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Patrick O. Okigbo III: Dear Young Nigerian, Hustle, Learn A Trade

Patrick O. Okigbo III: Dear Young Nigerian, Hustle, Learn A Trade 

-Patrick O. Okigbo III

Young Nigerian,

I hope this letter meets you well.

Permit me to start with some bad news. Don’t worry, I will end with some really good news.

Here is the bad news.

If you are unemployed, the likelihood that you will get a job in Nigeria is very slim. According to Nigeria Bureau of Statistics, of the 200 million of us, 115 million are of working age but only 90 million are active in the labour force. About 70 million of this number are employed (full time and part time) while about 20 million are unemployed but actively looking for jobs. If I was a betting man, I won’t take these odds.

In the last 5 years, an additional 19 million Nigerians entered the labour force. In the same period, only 3.5 million jobs were created. This means that 8 out of 10 Nigerians who entered the labour force in the period are still looking for jobs. 4 out of every 10 young Nigerian aged between 15 and 24 years is unemployed Indeed, 15.5 million Nigerians joined the 20 million who were already unemployed. Not good at all.

The government can’t save you. The World Bank claims that Nigeria needs to create 30 million new jobs between now and 2030 to maintain the current (un)employment rate. The fact is that the country needs to create multiples of that number to defuse the ticking time bomb. Sadly, it can’t. In the period between Q3 2017 and Q3 2018, 5 million Nigerians entered the labour force to join the millions that are already unemployed; yet, only 450,000 net new jobs were created in that period. By the time all the politicians (and the well-connected) secure jobs for their children and constituents, it is less than likely that any of the jobs will come your way.

Now, let’s shift gears to some good news.

No matter the financial state of these 200 million Nigerians (employed or unemployed), they still need the basic necessities of food, clothing, shelter. Nigeria’s population will grow at about half a billion within your lifetime. That is a huge market even if many of us currently live in poverty.

Young NIgerian, instead of waiting on the job queue for the elusive opportunity, consider learning a trade to provide any of the above basic needs. A number of you have already joined the fashion hustle. Well done! Keep upping your game. Soon you will be earning more than your mates who are tellers in banks.

As you know, “man must wak”. While you may wish to get into the production side of agriculture, there are huge opportunities on the post-harvest side of the business. Nigeria is still the highest producer of many agro-products but about 60-70 percent of the produce are lost after harvest. Anyone who can extend the shelf-life of any of these produce will make some decent money once the harvest season is over. You are young. You have energy. You can think. Think of a solution to the post-harvest losses and you may be the one we will look to create those millions of jobs.

Shelter! While you may not currently have the capital to get into construction, there are a myriad services you can provide to those in the real estate space. As you know, anyone who wants decent floor tiling work in Nigeria knows to look for artisans from Cotonou. Meanwhile there are millions of Nigerians complaining that they have no jobs. Young Nigerian, let go of the pride; learn how to be a mason and you will be an employer of labour.

A few years ago, I met a young man (who is probably reading this post) when he was looking for a job. I advised him to get off the job queue and learn a trade. He agreed and learned how to provide “cleaning services”. He started small. Very small. Today, he employs over 35 staff and has offices in Lagos, Abuja, and Port Harcourt. Not shabby.

There are many unsexy professions that are waiting for you to get in there and take it over. Earlier today, Ndubuisi N Nwokolo tried to convince me to change my mechanic. Why? The young man who services his car (mechanic) has mastered how to use WhatsApp to show progress while the work is going on. Ndu is paying slightly higher for the service but he is happy. That young man (who is a graduate, by the way), is one less person on the job queue. He has also employed a few other young Nigerians to work for him.

There is no point playing the ostrich. There is no point hoping that a miracle will happen and all of a sudden Nigeria will become like Norway. It won’t happen anytime soon. Fact. But you can do something about it. You can learn a trade and hustle yourself out of this quicksand that many young Nigerians have found themselves in.

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