Leveraging N-Knowledge to Tackle Youth Unemployment | The Guardian Nigeria News
The global economy is at the feet of those who dare, in the space of entrepreneurship. This space has become increasingly virtual, giving rise to an entirely new model known as the digital economy – a concept believed to hold the key to solving devastating youth unemployment.
The World Bank had, at the beginning of the decade, estimated that less than 50% of the billion young people expected to enter the labor market by 2030 would find formal employment, leaving the rest underemployed or unemployed. This projection was of course made without anticipating the ripple effects of COVID-19, which in 2020 pushed the unemployment rate to the worst level in more than seven decades.
If unemployment, in its general term, is a social challenge, the youth variant is a crisis with debilitating consequences. Indeed, it is across the world – fueling social upheaval, challenging efforts to achieve sustainable growth, eroding positive values while fueling an unhealthy culture, including gangsterism and substance addiction.
Every region – Asia, Eastern Europe, South America, the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and others – is grappling with its fair share (in varying degrees) of the social ills unleashed by a growing army of young not engaged.
Historically, violent crime is a growing function of youth unemployment. The situation in South Africa has repeatedly confirmed this. With an unemployment rate of 34.9% and around 60% of young people unemployed, the former apartheid country has the worst labor market statistics in Africa. The violent attacks, especially against foreigners often accused of unemployment, appear to reflect growing unemployment, which President Cyril Ramaphosa once described as “deep and severe”.
In Nigeria too, decades-long frustration with the lack of attention to young people has been unleashed during the #EndSARS protests, which have been hijacked and turned against the state and private corporations in self-destructive ways. To this day, many businesses and public entities are grappling with the ruins of this unfortunate incident. As with similar attacks in other regions, uncommitted youths became readily available for the wanton destruction that followed the protests.
Different governments have understood that the idleness of young people can only be ignored at the risk of society. A few countries have also admitted that the brick-and-mortar economy can only engage a limited number of the booming youth population. The World Bank, the United Nations, the International Labor Organization (ILO) and many other institutions have recognized the diminishing opportunities in the conventional economy to contain the unrest.
This informed the emerging shift to the ‘knowledge’ economy. In Nigeria, there had been discussions on how the energy of young people could be positively harnessed to drive migration. A few years ago, the process began in the form of N-Power, a program that aims to create and expand a pool of employable young people through skills training and community service, in addition to a guaranteed monthly allowances.
A sub-category of N-Power – N-Knowledge – has been designed as one of the most recent additions to the National Social Investment Program (NSIP) to equip young Nigerians who have not received higher education useful and relevant skills and certifications that will transform them. as catalysts for innovation, entrepreneurship and job creation. It resonates with the aspiration and energy that drives technology and innovation hubs in Computer Village, Yaba, Wuse and different parts of Nigeria.
In a statement announcing the latest implementation of the initiative, at the end of 2021, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq, said the program would focus on global competitiveness of young people Nigerians as innovators and entrepreneurs.
The Minister added that the initiative was designed for non-graduates, to give them the opportunity to learn skills to improve their lives and turn them into entrepreneurs, and not just an addition to existing safety nets.
“The N-Power (N-Knowledge) program will enable 20,000 young Nigerians to hone themselves on the global radar as exporters of world-class services and content in the creative and IT sectors .
“It will develop skills and capabilities along defined competencies in the mobile application and website development value chain while stimulating the talent development effort for the growth of the information technology industry in Nigeria. The program consists of centralized training in the camp for three months with a six-month apprenticeship in the six geopolitical zones,” the minister said.
As part of the training module, beneficiaries were introduced to soft skills, attitude reorientation and work ethics to improve their interpersonal skills, useful for career development and entrepreneurship.
During the first three months of the first edition, which was an internship program, the trainees underwent a three-month training in the four thematic areas – animation, scriptwriting, software and hardware.
The first edition, with 20,000 young Nigerians as beneficiaries (including persons with disabilities), took place in the six geopolitical zones of the country.
Upon arrival at the training camps, each participant received N42,000 to cover transport in addition to a monthly stipend of N10,000. The stipend would continue for nine months, a six-month apprenticeship period included. The program also includes starter packs, which included a laptop computer to help young beneficiaries get settled.
Perhaps the approach suggests that N-Knowledge, if sustained, will not only democratize Yaba potential, but also create an incentive to make engagement more attractive to large numbers of young people who would otherwise have been sold to drugs, to the cult. and other social vices, thus becoming burdens on their families and the whole society.
The culture of learning is elevated to the national level, as a federal government policy priority. Furthermore, it is a remarkable change from a culture of charity. Of course, 20,000 young people pale in significance when compared to the millions of peers currently wallowing in unemployment or working poverty. But it is certainly important to solving the problem of unemployment at the national, state and local levels.
This number, replicated across space and time, could bring a remarkable shift in the Federal Government’s ambition to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty over the next decade.
Regulation of services in the digital economy is tricky, making the market somewhat borderless. This makes it a burden for countries that lack modern technological capabilities, as it aggravates capital flight.
For example, reports indicate that the Nigerian software market is 77% foreign-dominated, while hardware used by local companies is 86% imported, with only 14% locally sourced. Meanwhile, in terms of human capital, Olalekan Busra Sakariyau, professor of entrepreneurship and e-business and head of entrepreneurship and business studies at the Federal University of Technology in Minna, Niger State , noted that the ratio of Nigerians to foreigners in the industry is as high as 98 percent at two percent.
This imbalance has triggered a search for viable solutions to fill the capacity gap that is undoubtedly evident. There are a number of federal programs and initiatives designed to benefit creatives, including IT professionals, and domiciled in different ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs).
What may be missing, however, is a realistic and centrally coordinated national policy direction to harness the potential of young people and develop them into an army of talent for local needs and export. N-Knowledge, perhaps, will provide that missing link.
Interestingly, young Nigerians have demonstrated that they can share the world stage. Amid waning apathy for overseas investment in October 2020, a Silicon Valley fintech, Stripe, bet on Nigeria’s Paystack for $200 million (83 billion naira using the exchange rate of ‘ today) – an amount almost double the entire Monthly Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of Lagos, the most economically viable state in the country.
When Paystack was acquired, it was already serving 60,000 customers, including multinational corporations. But the most intriguing aspect are the credentials of the founders. The combined age of Shola Akinlade and Ezra Olubi, the founders, was approximately 60 at the time the transaction was sealed. Nor were they particularly in the league of Harvard business leaders. But they had what the contemporary world needs: energy, digital talent and the courage to dare.
With more attention, individuals have suggested, the country can produce many more country stacks that companies and individuals around the world would want to partner with or acquire. When this happens, millions of young, innocent Nigerians will have a rare opportunity to earn a decent living and be removed from the company of career criminals. And it is hoped that N-Knowledge will figure prominently in these new emerging narratives.