By Ajayi Joel
The future is now! If we don’t know what it should be like, we wouldn’t create it.
In a previous post, I talked about the people responsible for the blame of unemployment in Nigeria, and I will like to say that I wasn’t actually done. I had this all planned to discuss. Matter of fact, I really love the intellectual discussions and comments on the thread in LinkedIn. A lot of which pointed to the fact that I was leaving the government out of the whole blame game. The purpose of that post was achieved which is that many are now aware that the unemployment problem doesn’t just rest on the government alone, as opposed to the common notion of a lot of Nigerians, and Africans in general.
You must have seen how you as a parent, teacher, counselor and even the school system play a role. Unemployment issue has a lot of branches and for it to be totally addressed, we must identify them and cut them off.
Now, the big question: What is the role of the government in this?
Well, I’d love to say that I had to stay up all night reading through all your comments a second time to really analyze your different angles, and views, and I must say that you all have very salient points, and they have not in any way contradicted my own stance. I mean it’s the government; they rule us, we put our hopes on them, we believe them to provide security for us and other necessities of life. Jobs are part of the necessities of life and a key factor in determining economic growth, so they must not be left out. Matter of fact, I am writing this article hoping that eventually it will get to the table of the president. What I want you to do is to share with your family members and political friends as well as your media friends. It will be a long read as well because I will analyze the problems in details and provide solutions.
Giving a quick background of myself, I will say that I decided to tackle this unemployment issue for about two years now, and fix the deficient educational system. A mission I began two years ago which led me to found a company that I have bootstrapped so far. During the course of this mission, I have met with over five hundred youths ranging from dropouts to graduates, and even working class to ask series of questions, and I mean physical interactions. I cannot recall the number of those online I have had to discuss with. I needed to delve into the root of the cause, and I got a lot of insights from a lot of them.
I will say that youth of these days – a lot of them – do not believe in the educational system anymore and they have very salient reasons which I will write a different piece on. I have had to mentor graduates, NYSC corps members and working class on how they can prepare for the future of jobs, and also how to quickly navigate the murky waters of unemployment and scale through. Matter of fact, I cannot recount the number of under-employed who have reached out to me to get pieces of advice on what exactly they need to do to scale up or switch jobs, and which skill they will need to learn where.
I had to give my background so you will know that I am not cooking this up from some book or posts I have read somewhere. Matter of fact, I have traveled 6 campuses across Nigeria just to interact with students and get to gather information from them. I have created several Google forms on different topics, different questions as well just to accumulate data and know where exactly the root cause of unemployment is, how we can fix it, where we should begin, and how we can structure out a plan for it. Now that I’m about to delve into it, I will want you to pay attention, and you can reach out to me to discuss further.
So who exactly should fix unemployment?
Well, it’s the government! In one post of mine, I addressed the fact that while we may think we can fight the battle for African development even if the government isn’t doing anything, I literally spoke about the fact that we will have limitations if we exclude them from this mission to rescue Africa.
If we want to address unemployment, we need to focus on these different angles and I will explain each of them with deep insights.
The Educational Disgust
In my last post, I talked about how rotten the educational system is and how the school system is not preparing the young ones for the future of work. Hence, if the young ones are out there unemployed, then we will have issues with the economy.
The question now is how we can fix education and can it be an individual effort? I have seen so many edutech start-ups arise because of this challenge, and they are really trying to come up with unique solutions for this. However, I do not think there can be unique solution if the government is left out. Personally, I have been working on coming up with the perfect solution for almost two years and each time I think I don’t need the government, I will always see a need for them. Now follow my analysis keenly;
Education is defined as acquiring knowledge that makes you relevant for the world of work. I have defined this in a previous post but I need to define it so we can analyze this together. We should start for the university education. How many graduates were prepared for the world of work based on what they learnt in school? I am not talking about personal development; I mean based on the knowledge gotten in school. How many graduates can come up with solutions to move Africa forward based on what they all learnt in school?
The answer will be negative. Before we come up with a solution and see how the governments can play their roles, let me point out the problems to you from my one full year researching on the problems and seeking solutions.
Learning environment is not flexible: How can a student confidently choose student as a profession when writing down profession in a form. You might want to argue that they are expected to write that because that is what they were sent to do. To learn, right?
What are they learning and who are those teaching them?
What a lot of them do learn isn’t practical. A school shouldn’t be a place for abstract or theories alone; practical should accompany it. However, since it is not the case and I don’t see this fixed anytime soon, then there should be room for flexibility in learning. What exactly do I mean by flexibility?
