It has never been a secret that the unemployment level in Nigeria is very high, but seeing the numbers shows the severity of the situation. About 59 million Nigerians are between the ages of 15 and 34, out of which about 27 million people are unemployed. It is expected that our population would rise to about 264 million by 2050, of which youths will form 70 per cent of it.
It also proves that unless the present unemployment situation is solved, Nigeria is sitting on a ticking time bomb. It is so bad that former President Olusegun Obasanjo is said to have been quoted in Dakar, Senegal saying that a revolution could be in the offing if this situation continues so. What is even worse is that there has never been a time in Nigeria where there are so many educated youths, yet this is also the highest level of unemployment experienced. This is in addition to the fact that as much as 37% of the out-of-school children in the world are in Nigeria, as evidenced by this report put out by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation. This means that not only are we having at present educated unemployed youths, we are also running the risk of having a large population of young people with no education at all which makes it harder for them to get jobs.
This is also one of the reasons why there is so much insecurity in the country, from Boko Haram ravaging the North to oil bunkering and kidnapping in the South; the fact that there are so many idle hands who are easily lured into crime as they cannot make sense of their lives at this moment.
In my opinion, if solving Nigeria’s power crisis is intended to be the defining agenda of this present government, solving our youth unemployment crisis ought to be that of the next agenda. It should also be that any politician aspiring to be Nigeria’s president from 2015 must show us a clear roadmap for creating jobs and opportunities for young people.
Be it from providing easy access to finance for them to start their own enterprises or to making it easier for companies to hire, all hands must be on deck to make sure that these dismal numbers improve. It is sad to note that despite the fact that Nigeria’s GDP has been growing at annual average rate of 7% for the past few years, this growth is spurred by sectors such as banking and oil and gas, which do not create so much employment.
Very few sectors generate as much as employment as manufacturing does. From highly-skilled jobs to low-skilled jobs, all can be found in manufacturing set-ups. Infrastructure and construction comes a close second. These are the sectors where government should put effort into seeing their growth. Factors militating against the growth of manufacturing such as lack of power, lack of credit facilities and prohibitive interest rates on loans where available, ease of importation of items that can be produced here into Nigeria and so on and so forth must be tackled head-on so that jobs can grow fast in this country. It is due to the strength of its manufacturing sector, for example, that Germany has been largely unaffected by the recession in Europe and it remains its largest economy.
Not only that, the government at all levels must also get out of its comfort zone and make sure that every Nigerian child has at least education to the secondary level and with as high a quality as possible. The numbers at present are not just embarrassing, but unless they are solved, crisis of insecurity such as Boko Haram would as well be a cyclical thing: happening once that large population of primary school-age children who are out of school get to their late teens and early twenties.
We cannot afford to be wasting such massive potential sources of human capital. Let us turn our population into a source for good and wealth creation. We cannot wait further to start working to solve this problem.
Matter of fact, we should have started yesterday.