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Curbing youth unemployment through entrepreneurship

Nigeria, like most developing countries and especially those in Sub-Saharan Africa, contends with widespread unemployment. Unemployment particularly among the youth is believed to be on the increase in the developing nations. According to Kayode, Arome, and Anyio (2014), the 21st century has witnessed a frightening rise in unemployment in Nigeria due to a myriad of reasons such as corruption, industrial dilapidation, lack of adequate attention to agriculture, etc. The situation has been responsible for rampant poverty, restiveness among the youth, social misdemeanours, and high crimes, all of which have the potential of further plunging the country into civil revolution, if the tide of unemployment is not checked through proper attention to and revival of the agricultural sector, provision of electricity, and curbing corruption.

In a similar submission, Akande (2014), based on 2012 figures published by Nigeria’s Bureau of Statistics, observes that as the population of the youth- who make up about half of the country’s population-grows, so does the rate of unemployment among the youth. Exploring the factors responsible for this alarming rate of unemployment among the youth in Nigeria, Akande (2014) blames the high rate of population growth, the failure of the educational system to prepare students for the workplace on graduation due to ineffective curricular and poorly trained teachers, paucity of companies that could provide employment to the teeming school leavers, poor infrastructure, and a lack of adequate and accurate information data base for policy making and economic planning.

Read Also: Five things we learnt from Nigeria’s 2020 Unemployment report

Uddin and Uddin (2013), while referring to an earlier work by Awogbenle and Iwuamadi (2010) state that while the youth constitute about 60 percent of the population of Nigeria, 80 percent of the youth are unemployed. The authors attribute the widespread youth unemployment to rural-urban migration, population growth, falling standards of education, huge increases in number of school leavers seeking paid employment, epileptic or total lack of electricity, as well as rampant corruption. Nwankwo and Ifejiofor (2014) agree that Nigeria’s unemployment rate has been increasing at a geometric rate as the economy largely depends on the oil industry, which provides employment to less than 10 percent of the employable population. Other factors identified by Nwankwo and Ifejiofor (2014) as responsible for the massive unemployment include the neglect of the agricultural sector, decaying infrastructure, mismanagement of the nation’s resources by successive governments, and the seeming lack of political will by the governments to implement measures such as privatisation and deregulation which would open the economy to the private sector. The negative impact of the high rate of unemployment has been an increase in violent crimes, drug addiction, low GDP, psychological trauma resulting from truncated hopes and aspirations, huge burdens on families and relatives by unemployed youth, instability in the polity, etc. (Nwankwo & Ifejiofor, 2014).

Read Also: 23.2m Nigerians should not be unemployed

Ajufo (2013) identifies youth unemployment as a significant problem confronting Nigeria. Apart from the psychological and economic toll unemployment exerts on both the individual and society at large, it has other negative, chronic impacts on Nigeria, such as rising militancy, violent crimes, kidnappings, restiveness, and a myriad of other social malaise.

We need entrepreneurs

To be described as an entrepreneur, an individual has to: be creative, demonstrate innovativeness, and possess the uncanny ability to identify gaps in the needs of business or society. They should be prepared to meet the identified needs through the provision of services or products, which are not necessarily new. According to Hisrich and Kearney (2012), “entrepreneurship is the dynamic process of creating incremental wealth and stimulating the surrounding environment. The wealth is created by individuals who assume the major risks in terms of equity, time, and career commitment, by providing value for a product or service.

The negative impact of the high rate of unemployment has been an increase in violent crimes, drug addiction, low GDP, psychological trauma resulting from truncated hopes and aspirations

The product or service can have varying degrees of newness but needs to be infused by the entrepreneur regardless of its degree.” Inherently, entrepreneurship is about risk-taking. Filling the gaps involves venturing into new endeavours or activities that can either result in failure or success. In other words, “initiative taking, organising and reorganising of social and economic mechanisms to turn resources and situations to practical account, and acceptance of risk or failure”, are three behavioural characteristics of every entrepreneur (Hisrich & Kearney, 2012). As noted by Hisrich and Kearney (2012), there are three types of entrepreneurs namely, the private (individual) entrepreneur, the corporate entrepreneur, and the social entrepreneur. Our focus is on private entrepreneurship: this is the historical concept which focuses on the effort of an individual.

Most entrepreneurs operate businesses, which largely fall into the category of Small, and Medium sized enterprises, SMEs. According to OECD (2004), there is verifiable evidence showing that SMEs contribute more than 55 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and above 65 percent of total employment in the high-income countries.

The figure is higher in middle-income countries where SMEs and enterprises operating in the informal sector of the economy contribute more than 70 percent of GDP and over 95 percent of total employment. In the low-income countries, SMEs and informal businesses contribute up to 60 percent of GDP and more than 70 percent of total employment.

It is important to note that entrepreneurship can only add value when it leads to the creation of businesses which provide employment. Clearly, encouraging entrepreneurship through targeted government policies will no doubt go a long way in curbing the raging menace of unemployment, especially youth unemployment.

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