How can a student go to class for good eight hours in a day from Monday to Friday, then Saturday and sometimes Sundays? It’s ridiculous! What are they learning? Here’s my point: since we “all” know that the knowledge being delivered is almost all outdated in several courses, the learning environment should be flexible to encourage students to involve in other activities aside schooling. On campuses, you will discover that a lot of students have been boxed by the four walls of school, and do not know what is going on in the real world.
So what’s the problem? Lack of flexible learning structure!
Do I have a solution? Of course! The learning structure should be made flexible. There are lots of courses that are not relevant which are still being taught. The educational environment should be specialization-based and not just some wide accumulation of irrelevant knowledge.
If a student needs to study physics, then everything he needs to study physics should be taught. Such a student doesn’t need to learn music, agriculture and all. Who can implement these? The government will pass the bill to the educational body and let work begin to commence on that. As simple as it sounds, I don’t think it can happen in a decade time.
Lack of updated lecturers: Well, we cannot leave the advancement of lecturers to be a personal development. There needs to be a structure in place for them to get advanced knowledge. I will quickly say this: the educational system will keep having issues if there’s no connection between the teachers and the real world. We must first agree that most lecturers only teach theories and they are not aware themselves how it applies to the real world.
Simply, there needs to be a connection between these teachers with the activities of the course they do in real life. Believe you me, there should be some measures taken to ensure this, else it would not be effective. We have seen countless meetings held, and lesser effect it has.
My solution: The use of technology comes into when teachers or lecturers are required to take specific courses from those on the field, and there’s monitoring. Also, there should be a physical connection between teachers and those active on the field.
Lack of the use of technology: The world has advanced; every other system has advanced with the world. The banking system has, from the use of tellers, to ATM, to online transactions, and now the invention of blockchain. The educational world has refused to do anything about advancing. We live in digital world and anything learnt should revolve around the digital world. Learning should take this route. A lot of universities have not encouraged the use of the internet. Do I have a proof? Yes!
I have interviewed hundreds of undergraduates who don’t know what YouTube is, what it is used for, and the fact that it is a major tool for learning. Let’s not talk about the numerous online platforms available. If you learn actively online, kudos to you but believe you me, students should be exposed to the usage of the internet. When I mean using the internet, I mean advantageous use of the internet. I cannot over emphasize this. The problem is: how will it be imbibed as a culture amongst students when the teachers do not know it’s huge benefits. A good example is the engagement I had with a lecturer of mine over a particular issue. We had a course that was basically about knowing conversion of units. I raised up my hand in the class one time, to ask the lecturer why a course will be devoted to learning and memorizing conversion units, when we have the internet.
I could travel to China and not bother about the conversion of naira rate in my mind. I could buy food stuff and convert the units through Google, time zones and all. I have had reasons to chat in different languages using Google Translator. The internet should solve this problem. How do I get to become familiar with the conversion? Practicals!! And these are not taught.
What’s my solution: School should partner with edu-tech start-ups like mine where undergraduates can learn any skill knowledge to complement whatever they’re learning in school. All campuses should make internet accessible and almost free.
Lack of Research and co-hubs: Firstly, I will say that Nigerian universities do not have standard research centers for those who do. When I say standard, I mean African standard. There are few co-hubs instituted by the school where students can collaborate to solve problems, and come up with ideas. Matter of fact, it will be a good source of income for the school. However, how do we expect a student who spends most of his time in class to come up with an innovative idea? Is there any ground for collaboration? Where’s the space for a medicine student to partner with an engineering student to solve a problem, build a product, found a company?
There is a huge gap for development of minds in school and collaboration. Well, I’d say that phase is changing and it’s impressive. However, it’s not all schools.
My solution; School should partner with more institutions. I mean private organizations that are focused on self-development and skill development. Government should also focus on research centers, standard ones. A biologist should be able to go to a center to learn in those old rusty labs. Lastly, school should be able to partner with companies and recruitment agencies to help their students get access to internships as well. I must also emphasize that learning at this stage should be development driven, not instruction-driven. What I simply mean by that is that you should study medicine not only because you want to insert injections into people but because you want to really think of ways to advance medicine. A lot of students who turn out to be graduates have this instruction mentality, where they wait for jobs that will be all about what they need to do, rather than come up with new ways of doing things.
Now, before I will move to the next point, I will say all these can be achieved by an external company to include schools using a digital means. My startup has been focusing on this for about two years, and we will see how all these solutions can be integrated and implemented digitally.
