• Thursday, July 18, 2024
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Digital transformation: A pathway to address Nigeria’s unemployment crisis

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Nigeria, with its vibrant and growing youth population, is standing at a crossroads. The nation is grappling with an alarming unemployment rate of 33.3 percent, one of the highest in the world. This crisis is particularly severe among young Nigerians, who represent a significant segment of the population. Yet, amid this daunting challenge, digital transformation shines as a beacon of hope. It offers a path forward through job creation and skill development, essential for driving economic growth and ensuring stability.

Digital revolution is reshaping economies around the globe, propelling growth and innovation at an extraordinary rate. A recent study predicts the global digital economy will soar to $23 trillion by 2025, underscoring the immense transformative potential of digital technologies. For developing nations like Nigeria, digital transformation presents a golden opportunity to unlock new economic prospects, boost productivity, and pave the way for sustainable development.

Read also: How RCCG’s N400m initiative aims to bridge 35% Nigerian youths unemployment gap

Understanding digital transformation

Digital transformation is more than a buzzword; it is a revolution reshaping every facet of business and society. This integration of digital technology into all operational and service delivery areas marks a fundamental shift. Central to this transformation are:

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Internet of Things (IoT)

Cloud Computing

Big Data Analytics

Automation

These technologies empower businesses to innovate at lightning speed, streamline processes, and enhance customer experiences. In essence, they are pivotal drivers of economic development.

Current situation

Youth unemployment: Approximately 53.4 percent of Nigerian youths are either unemployed or underemployed. This staggering figure highlights the urgent need for innovative solutions.

Economic impact: High unemployment rates exacerbate poverty, fuel social instability, and stymie economic growth.

Unemployment Rates in Nigeria (2021):

Age Group                        Unemployment Rate (%)

15 – 24                                                    53.4

25 – 34                                                  37.2

Overall                                              33.3

 

The impact of digital transformation on economic growth

Digital transformation stands as a formidable catalyst for global economic growth, presenting an unprecedented opportunity for developing nations to bypass traditional development stages and rapidly enhance their economic prospects. In Nigeria, digital technologies are revolutionising various sectors such as finance, agriculture, and healthcare. Digital banking services have significantly boosted financial inclusion, while precision farming technologies are enhancing agricultural productivity.

Opportunities presented by digital transformation

Tech startups and entrepreneurship: Digital transformation has ignited a boom in tech startups across Nigeria, fostering innovation and creating jobs. Lagos, often dubbed the “Silicon Valley of Africa,” boasts a dynamic tech ecosystem with numerous startups in fintech, edtech, healthtech, and beyond.

Case study: Andela:

Andela trains software developers in Africa and connects them with tech companies worldwide. Since its inception, Andela has generated thousands of jobs and positioned Nigeria as a prime hub for tech talent.

Enhancing employability through digital skills:

Skill development programmes: Initiatives like Cisco’s Networking Academy and Google’s Digital Skills for Africa offer training programmes designed to equip Nigerians with essential digital skills.

Impact on youth: These programmes are particularly transformative for the youth, providing them with high-demand skills crucial for success in the digital economy.

“Digital transformation is the driver of growth and innovation in the 21st century. Countries that embrace these technologies will lead the future,” remarked Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, underscoring the global importance of these initiatives.

Read also: Nigeria capital importation report in focus as US eyes unemployment data

Remote work and freelancing

Digital platforms like Upwork and Fiverr empower Nigerians to offer their skills globally, accessing international job markets and fostering economic opportunities. Remote work provides flexibility and inclusivity, benefiting marginalised groups such as women and individuals with disabilities by allowing them to participate fully in the workforce.

The critical role of project management

Effective project management is the backbone of successful digital transformation. It ensures that initiatives are executed efficiently, on time, and within budget. Key strategies like agile methodology, hybrid project management, and data-driven decision-making are essential for navigating the fast-paced digital landscape. For instance, Amazon’s use of AI and project management showcases how these technologies can drive efficiency and innovation. Through Amazon Web Services (AWS), even startups in developing countries like Nigeria benefit from scalable cloud solutions, expanding their global reach and economic impact.

Challenges and solutions for digital transformation

Despite its potential, digital transformation in Nigeria faces several hurdles:

-Inadequate Infrastructure: Poor internet connectivity and unreliable power supply.

-Digital Divide: Inequality in digital literacy and access to technology.

-Regulatory Barriers: Outdated regulations stifling innovation.

Strategic solutions:

Enhanced public-private partnerships (PPPs): Collaborating with tech giants like Google and Microsoft can boost digital literacy and infrastructure. For example, India’s partnerships have significantly increased digital literacy and employability.

Investment in infrastructure: Robust digital infrastructure is crucial. The Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, led by Bosun Tijani, is spearheading initiatives to improve Nigeria’s ICT infrastructure, drawing inspiration from South Korea’s broadband success.

Inclusive policies: Promoting digital literacy and access across all societal segments. The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) is actively working on such programmes.

Regulatory reforms: Updating regulations to foster innovation, similar to Estonia’s successful digital governance framework.

Government-Led Digital Literacy Programmes: Nationwide programs focusing on in-demand digital skills can empower citizens to participate in the digital economy.

Incentives for tech investments: Tax breaks and grants for tech companies can spur economic growth. Singapore’s success in attracting tech investments serves as a model.

Support for women and underrepresented groups: Initiatives like Tech4Dev in Nigeria are crucial for bridging the gender gap and ensuring inclusive growth.

Bosun Tijani aptly stated, “By ensuring access to digital skills and opportunities, we are paving the way for a prosperous future.” This underscores the importance of inclusive digital policies and the transformative potential of digital technologies for Nigeria’s economic growth.

Source: World Bank, World Development Report 2016; DataReportal, Digital 2024: Global Overview Report

Digital transformation holds the key to addressing Nigeria’s unemployment crisis by creating jobs, enhancing employability, and fostering economic growth. By leveraging digital technologies and effective project management, Nigeria can unlock new opportunities for its youth, driving sustainable development and prosperity.

Embracing digital transformation is not just a technological shift but a societal one that requires commitment from both public and private sectors. Investments in digital infrastructure, comprehensive skill development programmes, and progressive regulatory frameworks will lay the foundation for a robust digital economy.

Nigeria can position itself as a leader in the African digital landscape by fostering an environment where tech startups can thrive, offering incentives for innovation, and ensuring inclusivity in digital education. Moreover, with targeted support for underrepresented groups, the nation can ensure that the benefits of digital transformation reach every segment of society.

As global markets become increasingly interconnected, Nigeria’s proactive approach to digital transformation will not only address current challenges but also future-proof the nation’s economy, making it resilient to global shifts and competitive on the international stage.

This comprehensive strategy will pave the way for a future where the Nigerian youth are empowered, industries are modernised, and the economy is vibrant and inclusive.

 

Babalola Williams holds a BSc. Business Administration, MSPM, MBA & MAM (Yale School of Management)