- Tackling Nigeria’s Unemployment Crisis
The increasing rate of unemployment continues to be a source of concern for the country. The effect of the high level of joblessness has been seen in the upsurge in crime and other social vices, such as youth restiveness in almost every part of Nigeria.
The unemployment report recently released by the National Bureau of Statistics shows that no fewer than 5.5 million Nigerians became unemployed in the two years of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration. The unemployment rate rose to 14.2 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2016, from 13.9 per cent in the preceding quarter. Besides, a recent nationwide survey conducted by BudgIT showed that Kogi, Benue, Bayelsa, Abia, Ondo, Oyo, Ekiti and 14 other states owed their workers and retirees salaries and pensions ranging from one to 36 months.
According to the latest report released by the NBS, the unemployment rate is 4.2 per cent higher than the rate recorded in the fourth quarter of 2015. Consequently, 61.6 per cent of Nigerians in the labour force (not the entire population), aged between 15 and 24, were either unemployed or underemployed in Q4 2016, compared to 59.9 per cent in Q3, 58.3 per cent in Q2, 56.1 per cent in Q1, and 53.5 per cent in Q4 2015.
The statistical agency also said the population of the unemployed rose from 11.19 million at the end of the third quarter of 2016 to 11.55 million in the fourth quarter of 2016.
The country’s rising unemployment rate, especially among the youth, is now a major source of worry for all stakeholders. The World Economic Forum and the Lagos Business School say the country sits on a “time bomb”.
The Nigeria Economic Transformation Map co-curated by the Lagos Business School show that the high rate of unemployment “can be attributed to many factors such as high dependence on oil revenue and limited diversification of the economy.”
Similarly, the Brookings Institution, a non-profit public policy organisation based in Washington, in a report titled, “Youth Unemployment in Nigeria: A Situation Analysis,” noted that several factors might be blamed for the prevalence of youth unemployment in Nigeria. According to the report, the country has a high population growth rate—3.5 per cent per annum—which accompanies its already large national population.
In addition, deficient school curricula and poor teacher training were listed as contributors to the failure of educational institutions to provide their students the appropriate skills to make them employable.
The Brookings Institution’s report said, “Since schools in rural areas are generally more deficient in infrastructure, teaching facilities and teacher quality than schools in urban areas, this may help account for the high growth in rural unemployed youth.
“In fact, some experts suggest that the major jump in rural youth unemployment could be due to the mass failure in national examinations conducted among final-year secondary school students in 2010, which made many of them unemployable in 2011.”
To address the worrisome employment situation, experts have stressed the need for youth empowerment and entrepreneurship development as Nigeria’s best option for wealth creation and economic growth.
Focus on SMEs
Executive Director, North, Fidelity Bank, Mr. Mohammed Balarabe, said supporting Small and Medium-sized Enterprises would bring about economic empowerment and employment opportunities for a lot of youths in the country. Balarabe said the continuing slide in the price of crude oil was a clear warning that it was no longer business as usual for Nigeria.
“It is against this background that I believe that fundamentally the Nigerian economy is going to change and for businesses to succeed going forward, they have to be ingenious and they have to come up with new ideas as to how to engage the environment to be able to success,” he said. “With the drop in crude oil, demand for consumer goods would change, government spending pattern and even that of corporates would also change. Thus, SMEs must change the way they seek to do business.”
Managing Director, Borodo and Co. Nigeria Limited, Alhaji Bashir Borodo, urged governments in the country to initiate friendly policies that will encourage SMEs. He called for development of the transport system across the country to ease the means of doing business.
“We need the support of our government. That is the only way we can move. One key issue for us is railway. Without good railways, production would be very expensive. So, our government must support SMEs,” Borodo, a former president of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, stressed.
Chief Executive Officer of Fidelity Bank, Mr. Nnamdi Okonkwo, described SMEs as critical agents for economic development in any nation. Okonkwo said Fidelity Bank had designed structures that would support SMEs in the country and make them profitable.
According to him, “SMEs account for about 80 per cent of businesses. There are over 40,000 micro, small and medium scale enterprises employing over 60 million people in Nigeria.
“That was why as a bank, in the past three years, we have continued to increase our focus on SMEs. We have a special unit that focuses on the challenges faced by SMEs in the country and we support them by a multi-faceted approach. One of them is capacity building.”
