By Jude Obuseh, For Agenda Watchdog, February 25, 2020
(AGENDAWATCHDOG) – According to a report by the National Bureau of Statistics, the Unemployment Rate in Nigeria increased to 23.10 percent in the third quarter of 2018 from 22.70 percent in the second quarter of 2018. Unemployment Rate in Nigeria averaged 12.31 percent from 2006 until 2018, reaching an all time high of 23.10 percent in the third quarter of 2018 and a record low of 5.10 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010. In the same report by the bureau, Youth Unemployment Rate in Nigeria averaged 23.63 percent from 2014 until 2018, reaching an all-time high of 38 percent in the second quarter of 2018 and a record low of 11.70 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014.
Edo State, like other states in Nigeria, grapples with the monster of unemployment withs its concomitant consequences such as youth restiveness, kidnapping, cultism, drug abuse and trafficking, prostitution, human trafficking, illegal migration etc. According to the National Bureau of Statistics data between 2012 to 2016, twenty nine percent of narcotics seized in Nigeria were from Edo State which led the NDLEA to arrest 1,284 indigenes of the state which was also notorious in the global human trafficking chain. The International Organization for Migration stated that of the over 11,000 women trafficked into Italy in 2016 majority were from Edo State and were forced into prostitution as victims of sex trafficking, suffering various forms of brutality and other risks associated with their trade.
During his pre-election campaign, Godwin Obaseki had promised to create 200,000 jobs during his first tenure if elected the governor of Edo State as a measure aimed at stemming the burgeoning rate of unemployment in the state with its associated negative consequences. Thus, on assumption of office, his administration immediately set in motion the processes of creating 200,000 jobs directly and indirectly. One of the strategies initiated to ease the achievement of the administration’s job creation agenda was the creation of EDO JOBS, an initiative that was meant to mobilize capital and highly skilled talents in Edo State in diverse fields such as agriculture, construction, entertainment, ICT and manufacturing. Mrs Ukinebo Dare, an indigene of the state was appointed to drive the initiative.
Edo Jobs entered a collaborative relationship with MainOne and Curators University, an organization which deepens the capacities of African youths in tomorrow’s technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and Data Science. It projects to empower 10,000 youths with artificial intelligence and data science skills by 2020. Edo Jobs bears the cost of the highly expensive training – under the partnership – for the youths of the state. The partnership is a proactive drive to prepare the youths of Edo State for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Through its collaboration with Microsoft, Tech 4 Dev, LinkedIn, Curators University, Hotels.ng, Makers Academy, Pan Atlantic University’s Entrepreneurship Development Centre and Siemens amongst others, Edo Jobs has successfully upskilled over 20,000 youths in entrepreneurship and innovation, artificial intelligence and data science, digital design, web development, etc, and offered digital skills, business support services, startup incubation, business acceleration, mentorship and co-working spaces.
EDO INNOVATES is another initiative that has helped fast-track the job creation/skills development drive of the Edo State Government. It was established to create a bionetwork for individuals, startups and SMEs to take advantage of available opportunities in the technology sector for their development. It also provides training and solutions to secondary school students and Co-working spaces as well as acceleration programmes for startups and SMEs. Programmes under this initiative includes: Mobile Application Development, Google Tekly Code, Google Digital Skills, ICT and Digital Design by Edo Bits, Web Development for Female Teachers by Tech4Dev, Code For Nigeria, Web Maintenance Training, Microsoft Office Training For Teachers by Edo ICT Agency, Data Science and Artificial Intelligence by Curators University, Gidimo Learning Through Tech for Secondary School Students, Managing Linked In For Lead Generation, Introduction to Robotics by Makers Academy and EdufunTechnik, Basic ICT Training and Entrepreneurship For Kids, Facebook Marketing, Edo Girls Can Code, Whiteboard Animation Workshop, Space Tech Training, Startup Cocktail etc.
The EDO PRODUCTION HUB, a novel partnership with the Market Development for the Niger Delta (MADE) II programme, Benson Idahosa University (BIU) and the Des Moines Area Community College in Iowa, United States of America state, is another innovative project by the state government that is meant to drive the rapid industrialization of the state. The facility provides Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and artisans with 24-hour electricity, business support, market development and industry linkage opportunities. It currently serves as a mini replica of the big businesses and diverse industries expected at the Benin Enterprise and Industrial Park. Located on the Sapele Road axis of Benin City, the center is fitted with factory space, security and office space, and live-in desks for relevant government agencies to engage, support and provide services to small businesses. The agencies projected to be hosted at the facility are the Bank of Industry (BoI), Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Edo Internal Revenue Service (EIRS), among others. The facility is fitted with 500KV transformers, which are connected to the 33KV line in the area.
