One of the most critical challenges facing Nigeria today is the unacceptably high rate of unemployment. With the reported unemployment rate of over 33 percent, Nigeria has the second highest unemployment rate in the world. This is totally unacceptable. It is, indeed, a ticking time bomb… a disaster waiting to happen.
It is rather unfortunate that most Nigerians have not considered the implication of this sad reality. I think we should all be worried. Note that I’m not just saying the government should be worried, I’m talking about every Nigerian. Yes, everybody in Nigeria needs to be worried!
Do you know the implication of having a third of your workforce jobless? We are talking about tens of millions of able bodied men and women sitting around, doing nothing! You know what they say about idle minds being the devil’s workshop. We are truly sitting on a keg of gunpowder!
Of course we’ve always known that the unemployment situation in Nigeria is bad. All you need to do is move around the streets. Whether in the day or at night, you would see people roaming aimlessly about. You would find hawkers all over the place. And if you look closely, you will realize that the total value of what these individuals are hawking is not nearly enough to sustain a human being.
What this implies is that majority of these hawkers are just passing the time. Many transform into petty thieves and robbers at night. You can see why I stated earlier that we should all be concerned. I’m restating it. No society can survive for very long with this level of unemployment. There’s bound to be an implosion. These jobless people are bound to fight back because their government has failed them.
The unfortunate thing is that, when the crisis starts, there’s not going to be a distinction between people in government and ordinary hardworking individuals. Everybody becomes a target.
So what are we going to do? How do we avert this disaster waiting to happen? There must be an economic revolution. Yes, a revolution. There has to be a total economic transformation.
And how can this be achieved? The government has to create an enabling environment for entrepreneurs to thrive. A number of deliberate policy measures need to be put in place.
First of all, drastic measures have to be taken to tackle our worsening security challenges. There is a symbiotic relationship between unemployment and insecurity just like there’s a relationship between security and the economy. Entrepreneurship cannot thrive under our current horrendous security situation. I do not want to dwell so much on security because I’m sure the government has what it takes to deal with it.
We need to do something about our ease of doing business. A lot has been said about government’s efforts to improve the ease of doing business in Nigeria, but I’m afraid the effects of these efforts are not being felt by businesses. What the government needs is to put in place deliberate policies and follow up with adequate machinery to ensure full implementation.
We also need to get serious about improving the content and quality of education. I can tell you that no economy can thrive without massive investment in education. The government needs to stop paying lip service to education. There’s need to overhaul our education curriculum. We need to embrace technical education. We need to embrace technology. We need to embrace quality education.
Finally, special attention needs to be given to mechanized agriculture, manufacturing and, of course, information technology. These are the drivers of most thriving economies. Look at China. How did they move from being an impoverished country to being the second biggest economy in the world within a space of thirty years?
I believe that Nigeria can surpass China if we are determined to. It only takes the will to admit that we have been towing the wrong path and make that collective decision to change our path. We need the government to provide the leadership, but we must also be prepared to do our part as citizens. We must also be prepared to hold our government accountable without any consideration of tribe. This means we must ensure that we elect leaders who are willing to serve… leaders who are willing to be held accountable. We must all say no to corruption in all it’s ramifications!
Engr. Onyebu is chairman, Manufacturing Association of Nigeria, Apapa Branch