The National Bureau of Statistics recently published that unemployment in Nigeria presently stands at 21 per cent. This is the percentage of the labour force that is without job. The rate of unemployment is highest in the North East and lowest in the South West according to the report.
The overall implication is policy failure and shows a disconnect with the economic growth rate of over 7 per cent. This is no prosperity particularly as the level of unemployment is not abating. The level of unemployment is reported to be highest in the rural areas and this has clear implication for development because there is an obvious link between urban - rural migration.
The federal government has enacted a number of policies aimed at alleviating poverty and improving unemployment, the latest being the SURE-P programme.There are also a number of institutions established with the goal of providing employment and alleviate poverty towards a establishing a robust economy.There are two major sectors of the economy that seem to provide ready employment in Nigeria: Agriculture and Trade.
These sectors are largely made up of informal economic activities which hardly grow beyond subsistence and most times unsustainable. Those programmes established for the purpose of creating jobs and wealth hit the ground barely crawling not out of dearth of entrepreneurial skills or capacity on part of target persons, but due to absence of infrastructure and enabling environment.
Providing access to micro-credit may seem a viable strategy, but faced with daunting challenges from the macro-economic environment such as non-functional infrastructure, eroding financial power of consumers and unfair competition from products of more sophisticated technology, with a well organized value chain and market strategies, the cry for economic self engagement is for the teeming unemployed does not potray a serious commitment on the part of policy makers.
Agriculture is one sector that if encouraged would not just provide employment for all persons from all walks of life, but will also address our looming food crises. It is an easily available strategic tool in development kits. It requires massive investment in research and development of new technologies and technicalities suitable for our indigenous environment. There are enough agricultural research institutes and centres around the country that only need to be well funded for a successful revolution in agriculture to the benefit of the larger society.
We believe that people will engage in more productive economic activities if the business environment becomes more conducive. People will engage in manufacturing and their activities will boost the real sector if the macro-economic environment becomes enabling and employment will be created simultaneously. There is also the need to organize the agricultural and manufacturing sectors into viable economic driving machines.