Unemployment and underemployment have been on the rise in Nigeria. Employers are downsizing at a ridiculous rate. More devastating is the fact that government has failed to provide basic infrastructure that could boost employment generation and general development of the country.
Consequently, unemployment has affected every structure of our society. It has cracked many families, turned many into professional beggars and contributes to dysfunctional of both the education and religious institutions. It also stands to reason that there is a correlation between the youth unemployment in the land and varied heinous crimes.
The challenges pose by unemployment are such that both federal and state governments cannot but quickly initiate and implement policies to stem the tide of the menace. This time around, however, governments cannot afford to resort to mistake of the past whereby thousands of people were employed for political expediency in largely unproductive tasks.
Though no state is immune from the unemployment problem, Lagos still stands out as a model of how the quandary could be solved. The state government is employing diverse strategies to curtail the evil effects of unemployment. One area through which this is being done is the State Employability Support project which performs dual role of human capital empowerment by introducing free skills training and retraining and provision of soft loans to enable youths establish their own businesses. One major hallmark of the scheme is that it is solving two problems at a time via-a-viz access to capital and the cost of capital without any form of collateral.
As a broad-based employment strategy, the project has a platform tagged: “Graduate Internship Scheme” which has been given interns an opportunity to develop employability skills vital in securing employment. The scheme, planned as a 3-month paid internship scheme for graduates with a minimum of one-year post N.Y.S.C, has been of help to interns in gaining valuable applied work experience, build up their professional network and exposing them to possible inclination for entrepreneurial opportunities.
For the informal sector, the platform provides six to eight weeks of vocational training to Lagos residents between the ages of 18 and 35 years. The platform is aimed at entrepreneurship development through establishment and promotion of business to create sustainable wealth and employment.
These are institutionalized programme of the Ministry of Wealth Creation and Employment and the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund, meant to vigorously improve the local economy by creating a skilled and experienced workforce. To cement the State desire for an entrepreneurial spirit in the citizens of Lagos State, thereby solving the lingering crisis of unemployment and constraint to wealth creation in the state, government is also collaborating with West Africa Vocational Education Academy (WAVE) to train unemployed youths on employable skills and job opportunities. The training is designed to equip the unemployed with soft skills and prepare them for entry-level jobs within the hospitality, wholesale and retail sectors.
In addition, the State government has continued to engage the informal sector by organizing a forum to stimulate greater interaction with stakeholders for the government to identify problems bedeviling the sector. About 250 trade associations have been identified in the State to date, with over 80 trade associations registered.
No wonder, the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund, LSETF, has been described as revolutionary, breaking a barrier that a lot of Small and Medium-Scale businesses encounter when starting, by providing the funds to enable them to be able to actualize a dream and create jobs for our unemployed youths in the process. As at last year, over 1, 401 applicants benefited from the scheme. Ordinarily, loan seekers have to approach a bank and must be ready to provide required collateral, which sadly most SMEs operators might not have. Cheeringly, the LSETF provides quick and affordable loans.
While many people have heard about Employability Support Project of the State, everyone may not yet know that the loan application process was much smoother than might be expected. But that is the fact. In fact, a lot less was required than a bank would ask you to provide. Many of the beneficiaries have testified openly to this. The experience of one Nike Majekodunmi, one of the first beneficiaries of the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund was all over the media. Nike runs NUTS ABOUT Cakes; a bakery located in Lekki Phase One. According to her, two weeks after interview, she received a confirmation via SMS that her batch had been approved for the loan sought. In her case, the funds helped her to open a new branch at Agungi, Lekki Expressway and to recruit more hands for the business.
With the level of jobs created so far and number of Lagosians being added into the tax net, other States could learn a lot even if they won’t establish a Ministry of Wealth Creation like Lagos, the idea of embarking on human capital empowerment by introducing free skills training and retraining and provision of soft loans to enable youths establish their own businesses is worthy of understudying and replicating.
It is of note to observe that come 2019 when the framework of LSETF would be due for revision, the target would be to have disbursed loans to at least a 100,000 businesses with the overall target of creating at least one million jobs within same period.
Other strategic plan of creating wealth and employment in the State are those that involved highly improved business and investment climate the state has achieved over the years. The state has automated service delivery in all its ministries, departments and agencies and is on the verge of putting in place payment solutions that will enable members of the public to access its geographic information system, GIS, from their homes in order to transact business with the government.
One can also delve on the impact of renewal of road infrastructure across the state, Cleaner Lagos Initiative and innovation and infrastructural development in the transport sector among others. Thousands of jobs have been created through these sectors.
Added to the above is the fact that the State has a broad-based economic strategy to achieve its development agenda. The institutionalization of state’s economic policies as we have here is what investors have been urging Nigeria to do for a lot time because when policies are institutionalized, they are not personalized. It therefore makes continuity seamless.
It is expected that with improved security, regular power supply as well as availability of other necessary infrastructure, the full economic potential of Lagos would soon be unleashed to the benefit of not only Nigeria but the entire African continent. Businesses and industries would flourish even more because their cost of operation would have been drastically reduced.