I hear there was a time when jobs were plentiful. Whether white or blue or pink collared, young people were assured of some employment or the other at the end of their education or training.
I didn’t meet that. If I hadn’t heard of it, I would never have known such times existed. Interestingly, this problem isn’t the exclusive preserve of Nigeria; all around the world, countries are groaning under what should ordinarily have been a blessing: the percentage of youth amongst them.
Populations have expanded exponentially, literally taking governments by surprise. Saudi Arabia has 70% of its people under 30 and half of that number under 20. Kuwait has 60% under 25. Nigeria has 75% of its 170 million population under 35. It gets worse; 40-50% of them are unemployed.
That was the thrust of the Abuja Hub virtual #ShapingDavos session on #ShapingWork , held on January 22, 2015, led by former Director General of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), Mr. Frank Nweke. Themed, “Engaging Youth in Work”, this session connected the Abuja (Nigeria), Jeddah (Saudi Arabia), Orlando (United States), and Chandigarh (India) Hubs via Skype and Satellite to Davos where renowned broadcaster Nick Gowing moderated a panel featuring Omar Alghanim, Dominic Barton, and Nigeria’s own Aliko Dangote.
The discussion? Everyone agreed unemployment amongst young people was an issue even though they had several approaches to it. From a lack of futuristic thinking on the part of governments to the unemployability of youths, to the outdated curricula youth are taught with that don’t ready them to solve any of the problems in today’s ever evolving world, it seems that we have a lot of young people without a lot to do with them or to give them to do. A lot of people share this sentiment.
The rising tide of unemployment was also strongly linked to terrorism simply because idle minds are the devils playground. Perhaps to corroborate that are news reports that said some Boko Haram recruits were unemployed university graduates.
The discussion peaked with this question: “what new thinking and approaches can close the unemployment gap?
One word that resonated with me? Entrepreneurship! Young people taking hold of their destinies (and quickly too) and discarding the “give me give me” mentality, Onyeka Onwenu referred to in the local panel discussion earlier in the day.
Agreed. But can entrepreneurship exist in isolation? What’s the hope of a young graduate from a low or middle-income family who wants to start a business who cannot access a loan? Immediate costs include funds to pay for two years rent, run a generator, sustain himself, and all of this starting from zero? How about Graduate Internship Schemes (and the Federal Government through the Subsidy Reinvestment Programme rolled that out in 2013), mentorship programmes too? How about good roads, stable electricity, and other infrastructure that create the enabling environment for small and medium scale businesses to thrive or at least survive?
One of the panelists said world leaders need to react to unemployment with the urgency the Ebola Virus Disease was given. I totally agree. Another said governments must stop lip service to employment issues and truly map out interventions to drastically reduce the percentages.
I couldn’t agree more.
Another thing I was totally excited by? The talent in the room! During out networking session, I met two dentists, one farmer, one lawyer, an environmentalist, a lady who writes code (whoop), and the DJ/sound guy who is a 3rd year student at university but fends for himself by playing at events.
#ShapingDavos was a rounded, tell-it-as-it-is discussion and I can only hope that the corresponding actions are taken, and quickly too.
Originally written for and posted on the Global Shapers website.