With unemployment on the rise and the need to create jobs uppermost in the present administration’s transformation agenda, Ruth Tene writes on how the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development was able to create 350,000 jobs after a long period of little activity.
It was a huge surprise to the nation when President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, during Democracy Day celebrations announced that about 350,000 additional jobs had been created in the minerals and steel sector, a sector which is struggling to come out of the woods.
According to him, about 350, 000 additional jobs were created, arising from the activities of newly registered operators.
Jonathan also said: “We increased the number of investors in the mining sector due to the transparent manner in which titles are now issued on a first come-first served and use it or lose it basis. A total of This announcement was taken with a pinch of salt as not many believed in the sector’s potential to create such job opportunities, in spite of the minister’s constant assurance that the sector has the capacity to create employment and ensure greater revenue for the nation, and so the questions on the lips of many remains, how, when, where and what statistics were used to gauge the 350,000 jobs said to have been created.
These questions were brought to the fore when the House Committee on Solid Minerals led by its chairman, Hassan Isa Mohammed, paid a working visit to the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Mr Musa Mohammed Sada, to find out how the ministry came about employing 350,000 in the sector.
Sada said the 350,000 employments were from registered cooperative groups, with some involved in quarry and gemstone mining. He added that because these operatives were licenced, there was an accurate figure of those benefitting from the available job opportunities especially in the chalk making cottage industries in several communities now.
He said these registered cooperatives were what informed the cottage industries’ programme of one programme in each local government , adding that quite a number of states had started implementing the programme including Kogi, Osun and Rivers States among others
These cooperatives were further encouraged and sponsored by the Sustainable Management Minerals Resource Project (SMMRP)with the 10 million US dollars allocated for the development of Artisanal and Small-scale Miners (ASMs) Cooperatives.
The chairman, Isa Mohammed, in his response assured that the sector had the capacity to get over five times what the oil sector was getting if its resources were properly harnessed. President Jonathan,also said: “We have initiated a programme to support private steel production outfits. This has resulted in an increase in production figures for steel and other metals to over one million tonnes, this will also be another platform for job creation both in the sector and abroad.
He assured that his administration was committed to the rapid development of the country’s minerals and metals adding that:“In the last year, we recorded remarkable achievements in Mines and Steel Development.”
Unemployment has been the bane of the African nation and the Nigerian economy at large with over 60 per cent of Nigerian youths unemployed or seeking for better employment.
A report co-written by the African Development Bank (ADB), the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Development Centre, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) stated that despite world-topping economic growth rates, and a better educated youth, the youths represent 60 per cent of the continent’s unemployed, and of these 40 million youths, 22 million have given up on finding a job, many of them women.
The report further stated that Africa created only 16 million jobs for young people aged between 15 and 24 between 2000 and 2008 and further argued that youth unemployment figures would increase unless Africa moved swiftly to make youth employment a priority, turning its human capital into economic opportunity. On the other hand, youths can present a significant threat to social cohesion and political stability if they did not secure decent living conditions.
The report therefore urged countries across the continent to boost job creation and help young people acquire new skills
This call is further pertinent in Nigeria where unemployment and the need to create jobs is uppermost on the present government’s transformation agenda and seems to be the top agenda for governors and heads of ministries.
Part of the foreword of the written report stated that “Creating productive employment for Africa’s rapidly growing young population is an immense challenge but also the key to future prosperity.”
In addition, given the small size of the formal sector in many African countries, the report found that a government’s focus on the informal sector and rural areas, which contain immense entrepreneurial talent, could serve as engines for inclusive growth since they could absorb higher numbers of unemployed youths.
With these, it is indeed encouraging to government at all levels to ensure that the cottage industries which seem to be the hype now are taken seriously and communities at all levels are encouraged to take advantage of government’s efforts to better their lives without necessarily waiting for white collar jobs.