I received my first job offer nine months before graduation in FUTO (Federal University of Technology Owerri, Nigeria). I neither applied nor interviewed for the job. I was away on business in Onitsha and Aba for a week [I published a campus news magazine FUTO Bubbles and was out to collect money from advertisers, mainly bookshops and electronic component sellers]. I made it back to school. I was told that the Head of Department wanted to see me. I met him and he gave me a document. Prof SOE Ogbogu had already signed and accepted the job for me. I thanked him, collected the offer and left. (Those days in FUTO, top 1% of graduates get jobs while in school. Before graduation, I received three jobs excluding the academic Grad Assistant offer to teach in the school).
It was an experience: I was going to start work three days after defending my final year project [defend on Friday, start work on Monday]. It was a great job with an apartment, a car with a driver, and a good pay. Nigeria set me up with many choices in life. I am always positive on Nigeria – it has been good to me.
Think about it when you look at the challenges our young graduates are going through. It is a national problem and our government must do all necessary to make sure our economy works better.
We have a big problem in Nigeria right now. Unemployment is destroying the promises of a generation of young people. With extremely limited decent labor entry points, our young people would lag their peers in career developments within years.
In America, they talk of black swans: ” high-impact risks that are highly improbable and therefore almost impossible to predict”. Yes, “an unpredictable or unforeseen event, typically one with extreme consequences.” That is it: “something extremely rare”. So, because it is rare, you do not (usually) plan for it. Arab Spring was a black swan as the leaders of North Africa could not have modeled that risk.
In Nigeria, we do not just have black swan. We have gray lizard. It is a high impact risk, that is highly probable and evidently visible but totally, widely and irresponsibly ignored. The massive youth unemployment in Nigeria is a gray lizard. Governments see it daily but it is totally ignored.
Nigeria has about 96% of all its enterprises within the SMEs categories but those SMEs generate about 50% of the employment, according to the World Bank [Broadly, 96% of Nigerian businesses are SMEs while the MSME (micro, small and medium scale enterprises) sector employs over 59 million (84.02% of the total labour force) people in Nigeria. The MSMEs remain the engine of economic growth in Nigeria]. The implication is that our SMEs are not creating jobs at the rates that would help the economy. One way to fix this problem is to make it easier to put private capital in them. I had advocated a tax incentive that would see massive injection of capital in Nigerian small businesses and startups. Government can also modernize the apprentice system in most southeastern communities to make it more efficient.
Government should offer new VC (venture capital) firms in Nigeria a ten year tax incentive on profits if they have asset base of at least $50 million and will deploy the capital in Nigerian startups within 10 years.
Offer new VC firms in Nigeria the opportunity to repatriate 100% of profit within ten years. That will help the country to attract foreign investors to make Nigeria home.
It would be really good for many young people to experience the kind of opportunity Nigeria gave me. It boosts confidence and helps people pursue visions. I have built on that support Nigeria gave me.