By Sandra Ijeoma Okoye
Young people, and not only them, who set up a new business are seen as role models from their peers. Although most successful entrepreneurs can be young adults or older, there is always the chance for young entrepreneurs to turn their ideas into successful businesses. If this happens in a vulnerable or disadvantaged community, the impact can be huge compared to helping the economic and social development in those communities.
As statistically gathered, the number of unemployed Nigerians in the fourth quarter of 2020 rose to 23.19 million as a result of job losses elicited by the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic and its stifling impact on businesses during the period. Since then, the damning figure has been spiraling, particularly as more youths have been graduating from various universities approved by the National University Commission (NUC). At the moment Nigeria has 49 federal universities, 57 state universities, 99 private universities and 12 distance learning universities.
In fact, unemployment refers to the share of the labor force that is without work but available for and seeking employment. Against the foregoing backdrop, it would not be wrong to say that Nigeria is facing severe unemployment situation. Nigeria unemployment rate for 2020 was 9.01%, which was 0.48% increase from 2019, and the unemployment rate for 2019 was 8.53%, which was a 0.08% increase from 2018. In a similar vein, Nigeria unemployment rate for 2018 was 8.45%, which was 0.06% increase from 2017, and the rate for 2017 was 8.39%, which was 1.33% increase from 2016.
Evenly analyzed, it is very obvious that unemployment situation in Nigeria is by each passing year been prevalent so much that the youths are the most badly hit on Nigeria’s demographic landscape.
Considering this alarming rate of unemployment, Nigerian government; both at the states and federal levels have put forth a number of initiatives to provide their youth with opportunities to find gainful work, but there is still more to be done. At a time of considerable economic decline, youth entrepreneurship and careful monitoring of programs are promising solutions because these measures provide young people with the means to be self-employed and to remain so for an extended period of time.
Without resorting to fake news, the population of unemployed youth in Nigeria is by each day soaring to unbelievable level, and in the same vein fueling the perpetration of crime, which has in turn become a major obstacle to economic growth. Without doubt, the spiraling rate of crime these days is unarguably imposing several economic costs such as public spending on security and the criminal justice system, as well as private spending on security.
In as much as one would applaud governments’ efforts toward addressing the lingering issue of unemployment, it is germane to say that it would be unwise to ignore the fact in this context that governments have been demonstrating Albert Einstein’s popular saying which says, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. How else can one describe the attitude of the governments when graduates are literarily loaded with theoretical knowledge that only prepares them for paperwork in the office with practical skills? To my view, unemployment can only be ameliorated if graduates are imbued with practical skills that would make them become entrepreneurs; few years after graduation. There is no denying the fact that having most of them become entrepreneurs will sure have a multiplier effect in the labor market as there would be enormous job opportunities for relatively equal number of jobless youths that are not called to become entrepreneurs.
While making this suggestion, it is also expedient for me to say that there are countless reasons why people decide at a certain moment in their lives to start their own business. Some see a good business opportunity, others feel challenged by several issues. They may have an education and set of skills but cannot find employment. The lack of jobs among young people has consequences on their health, wellbeing, and future. Hence, one of the ways to get young people into the labor market is through youth entrepreneurship. Not only does it provide employment prospects to inexperienced youth, but it has an impact on economic growth through new jobs, increased competition, and innovation.
Young people, and not only them, who set up a new business are seen as role models from their peers. Although most successful entrepreneurs can be young adults or older, there is always the chance for young entrepreneurs to turn their ideas into successful businesses. If this happens in a vulnerable or disadvantaged community, the impact can be huge compared to helping the economic and social development in those communities. The social impact is one of the main reasons why entrepreneurship is attractive to young people. Many success stories have established a link between youth and success, especially concerning entrepreneurship. They can be more innovative and disruptive, they have more time, energy, and dynamism, they are ready to take risks while not having a lot to risk, and they tend to have fewer family or financial responsibilities.
While tasking the government to promote entrepreneurial skills, which unarguably are skills for life, it is pragmatic to say that one of the biggest advantages of getting started with entrepreneurship at a young age is the opportunity to learn important skills such as teamwork, networking, problem-solving, critical thinking, innovation, self-discipline among other steps that need to be taken. All these skills can help in school performance and later in life.
To me, if there is anything which the governments plan doing for the youths that they will never forget, it is that of imbuing them with skills, and empowering them after graduation to become entrepreneurs. No doubt, becoming entrepreneurs will exclude them from the rowdy labor market as they will inevitably become employers rather than employees.
In the situation of a global crisis when many have lost their jobs, the risk of getting excluded from the labor market becomes higher among youth and especially women. The COVID-19 crisis impacted youth in different ways such as income loss, disruption to on-job training and learning, increased difficulties for employment, and even poor quality of employment.
On the other hand, when young entrepreneurs start a business, they also create decent jobs not only for their peers but for people of different ages in need of an occupation.
In fact, entrepreneurship is a real tool for a more secure future. Without doubt, Young people who can be students or fresh graduates consider entrepreneurship as a way to take control of their future. At the same time, they create solutions while boosting local communities and creating social and economic change, and accelerating sustainable growth.
In fact, the governments, from local governments, through the State governments to federal governments should try as much as possible to initiate policies and programmes that would discourage youth unemployment and encourage entrepreneurship in Nigeria
Sandra Ijeoma Okoye is a Public Affairs Analyst.