Ihuoma Chiedozie, Abuja
The African Development Bank on Monday said the unemployment situation in Nigeria was frightening and could become catastrophic if decent jobs were not created for the country’s youth population.
It raised the concern at the regional presentation of a report entitled, ‘Creating decent jobs: Strategies, policies and instruments’, in Abuja.
The report, a compilation of policy recommendations from some of the world’s leading labour and development economists, also looked at the unemployment situation in different African countries.
Senior Director, Nigeria Country Department, AfDB, Mr Ebrima Faal, in an address, said Africa was currently facing a job crisis, with the African Economic Outlook estimating that 20 million new jobs needed to be created annually until 2030 to absorb new entrants to the workforce.
Faal, however, noted that the situation in Nigeria was frightening due to the country’s population.
Only the creation of decent jobs for the nation’s fast-growing youth population would prevent the situation from turning into a catastrophe, he stated.
He said, “The situation for Nigeria is much more frightening. As the most populous country in Africa, the World Population Review estimates that Nigeria’s population is expected to double – from about 200 million today to 401.3 million people by 2050. This will make Nigeria the third most populous country in the world after China and India, overtaking the United States.
“As China’s population shrinks, that of Nigeria will nearly triple from the current level by 2100. Nigeria has the highest number of the youth on the continent, which represents almost one-third of its total population (one out of three African youths). In addition, youth population in Nigeria has tripled over the past 40 years.”
The AfDB official said if the trend was maintained, youth population in Nigeria would exceed 130 million by 2063, needing decent jobs to forestall a catastrophe.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, Nigeria has some of the highest unemployment and underemployment rates in Africa, put respectively at 23.1 per cent and 20.1 per cent.
Specifically, the country’s youth unemployment rate, according to the NBS, is 29.7 per cent. Women unemployment rate is put at 26.6 per cent.
Faal described President Muhammadu Buhari’s call for the creation of 100 million jobs in Nigeria within 10 years as timely, but added that bold political will and sustainable policy efforts’ would be required to realise the plan.
He noted that Africa’s population, projected to get to 2.5 billion by 2050, could worsen the current economic, political and social problems and render Africans vulnerable to illegal activities, while also fueling migration within and out of the continent.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, represented by Director of Special Duties and Projects at the ministry, Dr Martina Nwordu, said that the unemployment rate on the continent was a threat that should be tackled strategically.
He said insecurity, criminal activities, proliferation of small arms and hard drugs were linked to unemployment.
Also speaking on threats posed by the high unemployment rate in the country, President of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Mr Mansur Ahmed, said a new approach had to be adopted in tackling the problem.
“The problem is getting worse by the day and that means the action that we are going to take must recognise that it is no longer business as usual,” he said, adding that government should provide an enabling environment for the private sector to create jobs.