By Oluwatosin Ayenuro
Nigeria has a staggering unemployment rate for the most populous nation in Africa. The last workforce statistics published by its official stat custodian, the National Bureau of Statistics, in Q1 2021, put the unemployment rate in the country at 33.7%, representing a 6.6% increase from Q2 2020.
To put things in context, unemployment in Nigeria is defined as doing nothing or working for less than 20 hours weekly. To think that 33.7% of the country’s population falls within this category, considering that the Bureau stated that over 60% of the nation’s working-age population is below 34, sends shivers down one’s spine.
This problem is evident in the sheer number of people applying for jobs, with a good number being overqualified for underpaying jobs. Suffice it to say that Nigeria’s labour market is a hypercompetitive space. If the country’s economy is to return to its pre-double recession growth rate, ensuring gainful employment for a vast amount of the citizenry must be at the top end of the national agenda.
Conversely, creating these jobs has its broad set of challenges, not least with inflation skyrocketing the cost of goods and services. Take into account the perennially epileptic supply of electricity and the rising cost of diesel. You then realize it takes a superior level of balancing act to stay profitable as a business in today’s Nigeria. Add to the mix the escalating insecurity and investor confidence being at a low, and creating these jobs becomes even more difficult.
The youth, who unsurprisingly happens to be on the wrong end of this situation, need to look beyond the government to create gainful opportunities for themselves both within and beyond the shores of the country. Beyond the country’s shores, in this context, speaks to the myriad of opportunities opening worldwide owing to the growing popularity of remote working. Enter tech.
When talking about tech, what a vast majority of people think is coding. But as we know, over time, coding is but a small aspect of what the sector offers. There are several opportunities in the industry that do not require any form of tech background or coding, which anyone can take advantage of today.
Product design, for one, is one dimension of tech that is in high demand today and offers lucrative opportunities. Whether you are a UX designer focused on the experience the end-user would have a product, a User Researcher whose job is to understand the customer’s pain points and their needs, a UX Writer who develops catchy, easily digestible copies for the product, or a Graphic Designer creating the visual expression of the product, the field has something for everyone.
Digital marketing is also another field that possesses a plethora of opportunities for Nigerians. There is an array of fields in the sector, from digital and search ads to mobile marketing and email marketing. Notwithstanding the opportunities in the field and the renewed drive to be t-shaped marketers, having core specialties seems in vogue and more profitable. This, in no way, is meant to discourage broad-based knowledge acquisition but given that this piece is meant to serve as a pointer to easily getting a tech job, either remotely or on-premise, then being a specialist rather than a generalist is the way to go.
Of course, while it is vital to gain the requisite skills to bag a good-paying job, it is equally important for the government to provide a conducive business environment for tech companies and all companies to harness their potential. Nigeria, as we know, is Africa’s top destination for fintech investment. With a couple of favourable policies, Nigeria will not only compete with Western nations but also reduce the evil called brain drain.
In the interim, acquiring a tech skill exponentially increases one’s chances of landing a well-paying job, and this writer would love to see more Nigerians go in this direction. The government will have to implement creative strategies to effectively tax individuals who work for companies without a physical presence in the country. Still, it’s not all doom and gloom, as more gainfully employed individuals will translate to more substantial purchasing power and GDP growth.
Oluwatosin Ayenuro is a product designer writing from Lagos, Nigeria.