XIGMA is a deep technology research and development company established by graduates of the University of Benin led by Derrick Nwasor focused on bringing breakthrough innovations to life. It has established three startups which were incubated at the Edo Innovation Hub. One is Nanodoors which manufactures ergonomically embedded computers. Another is Numbers Inc which uses artificial intelligence to provide security for private and government corporations. It produces end user technology that provide safety to people, places, homes, vehicles and properties. The other is New Digits which wants to fix Nigeria’s electricity paralysis with its proprietary technology that converts water to oxygen and hydrogen which can be used for cooking and electricity generation and has developed a solar energy solution that guarantees 12 hours of electricity per day with a lifespan of 25 years and costs 170,000naira per unit. New Digits does an average of 750,000 naira monthly as revenue and is currently seeking $200,000 seed funding at a $1million valuation.
EDO BITS is another initiative which provides digital design skills to deepen ICT awareness across the state and provide the youths with skills for employability. It has a strict criteria for admission as candidates must be less privileged members of the society between the ages of 16 and 22 having completed secondary school. Its trainees are taught how to write computer programmes in Python and R languages. The programme is divided into web design, web development and graphic design. Over 400 students have so far benefited from training programmes. Two of these beneficiaries earn between 100,000 naira and 50,000 naira monthly as average income.
Again, the wife of the governor, Mrs Betsy Obaseki has thrown her weight behind the administration’s job creation drive by initiating a collaboration with Hewlett Packard Learning Initiative For Entrepreneurs(HPLife) to established a technology driven resource centre which will utilize simulation, online activities, narration and dynamic assessment aimed at engaging the attendees in finance, marketing, operations, communications, social entrepreneurship, energy efficiency, effective leadership and strategic planning. HP Life will upgrade the learning outcomes for 100,000 Edo State residents by 2025, and utilizing the sharing economic redesign will help them create their own digital platforms, anchored on aggregation construct, which will be frontiers of wealth creation for their families, communities and nation.
A Business Day assessment report on job creation in Edo State, published after the 2019 Alaghodaro summit, showed that in 2017, 22,828 direct jobs were created 49,670 in 2018 and 46,576 in 2019 respectively with 32,430 indirect jobs created within that period. Beneficiaries under the various programmes are0I listed as follows: Job Tracking: 46,576 beneficiaries; Job Matching and Placement: 3,434 beneficiaries; Skills Development and Entrepreneurship: 22,872 beneficiaries; Edo Innovates: 27,732 beneficiaries; Edo Food and Agric Cluster: 1,376 beneficiaries; Edo Production Centre: 161 beneficiaries; Edo State Ministry of Wealth Creation: 10,000 beneficiaries; National Social Investment Programmes: 12, 413 beneficiaries; Indirect Jobs: 32,430 beneficiaries; Total: 156, 994 beneficiaries.
Of course, it has not been smooth sailing for the job creation programme of the Edo State Government under Godwin Obaseki’s leadership, as it has had to grapple with the usual challenges of funding, infrastructure, logistics, equipment and other formidable bottlenecks. But these challenges have not stalled the administration’s commitment and determination to reach its stated target of providing jobs for the citizens of Edo State. Through prudent management of available resources, well targeted collaborations with the private sector and support from local and international development partners, the administration has been able to successfully navigate through turbulent waters, churning out commendable results in the process. The administration continues to up the ante in its job creation and skills development drive.
The job creation efforts of the Edo State Government is worthy of commendation. It is recommended that, as is the tradition in developed sections of the world, the private sector in Nigeria should take up more of the responsibility of productively engaging a larger percentage of the population. The rest of Nigeria should follow the impressive precedent being set by Edo State by creating the enabling environment for the private sector to thrive. More collaborations are needed in this regard. The unemployment conundrum in Nigeria – a visceral challenge with negative multiplier effects – can only be tackled through constructive, long-term, sustainable job creation programmes such as the Edo State job creation template, and not the seasonal distribution of Greek gifts such as sowing machines, grinding machines, wheel barrows and other such related items that serve only short term goals.