Fidelity Bank’s Entrepreneurship Drive
In line with its drive to promote entrepreneurship, Fidelity Bank Plc has been empowering Nigeria youths with skills needed to thrive in today’s highly competitive business landscape. The bank recently entered into a partnership with Empretec Nigerian Foundation to organise a graduate entrepreneurship programme in Calabar, the Cross Rivers State capital, where over 200 youths were trained in the theoretical and practical aspects of entrepreneurship.
Wife of former Governor of Cross River State and founder of Empretec, Onari Duke, and the state Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Peter Egba, inaugurated the programme.
A flagship capacity-building programme of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Empretec is dedicated to promoting entrepreneurship and micro, small and medium scale enterprises (MSMEs) with a view to facilitating sustainable development and inclusive growth.
The bank has also collaborated with Gazelle (Vocational Centre) Academy to introduce a national youth empowerment initiative. The empowerment programme, which is part of the bank’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives, is primarily targeted at creating a new breed of entrepreneurs among Nigeria’s youth population.
Dubbed the Fidelity Youth Empowerment Academy (YEA), the programme was designed strategically to drive awareness as well as empower undergraduates with requisite entrepreneurial skills that will not only help them establish sustainable businesses but also eventually turn them into bg employers of labour.
In a similar vein, last month, the bank, in collaboration with the Federal Polytechnic, Oko, venture, concluded an entrepreneurship training programme for 400 students in Anambra State. Organised under the YEA stream 3, the week-long training programme was aimed at equipping the students with skills and capabilities needed to start businesses even while in school.
Some of the skill areas participants were trained in included fashion, accessories, cocktail, tailoring, makeup, shoe making, and digital marketing.
Speaking at the closing ceremony of the third edition of the Fidelity Youth Empowerment Academy held in Anambra State, Okonkwo noted that the initiative sought to empower the polytechnic community by creating thriving business owners among students.
He explained that this was in furtherance of the financial institution’s quest to not only tackle the country’s unemployment challenges but also improve the wellbeing of communities where it does business.
In the same vein, the founder, Gazelle Academy, Muna Onuzo, noted that entrepreneurship remained the most viable solution to the current economic challenges. He encouraged the students to use the platform to gain financial freedom and self-reliance.
Onyeama: Qatar To Invest $5bn In Nigeria’s Economy
The oil-rich state of Qatar is to invest a total of $5 billion in Nigeria’s economy, the Foreign Affairs Minister, Godfrey Onyeama, has disclosed.
Onyeama, who spoke Sunday at a send forth dinner in honour of Nigeria’s Ambassador-designate to the State of Qatar, who is also the outgoing Director of Protocol (DOP) at the State House, Ambassador Yakubu Ahmed, also stated that recent career ambassadorial appointments made by the gederal government was based on merit, experience and professionalism.
The minister further said there had been discussions with Qatar on partnership with Nigeria’s Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF), for significant investments in the region of $5 billion in the Nigerian economy.
According to him, ‘‘Qatar is a weighty and strategic country and very strategic in that part of the world and we are putting our best feet forward to advance the interest of our country economically and in other areas.”
He recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari had visited the State of Qatar in 2016 and the Emir of Qatar, Tamim Bin Hammad Al-Thani, reciprocated with a State visit in 2019.
Onyeama also explained that only trusted hands with a track record of diligence, experience and professionalism in the Foreign Service were recently appointed career ambassadors by the federal government.
The minister said the appointment of Ahmed and other career ambassadors were predicated on posting dedicated and keen Foreign Service practitioners to serve as image makers of the country.
He said: ‘‘Ambassador Yakubu Ahmed is a dedicated professional with a penchant for rigour and detail. He is very capable and one of the best in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He is personable, affable, extremely friendly, dispassionate and objective.
‘‘He is going to head a very important mission, a very important country, reckoned to be one of the richest countries in the world, per capita, and there’s a lot we will be doing with the State of Qatar.”
Also speaking, the Deputy Chief of Staff, Adeola Rahman Ipaye, described the honoree as a ‘‘perfect gentleman, very even-natured and always well turned out’’.
Ipaye said he had no doubt that the newly appointed ambassador would serve the country well in Qatar, adding that: ‘‘We are further encouraged that when he completes this assignment, he would return to serve Nigeria in a higher capacity.’’
In his remarks, the Permanent Secretary, State House, Tijjani Umar, while congratulating the outgoing DOP on his appointment, lauded Ahmed for excellent service to the State House and the nation.
‘‘He served this institution and the nation with the deepest sense of responsibility and it is very important that we establish a tradition where the system appreciates those who have served it well and those who will continue to serve it well,’’ he said.
Umar urged the new envoy to keep very fond memories of his time at the Presidential Villa, assuring him of the prayers and goodwill of all the staff.