I will explain on this more sometime later. Hopefully, I get an opportunity to speak on channels on how my startup will solve this.
Now that I have addressed education and pointed out places where the government needs to play its own parts, I will still say that a lot of the aforementioned points in education will not be accomplished if some things are not in place. I will address this part from two angles;
- How infrastructural rottenness is causing unemployment
- How it is affecting our economy
Nigeria seems to be a place with poor infrastructural setting, and by infrastructure, I mean basic amenities that will help development. If there are some key infrastructures that shouldn’t be toyed with in this century, it should be electricity, internet and good roads.
If the federal government is not aware of that, maybe we should draw a statistics of mobile phone users between the age of 15 and 35; it is huge both n Africa and Nigeria. This means that smart phone penetration is becoming interesting. If phone penetration is increasing and people as young as this can now afford a good smartphone, don’t you think internet should be prioritized seeing the huge benefits it will bring to youths.
Now the reverse is the case in Africa; tariff plans and extra charges are being placed on internet usage. This is not a good move in any way. Internet subscription is expensive as much as it is not still readily available in a lot of areas. Does this contribute to youth unemployment? Yes! I have had cases where I lost jobs due to internet issues. Let’s not even talk about power supply. What do you charge your mobile devices with? We are in the digital age and one of the factors that will drive the development of youths is power supply.
Talking about economic growth, we have seen that most businesses are centered around the internet. However, because the government has not prioritized this, we see major start-ups leaving the borders of Nigeria which means there will be lesser jobs available. If a company or business cannot expand because of these setbacks, then there will be fewer job opportunities available for those who are in the labour market.
Well, we can say that there are many logistics start-ups arising; however, how well have they scaled in spite of the bad roads that we have. I am not talking about how much they have raised but how much they have made and the rate of growth. While we may be optimistic with what is going on so far, we will keep facing these challenges if the infrastructures are not fixed.
Do we have start-ups trying to solve individual solutions? Yes! I earlier said I’m working on solving education and reducing unemployment through it.
However, we still have a long way to go if we’re all thinking we can thrive without the government.
My next point will be on TAXES and the death of dreams.
Taxes And The Death Of Dreams
The higher the taxes, the more the revenue for the country; I think this is a very interesting point, right? While it may sound logical, it is not practical and I’d explain how this is also affecting the economy and in turn causing unemployment in the country.
Amazon paid zero tax in 2018 in the United States and they were able to provide hundreds of thousands of jobs, can we balance that? One thing to consider here is balancing. Government wants Amazon to create jobs; there’s a huge lesson the Nigerian government needs to learn from them.
- Do we need more businesses to stabilize the economy
- Can SMEs scale with the current tax policies
- Can huge companies expand with the current tax policies?
Now let’s take it one at a time.
- Do we need more businesses to stabilize the economy?
Does this sound like a question to you? If it does, it shouldn’t be however. Every economy needs more running and profitable businesses to keep the economy active. However, for businesses to function effectively and focus on making profits, infrastructures need to be in place which I talked about in the previous point. Is that all? Definitely not. In a continent like Africa, ripple effect in scaling is almost impossible due to several limiting factors in the continent; businesses need to run on low as much as possible to be able to keep the company afloat from bankruptcy.
What our government needs to realize is that by depending on taxes as a huge source of revenue, they are killing other huge channels that could create revenue. Should companies pay their taxes? Well, yes. That’s not what I’m saying. At this stage in Africa, Nigeria especially, if there’s anything that we need to focus on, it’s on economic development, and economic development will only occur if businesses are thriving. How will a fruit company expand to become an agricultural company, and then cover their logistics if the taxes being accessed on them are rather huge?
More so, if these companies expand, it is a good thing to more jobs entering into the space.
- Can SMEs scale with the current tax policies? Well, I don’t this so; I earlier clarified that above there.
My suggestion: There should be a direct flow of money between small businesses and investors. That’s a huge problem we have. There’s a big gap between small businesses and investors and I’d say I’m impressed that some things are being done to address them. However, drastic actions need to be taken if we really want to address unemployment.
- Can huge companies expand with the current tax policies? Sorry, no.
While it’s also good that we are being given aids by foreign bodies, it’s also a huge harm to our structuring. It’s not wrong to be given aids; it’s however wrong to be a country that has depended on aids for so long.
In summary, if these points are addressed, I think so far so good, we’re on the path to fixing unemployment.