The federal government is, for the umpteenth time, admitting that unemployment and underemployment are the greatest challenges of the Muhammadu Buhari administration. Briefing members of the National Economic Council (NEC) at the Presidential Villa recently, the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, identified lack of job opportunities as the major problem facing the government in its efforts to pull the country out of the economic morass it is enmeshed in.
Udoma said despite the fact that Nigeria had just exited economic recession, the economy is still deemed vulnerable to shocks and that focused policy implementation is required to sustain the recovery. The minister is not the first top government official to make such observation about the economy. Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, had also said that the 0.55 per cent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth, which wriggled Nigeria’s economy out of recession, is still fragile.
The point raised by the minister that is of utmost concern here is that unemployment is one of the major issues affecting Nigeria’s economy and its society. In the last few years, the rate of unemployment has increased due to the fallout from the economic downturn. This problem has been widely discussed. Unemployment happens when people who can work are unable to find a suitable paid job for a tangible period of time.
According to the Bureau of Statistics, 38 per cent of the population that falls within the employable age is unemployed, while 65 per cent of Nigerian youth face unemployment as at September 2016. This has tremendous negative impact on the nation’s economy because the underdevelopment of human capacity is a major factor contributing to Nigeria’s underdevelopment. Developmental efforts must target and capture the youthful population to have tangible and meaningful impact.
In the absence of affordable jobs for the army of Nigerian youths, youth empowerment has become the last resort for many developing nations. It is a term generally used to expound efforts aimed at providing coping skills and an enabling environment for youths to lead decent lives and contribute meaningfully to national development. An emerging trend in youth empowerment in Nigeria is entrepreneurship education.
Against the backdrop of increasing poverty in the land and the growing unemployment rate, government has been making efforts to empower the youths with entrepreneurship skills to shift the attention of the great mass of Nigerians away from white collar jobs and government patronage. While the government is determined to make the sector very vibrant, the private sector must also play a formidable part in the exercise.
Successive administrations have consistently solicited partnership with the private sector, especially in the area of soft loans for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), and one of the biggest problems confronting SMEs in Nigeria is paucity of funds for growth and expansion. Again, government’s resolve in this regard is typified by the establishment of the Bank of Industry (BOI). The BOI is tailored to be a dependable source of both short and long term funds for SMEs. The interest and repayment rates are friendlier than the commercial banks.
Some private organisations have keyed into government’s initiative by partnering the BOI to empower the youths. One of such private ventures is CEO Dustbin (Sarkin Bola), a soft loan scheme initiated in Kaduna by the Managing Director/CEO of Zoom Lion Global Alliance (ZL Global Alliance) Nigeria Limited and Kunden Services Limited, Mrs. Abiola Bashorun. It is a programme aimed at granting credit facilities to solid waste management workers, market women and traders in Kaduna State. The scheme is an initiative targeted at expanding the scope and scale of economic opportunity for the financially vulnerable through ZL Global Alliance in partnership with the Bank of Industry, a parastatal of the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment.
Mrs. Bashorun initiated the CEO Dustbin programme in 2016 to empower solid waste management workers. The exceptionally hard working payment and waste management consultant designed the programme in such a way that even the financially vulnerable is empowered with entrepreneurial skills and the financial wherewithal. The soft loan offered by the scheme has a flexible repayment plan with low interest rate.
The Kaduna State government, through the state Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, had keyed into Mrs. Bashorun’s initiative when it signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with her waste management company, ZL Global Alliance, in a bid to keep the state capital clean. The company has the onerous task of making the state clean by engaging in streets sweeping and waste evacuation.
The state government in its quest to change the status quo and continually improve the living condition and well-being of the people of the state encouraged the company to come up with a waste-to-cash programme, which commenced on September 15, 2016. The initiative was meant to encourage the people to turn in their waste in exchange for cash. Under the scheme, the company paid N1.00 per kilogramme of waste.
Residents of Kaduna availed themselves of the cash reward to key into the programme, as they came out en masse with their waste, well packed, for sale during the programme. Recently, ZL Global Alliance Nigeria Limited also employed no fewer than 30 Persons Living With Disabilities (PLWD) in its work force in Kaduna State, with plans to increase the number across the three senatorial zones.
The CEO Dustbin initiative of ZL Global Alliance Nigeria Limited couldn’t have come at a better time than now when the current economic situation in the country is causing untold hardship for the great mass of Nigerians. By empowering one member of a household, the programme has empowered the entire family and one would imagine how many families the soft loan scheme has provided source of livelihood for.
This is the kind of private sector participation government had been hammering on. Little wonder that in its bid to improve the living condition and wellbeing of the people of the state, the Kaduna State government under the leadership of Malam Nasir el-Rufai quickly went into partnership with ZL Global Alliance Nigeria Limited. The company’s chief executive officer, Mrs. Bashorun, is very visionary and goal- oriented, with a passion for youth empowerment which has led her to creating jobs for over 7000 youths across the country.
She has engaged in corporate social responsibility, particularly in Kaduna State, with the creation of this waste- to- cash initiative, renovation and beautification of roundabouts in Kaduna and school, distilling of drainages to prevent cholera, malaria and other diseases, empowerment of the youths, women and disabled people. Now, she is out with the CEO Dustbin (Sarkin Bola) soft loan scheme which is designed to assist those ZL Global Alliance has groomed entrepreneurially get financial take off point for their SMEs.
Hamza wrote from Kaduna