Presently, from all available indexes, there are apparent signs of extreme poverty across the world. Nigeria, according to a 2013 World Bank data is one of the top five countries with the leading amount of poor people.
In Africa, the practicality of poverty is quite frightening as most Africans live on less than a dollar income per day. Perhaps more niggling is that, with 34 out of a total of 49, African countries account for a greater proportion of the Least Developed Countries, LDCs, in the world. This, perhaps, explains why poverty indicators such as extreme hunger, malnourishment, homelessness, diseases, high crime rate, slums, lack of opportunities, low productivity and illiteracy abound in larger quantity in the continent.
Understandably, the poverty situation in Africa has direct connection with unemployment. In Nigeria, unemployment has become a time bomb with thousands of job seekers turning out for a job exercise that was meant to employ just a tiny fraction of the applicants.
That our country is in deep rooted unemployment web is further confirmed by the highlights of the Unemployment and Underemployment Watch for first quarter of 2015. According to the report, a total of 17.7 million people between ages 15 and 65 either unemployed or underemployed in the labour force in Q1 2015. The report further asserts that the number of unemployed people (861,110 people) in the first quarter 2015 was more than the number of employed people within the same period (504,596 persons).
It is in order to frontally address the poverty and unemployment situation in the country that the Lagos State government under the leadership of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode has given top priority to wealth creation and poverty eradication.
Indeed, one of the very first tasks performed by Governor Ambode upon his inauguration was the creation of a Ministry of Wealth Creation and Employment with the sole aim of solving the unemployment quandary in the state. The Ministry is to give identity to unemployed youths in the State and also provide business support services for small businesses and entrepreneurs in the state.
The Ministry has since come up with many initiatives aimed at enhancing wealth creation in the State. One of is such is tagged Equal Opportunity for all in a Competitive Environment which cuts across the five divisions of the state. It is aimed at sensitizing Lagos residents about job opportunities in the state and the various skills needed to be suitable for such.
Equally related to this is the empowerment initiative that is done in collaboration with stakeholders both in the public and private sectors. The major goal is to boost the employability and entrepreneurship ability of the youth in particular and Lagos residents in general. It is equally meant to compliment government’s efforts in reducing graduate unemployment.
The pilot effort, which was done in partnership with Chapel of Christ the Light Youth Empowerment Initiative (CYEI), is already serving as a catalyst being projected to bring about over 2000 business start-ups and over 8,500 jobs by the Year 2020. It is important to stress that CYEI now has in place a government approved facility for Entrepreneurship Studies and ICT Employability Skills Training. The programme offers a wide range of courses covering 21 ICT Special ICT certificate aligned courses, 58 other ICT as well as 7 Employability Training programmes.
In order to create the conducive environment that will further stimulate wealth creation among Lagos residents, the state government recently domesticated the Federal Government’s policy on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). Similarly, the Ambode administration recently inaugurated the state Council on MSMEs for proper coordination of the MSMEs in the state. The Council would identify MSMEs operating in the state to help enhance their productivity and enable them to serve as the bedrock for the economic development of the state.
As a further step to encourage growth of MSME in the state, the state government recently held the maiden edition of its MSME fair in collaboration with Konga Online Shopping Ltd. The event was principally designed to promote locally made products, create employment and generate wealth. The maiden edition availed local entrepreneurs opportunity to exhibit their products for prospective consumers. Governor Ambode was among the numerous callers that were on hand to catch a glimpse of the numerous locally produced items that were on display at the fair.
In order to ensure that the required workforce to enhance the operations of MSMEs in the state is readily and constantly available, the state government is equally boosting technical education in the state. Technical education prepares people for specific trades, crafts and careers at various levels. It is based on manual or practical activities, related to a specific trade, occupation, or vocation. It makes the trainee develop expertise or skill in a particular group of techniques. To boost technical education in Lagos, the state government is partnering with Samsung and other with the required expertise in developing technical education in the state through infrastructural development and provision of equipment.
It must be affirmed that enormous potentials are to be explored both in the private and public sector by those with the required vocational skills as there is high demand for technical skills in the state and the country in general. This sometimes necessitates sourcing for skilled professionals from neighbouring countries to fill the gap.
Perhaps, the most creative and strategic step taken, thus far, by the state government to create wealth and tackle unemployment in the state is the establishment of an N25bn Employment Trust Fund, ETF. The major aim of the Fund is to address unemployment and promote wealth creation through entrepreneurial development. The scheme is hinged on a strategic plan by the state government to make an annual contribution of N6.25billion for four years by which time the Fund would have reached the projected N25billion mark.
The Fund is to be given out as loan with moderate interest rate of 3% per annum (the lowest rate in the country so far) to Lagos residents with innovative business ideas. It should be stressed, however, that the management of the Fund is strictly a private sector affair. In order to make its management transparent and professional, the state government has appointed a Board of Trustees to administer its affairs. Former Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, Mrs. Ifueko Omoigui-Okauru heads the Board.
When critically viewed, the Ambode administration’s renewed effort at wealth creation is a logical one. The inherent pressure on Lagos state in terms of economic migration makes it imperative for the state government to be actively involved in wealth creation endeavours. With the comatose national economy and a frightening unemployment statistics, we cannot afford to take the issue of wealth creation lightly. Therefore, all hands need to be on deck if we are to urgently rescue our nation from the deadly grip of socio-economic destitution.