– The Sun News

‘Why entrepreneurship must be given priority’

…As unemployment figures soar

Bimbola Oyesola, 08033246177

When the present administration came on board in 2015, one of its promises was the creation of at least five million new jobs by 2019. But, for now, not even half a million jobs have been created. President Muhammadu Buhari, in his campaign in 2015, had observed that unemployment rate, by 1999, stood at about 8 per cent, and then estimated from official statistics that it was close to 30 per cent.
To address the shortfall, Buhari promised to embark on vocational training, entrepreneurship drive and skills acquisition schemes for graduates along with the creation of a Small Business Loan Guarantee Scheme and a Small and Medium Enterprises Development Commission.
The administration also included provision of allowances for the discharged but unemployed Youth Corps members for 12 months while in the skills and entrepreneurial development programme, but, today, investigations show that unemployed corps members are still awaiting the fulfilment of this promise. The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Scheme has passed out over 20,000 corps members since Buhari assumed office.
The administration’s promise of five million jobs was expected to be created through 720,000 jobs by the 36 states of the federation per annum, that is, 20,000 jobs per state.
However, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), in its recent unemployment report, stated that 3.67 million Nigerians became jobless in 2016 alone.
According to the bureau, at least 18,919 Nigerians lost their public sector jobs at the federal, state and local government between October 2015 and March 2016.
The NBS equally reported that four million Nigerians were unemployed in the second quarter of the year, with the figure rising to 7.3 million in the third quarter.
Although reports said, within the same period in 2016, 11,593 new public sector jobs were generated, and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, in his Democracy Day speech, said that government engaged 200,000 unemployed graduates through the N-Power scheme, there is a wide deficit in government’s employment generation figures.

NECAPRENEUR to the resque
Stakeholders at the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA) workshop, through NECApreneur, a project aimed at solving unemployment in the country, also expresssed the view that government’s approach to reducing unemployment has failed and hence the need for intervention from the organised private sector.
According to the participants, all the agencies of government combined have been unable to generate 100,000 jobs out of the five million target.
Lamenting the worrisome state of unemployment in Nigeria, the director-general of NECA, Olusegun Oshinowo, said statistics confirmed that 29 million people are now without jobs, and unemployment remains the biggest issue in the nation’s economy.
He noted that NECA believed that government alone could not solve the unemployment problem, which was why NECA came up with the on-line platform, NECApreneur, to train youths in entrepreneurial skills.
The project is targeted at undergraduates, unemployed youths and other members of the society, irrespective of age, who desire to create wealth without looking for paid jobs.
Oshinowo explained that the modules used for the project were based on the International Labour Organisation (ILO) pattern and would continue to be updated as the international body improves on its modules.
He said: “There is need for a new approach to solve unemployment. Youths must embrace entrepreneurship. We will link them up with our rich networks to assist their ideas.
“We are made to believe that youths do not have jobs because they lack technical skills, but everything depends on a healthy environment.
“If dependable variables such as favourable policy, good governance, education, conducive environment and many others are not addressed, getting jobs will be difficult.”
Oshinowo said the more people were gainfully employed, the more purchasing power would grow and businesses flourish.
He, however, said that government must create the enabling environment for businesses to thrive. According to him, unemployment is important to employers who know that, if not handled properly, it can pose security risks.
Oshinowo said: “The more we take people out of the street, the better for businesses to grow and attract more investors.’’
However, panelists at the workshop from higher institutions, where NECA intends to get students prepared early for entrepreneurial life, stressed that, though entrepreneurship is part of the school curriculum, mandatory for students, it has not been effective.
“It is unfortunate Nigeria does not have entrepreneurship policy; China has taken over. In 1980, Nigeria led, but China has taken over due to entrepreneurship,” one of the panelists said.
The panelists were drawn from both public and private institutions, including the University of Lagos, Lagos State Polytechnic, Caleb University, Taraba State University and Crawford University. They all expressed their support for the entrepreneurial project being spearhead by NECA.
Dr. Ademola Aderogba, head of the entrepreneurship programme at Lagos State Polytechnic, noted that promotion of entrepreneurial training was not on the fast lane because it is public-sector driven.
“We believe that if it’s private sector-driven, it will be more successful and that it is why we believe the NECApreneur is a step in the right direction and we are ready to support it,” he said.
He also reasoned that parents should allow their wards to follow their hearts when choosing courses, as most students would have chosen careers that could make them self-reliant but for parents’ influence.
Dr. Sunday Adebisi, head of entrepreneurship at the University of Lagos, however, said that the university has gone beyond government’s idea on entrepreneurship, which is more of a theory, as UNILAG ensures that all the courses now have entrepreneurship angles.
“This is to ensure that, if (students) finish, they would have something to do. UNILAG, every year, sends 50,000 graduates to the job market. So, we are not just sending them out without empowering them. For us, if you are studying music, it’s musicpreneur; Yoruba, it’s yorubapreneur, sciencepreneur. It is our aim in the next 10 years to produce more Dangotes in the country,” he said.
The panelists advised NECA, in its planning, to be conscious that entrepreneurship opportunities are environment-based.
Hannah Oyebanjo, CEO of Imagine Solution, NECA’s technical partner, said the project taking off this year would make use of the institutions to give interested entrepreneurship students practical training compared to the present situation in the institutions, which is more of theory than practical.
“The issue of entrepreneurship entails understanding your environment and taking advantage of it. The future belongs to SMEs. We just want our people to know that, in spite of what we are going through in this country, we can still make tons and tons of money through entrepreneurs,” she said.


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