Experts say the future of Nigeria’s economy is in entrepreneurship as unemployment rate keeps rising on a daily basis. ZAKA ABD-KHALIQ writes.
Small businesses are often called the backbone of the economy. Policies that encourage the growth of small businesses and the role of entrepreneurship in the market are considered to be healthy for the economy at large.
Entrepreneurship is a veritable source of employment and wealth creation for Nigerians who desire to create wealth for themselves by starting a business of their own and nurturing it to maturity. A business empire can be created by starting small and working hard enough to maintain the business and making it grow through various stages. Many big companies in Nigeria today started small many years ago and their founders were committed in their pursuit and persevered until the businesses grew into world class brands.
Despite the challenges, Nigeria is a beautiful place to do business that any entrepreneurial minded person can succeed in business if they are willing to start something no matter how difficult it may seem at first.
The most difficult aspect is in starting the business. As soon as you start, however turbulent it may be, you will begin to learn the ropes as you continue to nurture your business and sooner or later, the business will begin to make headway as long as you persevere.
To grow the Nigerian economy to a level that it would begin to compete with world class economies such as that of the US, Britain, China, Japan and other economically developed nations, entrepreneurship and job creation must be given top priority by all stakeholders. While the government holds the ace in this regard as it is expected to continuously formulate policies that will create a favourable atmosphere for businesses to thrive, it is pertinent to state that the Nigerian youths who form the bulk of the active population should be reorientated from the mentality of job hunting to job creation.
NURSING ENTREPRENEURSHIP MINDSET
A human rights activists based in Lagos, Mr. Tayo Demola, said if every Nigerian graduate can create at least one job opportunity for himself and is able to make a living out of this, then the problem of unemployment will be drastically reduced to the barest minimum and this will greatly reduce dependence on government to create jobs as well as reduce insecurity, armed banditry, kidnapping and other violent crimes in the country.
For Nigerians to create jobs for themselves as well as for others, he said, there has to be that entrepreneurial spirit in them that will propel every person to think about what he or she can do for the nation and not what the nation can do for them.
According to him, it is possible for Nigeria to get to that level where every citizen will have that entrepreneurially creative spirit to create jobs and make wealth for themselves for the betterment of the nation.
But to do this, he suggested an enabling policy from government to drive that consciousness into the people from cradle, meaning that, it is not enough to have entrepreneurship introduced as a course in the tertiary institutions in Nigeria, it must also a matter of necessity be introduced to pupils right from the primary schools so that students can learn how to be enterprising right from childhood.
“By so doing, we would inevitably instill entrepreneurship skills into our future generation by catching them young and directing their mentality towards a worthy cause that would eventually create wealth for the nation and propel Nigeria into economic and political greatness in the comity of nations,” he pointed out.
The officer in charge, United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) Regional Office, Nigeria, Dr. Chuma Ezedinma, stressed that entrepreneurship and industrialisation are two important ingredients for stimulating economic growth, job creation and poverty reduction in both developed economies and economies in transition including Nigeria.
Ezedinma, who spoke at a workshop in Abuja, also said increased support for SMEs could help tame the unemployment monster.
Successful SMEs, he stressed, are the primary engines for job creation, income growth, and poverty reduction, as they broaden the base of participation in society, create jobs, decentralise economic power, and give people a stake in the future.
Government, he said, could encourage entrepreneurship and small businesses through its tax policy, which could be; corporate tax rate reductions, tax credits for investment and tax holidays.
Other solutions he suggested are; simpler regulatory processes and reducing the cost of compliance with government regulations, access to capital and the legal protection of property rights.
The director-general, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Mr. Muda Yusuf, said increased support for SMEs and business start-ups through capacity building and funding would help reduce unemployment in the country.
He identified lack of finance, inadequate infrastructural facilities, shortage of skilled manpower, poor entrepreneurial skills and lack of enabling operating environment, among others, as some of the challenges confronting SMEs.
SMEs, he stressed, boast huge potential for employment generation and wealth creation, if adequately encouraged, adding that, by creating more jobs, SMEs are reducing unemployment and its associated high crime rate.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, noted that there is the urgent need for collaboration to tackle youth unemployment crisis in Nigeria. “Insecurity challenges are symptoms of the dire state of unemployment and frustration of the Nigerian youth. The urgency to support job creation in Nigeria must be accompanied with the right synergies, as these problems cannot be solved in silos. The Ministry has committed to working with partners across the private, social and public sectors to create jobs for young Nigerians,” Ngige added.
The director-general, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria(SMEDAN), Dr Umaru Radda, said, only one out of 100 Nigerian graduates were employable, attributing the situation to poor skills and lack of entrepreneurial competence.
Radda, who stted this at a forum in Anambra State, said the population of young people between the ages of 15 and 24 around the world was rapidly on the increase, adding that, the vast majority of them lived in the poor and emerging economies.
Radda, who was represented by the Director, Policy, Advocacy and Coordination SMEDAN, Mr. Monday Ewans, said: “One of the major causes of unemployment is skill shortage occasioned by dearth of skilled personnel and entrepreneurial competence, inadequate capacity of vocational skill centres and the non-orientation of the educational system to the production of vocational skills that are aligned to industry requirements.”
THE FUTURE OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP
The head, PR and Communications at Jumia, Mr. Olukayode Kolawole, said: “Unknown to upcoming entrepreneurs, being an entrepreneur does not mean you must have a brick and mortar store. You can run your entire business online – thanks to internet penetration.
“Jumia has proven that direct and indirect jobs can be created via ecommerce. It has empowered thousands of Nigerians to run their businesses through various initiatives like the Jumia J Force Sales Consultancy, Jumia Vendor Hub, Jumia University and many others.”
He however called on government to take advantage of the skills inherent in Nigerian entrepreneurs, by creating the enabling environment that would enable them to further develop that skills in them into meaningful knowledge through capacity building.
“So when it comes to job creation, you do not need to wait for the government. The government only needs to create an enabling environment while the private sector and entrepreneurs will provide the much-required employment. And being an entrepreneur is a reliable tool for closing the unemployment gap,” Kolawole said.
According to an Entrepreneur and Business Consultant, Mrs. Margarita Hakobyan, as small business becomes big, it faces additional challenges from other small, startup companies that are able to innovate more quickly and disrupt more intensely. This, she said, can be seen with Apple; while Apple remains a lifestyle brand that many people happily pay a premium for, they have not been considered the top of the tech field for some time.
In the field of manufacturing, she said, much has been made about how robotics has disrupted and continues to disrupt traditional manufacturing jobs. As these line jobs have been reduced, however, she noted that, other fields have opened up to respond to alerts, programme systems, and repair and maintain systems as they are used, calling on people to utilise the potentials therein to create employment opportunities.
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