countries (especially Asia and South A merica), prostitution by female Nigerian youths on the streets of Milan and Rome , illegal migration to European countries, pipeline vandalism, kidnapping of oil workers, internet scam etc which youth unemployment in Nigeria had inflicted on the world.

REFERENCES

1. Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nigeria)

2. Nigeria Article, Microsoft Encarta Premium 2009

3. Factbook on Global Sexual Exploitation, Italy

(http://www.uri.edu/artsci/wms/hughes/italy.htm)

4. Nnaemeka Meribe, ‘Employment: Why postgraduate qualification may not be an advantage’, The Punch, 10 March 2010 , p.24

5. Youth and Employment in Africa : The Potential, the problem, the promise (http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTAFRICA/Resources/ADI_Youth_Employment_sum mary.pdf)

6. Nigeria : Disabled, Physically Challenged or Differently Abled (http://allafrica.com/stories/200804220497.html)

7. Making Stuffs, Hot stuffs: The Power of Mind over Matter (http://www.unilorin.edu.ng/unilorin/inaugural-lectures/Making-Stuff-Hot.pdf)

8. The World Almanac and Book of Facts2008, p.805

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