Responding, Ahmed thanked President Buhari for the great honour and privilege of making him his principal representative in Doha, Qatar.
The Ambassador-designate pledged to deplore his energy and skill to the promotion of the existing cordial relationship between Nigeria and Qatar, particularly in the areas of economic, political, cultural and consular affairs as well as other key areas.
Ahmed, who joined Nigeria’s Foreign Service in 1993, said during his years in public service he had learnt that ‘‘patriotism, selfless service, diligence, determination and perseverance will always result in the achievement of the desired objective’’.
According to him, these virtues would be his ‘‘watchword’’ in the pursuit of Nigeria’s foreign policy objectives and the attainment of national interests.
The Ambassador-designate singled out for appreciation the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, and the state Chief of Protocol, Ambassador Lawal Kazaure, saying he had learnt a lot working under their mentorship.
He expressed gratitude to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Permanent Secretary, State House for giving him the opportunity of a memorable work experience in the State House.
France, Nigeria to Build New Partnership
France is currently aiming at building a new partnership with Nigeria, with the dispatching of its Minister in charge of Foreign Trade and Attractiveness, Franck Riester, to Nigeria.
Riester, who was expected at the time of filing this report on Monday, is scheduled to visit Nigeria from 12-14 April, 2021.
A statement from the French Embassy in Nigeria said: “Franck Riester is visiting Nigeria from 12 to 14 April, a visit that follows up on the priorities set by French President Emmanuel Macron during his official visit to Nigeria in July 2018 and his desire to build a new partnership between Africa and France.
“As the largest economy in Africa and the economic engine of West Africa, Nigeria is indeed a major partner for France, the first in sub-Saharan Africa with bilateral trade amounting to a total of 4.5 billion USD in 2019 (2.3 billion USD in 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic).”
It disclosed that the minister will have several official meetings in Abuja and Lagos, in order to underline the importance of the bilateral economic relationship and to prepare the summit on the financing of African economies in Paris on 18 May.
It revealed that the objective of the mission is also to further strengthen the links between the French and Nigerian private sectors, and “in this regard, the minister will have in-depth discussions with the main Nigerian economic actors to strengthen bilateral cooperation and investments, both in Nigeria and in France, particularly in the logistics sector”.
It said while in the country, the minister would meet with young Nigerian entrepreneurs in the cultural and creative industries sector, to discuss the major role of their country in African creativity and the development of the African entrepreneurial ecosystem, with the support of France.
It further said: “The minister will also open the ‘Choose Africa’ conference, a €3.5 billion initiative by President Emmanuel Macron dedicated to supporting the development of start-ups and SMEs in Africa to enable the continent to benefit fully from the opportunities of the digital revolution.”
COVID-19: USAID to Provide $3m Grant, Technical Assistance to Combat Food Insecurity in Nigeria
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is providing financial grant and technical assistance worth $3 million to combat food insecurity in Nigeria compounded by COVID-19 pandemic.
A statement by the agency on Monday said: “On April 12, 2021, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in Nigeria launched a COVID-19 Food Security Challenge that will provide $3 million in grant funding and technical assistance to youth-led and mid-stage companies working in food value chains in Nigeria.”
The statement lamented that Nigeria is experiencing food insecurity compounded by the COVID-19 global pandemic and its effects on the food value chain in the country.
It stated that the pandemic has disrupted the already fragile agricultural value chains, especially smallholder farmers’ ability to produce, process and distribute food, which has disrupted agricultural productivity and markets, and negatively impacted livelihoods, especially among vulnerable households, women and youth.
The USAID Mission Director, Anne Patterson, said: “We are launching the COVID-19 Food Security Challenge to help innovative Nigerians alleviate food insecurity.
“This assistance encourages private sector-led solutions to boost food production, processing and create market linkage along the agriculture value chain in a sustainable way across Nigeria.”
The statement revealed that in launching the challenge, USAID seeks commercially viable youth-led and mid-stage companies already working in food production, processing, and distribution, noting that successful applicants will present ideas that demonstrably help farmers and other stakeholders in the agricultural value chain increase, agricultural productivity and food security within the next six months.
According to the statement, the challenge will award 15 to 25 youth-led companies up to $75,000 each and award 10 to 15 mid-stage companies up to $150,000 each.
Winners will receive funding and technical assistance to rapidly expand their activities to mitigate the effect of COVID-19 on Nigeria’s food value chain and improve the resilience of vulnerable households to the negative impacts of the pandemic.
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