The agricultural sector is projected to create an additional 4.5 million jobs over the next five years (2021-2025), but an employability skills gap among young Nigerians may deny many of these opportunities, a recent report by Jobberman Nigeria shows.
This challenge constitutes one of the major factors aggravating the already fragile youth unemployment in the country which is at an all-time high at 42 percent.
A breakdown of the report titled ‘Agriculture Sector Skills Gap’ shows that the sector has the potential to create employment opportunities in various specialisations such as core agricultural services (0.6million), equipment and machinery operation (0.4million), and general support activities (3.5 million).
“The increasing number of tech startups, surging demand for agric products, as well as advancement in agro-processing and crowdfunding investments is shaping the demand for skills, especially in core agricultural services and general support activities.
The report further stated that overall; these specialties are expected to create about 4.5 million jobs over the next five years. “However, young people and women require training in core agricultural skills, as well as digital and technical skills to fully maximise these emerging opportunities.”
The economy’s limited capacity to absorb the growing labour force is partly linked to gaps within the education system that prevents young people from developing skills (technical and soft skills) and gain the required confidence to be employable.
According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the country dropped three positions, ranking 161 in 2019 from 158 in 2018 among 189 countries in Human Development.
Also, over the past few years, budgetary allocation to education has not been more than seven percent of its total budget. It is no wonder that the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said the country has the highest number of out-of-school children in the world.
The report also highlighted findings from its survey that confirm that young people are lacking in soft skills. An average score of 46 percent was recorded from about 116, 627 unique jobseekers that took the Jobberman soft skills baseline assessment.
“This data indicates that jobseekers have weak proficiencies especially in problem-solving, emotional intelligence and communication skills,” the report stated.
However, employers’ perception of soft skills suggests that despite a high proficiency in core agricultural and technical skills, low proficiency in soft skills could significantly affect young people’s employment outcomes in the agriculture sector, the report added.
By 2030, the World Economic Forum predicts that some level of digital skills will be required for 50-55 percent of jobs in Kenya, 35-45 percent in Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, and Rwanda, and 20-25 percent in Mozambique.
“What we have to do is to equip them to access the jobs that exist and encourage the private sector and entrepreneurs to dictate the skills and jobs that they want, and create the enabling environment that they need to create the jobs,” Rolake Rosiji, the chief executive officer at Jobberman Nigeria advised.
Similarly, Tunji Idowu, the executive director of the Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta (PIND) said the curriculum is not suitable for what students are being taught in secondary schools and universities in preparation for what is required for life.
“It is important that you revamp and develop the curriculum that makes sense and is certified,” Idowu said.
The agriculture sector is the largest employer of labour in Nigeria and has the potential to create more decent and dignified jobs for women and young people across various specialisations.
According to 2019 PWC estimates, the country’s agricultural sector currently employs about 36 percent of the labour force, i.e. 23 million workers.
To further enhance the capacity of young people and women to maximise these opportunities, the report recommends that it is important to invest in skills development (core agricultural, technical, digital and soft skills).
“At the same time, the sector could benefit from policies aimed at improving work conditions, eliminating wage disparity and enhancing decision-making capacity to advance women’s productivity and livelihoods,”
It also highlights that creating these jobs would require policies that create an enabling environment for local agribusinesses, provide economic incentives to lower risks, and leverage technological advancement to modernise production and post-production activities.
“This will increase the capacity of local agribusinesses to attract and retain young talents within the sector,” it stated.