BusinessDay

Trade, access to finance critical to creating quality jobs – Experts

Facilitating the growth of access to finance for Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) and the trade sector are the innovative and sustainable ways of creating jobs, experts are saying.

This was made known at the on-going Lagos Employment Summit 2.0 hosted by Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF) with the theme “Sustainable Job Creation Strategies: Collective Action and Prosperity for All ”.

The summit creates an avenue for various actors (public & private organisations) to discuss strategies centred on new trends and opportunities from diverse sectors and value chains that have remained resilient all through the Covid-19 pandemic and also showcase innovative approaches to creating sustainable employment for the Nigerian youth.

According to the organisers, the summit is critical due to the fact that it comes at a time where the country is dealing with a high employment rate of 33.3 percent and youth unemployment at 42.6 percent as of 2020, data from National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) shows.

The high unemployment rate also increased the number of poor people to 90 million and it is expected to increase further by 11 million in 2022.

Read also: Dispelling myths surrounding SMEs and marketing in Nigeria

“There is a challenge of creating a large number of jobs but the solution should not be not just growing the quantity of jobs but the quality. The World Bank shows a strong and positive relationship between access to finance and job growth, this relationship is particularly strong amongst SMEs,’ Kalim Shah, the senior country manager at International Finance Corporation (IFC) said.

He adds, “Secondly, trade is an increasing opportunity for the country to generate new markets for businesses. It creates jobs and is essential for the development of poverty reduction. Our analysis shows that every percent of the increase in the trade share of GDP, income per capita increases by as much as two percentage points.”

Shah further said that trade increases productivity, spread innovations and supports growth and upscale employment by opening access to new market, new technologies and investments

Commenting on critical points to learn on access to funding, Teju Abisoye, the executive secretary noted that SMEs do need it but that getting them funding ready is most important.

“To get them ready, we launched our incubation and acceleration program so that businesses can grow, strive so that they can have the desired impact by achieving what they set out to do at the beginning and create a more sustainable micro medium enterprise,” Abisoye explained.

Several reports have shown that entrepreneurs are important to market economies because they can act as the wheels of the economic growth of the country. According to LSETF, SMEs were the most variable methods to create employment as they are the innovative engines of economic growth, contributing about 50 percent to the GDP of the nation.

Last year, the NBS reported that the impact of the pandemic on the labour market had made the job of a trader or business person to be the most common dream job of Nigerian youths (aged 15-25 years old) as against high-profile white-collar ones.

The survey report showed that when asked what their dream job is, the most commonly reported was trader or businessperson (22 percent), more popular among female than male respondents. Other common dream jobs reported were doctor (17 percent), engineer (8 percent), and tailor (7 percent).

Stressing on the need for policy makers to take advantage of Africa’s large demographic population, Aloysius Uche Ordu, the director at African growth initiative at Brookings Institute, advised that the time to invest in the youth is now.

“The number of people worldwide aged 12-24 years has far extended 1.5 billion, the largest in recorded history. And as you all know 70 percent of Africans are 30 years or younger, however we cannot take our youths for granted and expect the so-called demographic dividend,” Ordu said.

He added, “The time to invest in our youth is right now. Today’s youth are tomorrow workers, entrepreneurs, tomorrow’s parents and indeed tomorrow leaders. As policy makers, we all have a key role to play in helping our youths in their life journey which is the journey to learn, walk, exercise, get married and become engaged citizens.”

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