With no fewer than 1.8 million young Nigerians joining the labour market each year, the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is growing grey hair.
Inspecting Omatek Nigeria Plc’s ultra-modern Information and Communications Technology factory in Lagos, the Minister also confessed that President Goodluck Jonathan is as well having sleepless nights over growing unemployment rate in the country.
The 1.8 million figures she quoted are from the National Bureau of Statistics. She however, hastened to add that government was not folding its arms, saying there is ongoing transformation of critical sectors that could generate jobs.
She said apart from transforming the agriculture and boosting the Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs), one critical sector that is receiving the federal government attention is Information and Communications Technology (ICT).
The Minister said there was ongoing deliberate effort aimed at encouraging young Nigerians with deep ICT knowledge to use it for the betterment of the society. In this respect, she said many young stars plying their trade at Computer Village will be assisted.
She said, “According to the National Bureau of Statistics, each year, about 1.8m young Nigerians enter into our labour market and we need to ensure that our economy provides jobs for them.
“In fact, some people ask, ‘What keeps you awake at night, with regard to this economy?’ I say it is the issue of job creation. And I know this is what keeps Mr. President (Goodluck Jonathan) awake at night as well.
“That is why we have responded to the challenge of creating jobs by trying to transform several sectors of the economy; from agriculture, where we’re expecting to create 3.5m jobs and where the progress of reaching our goal of feeding this country is already well advanced.
“When you look at Nigeria, for over 50 to 60 years, we have been working without the key institutions that some other people have. We keep making stopgap solutions. For 50 years, we didn’t have a Bureau for Public Procurement; for 50 years, we didn’t have a Debt Management Office.
“So many of the institutions that we have now are new and if you stand back, you’ll see there are still many gaps. It is now our job to try to fill those gaps.”
Okonjo-Iweala spoke further on the importance of ICT in generating jobs, “Let me mention that the Minister of Information and Communications technology has started a Venture Capital Fund with about $15m, which is being financed by the government and other donors.
“The idea behind it is to help support innovative enterprises in the field of ICT. This is designed to lift up some of the young people in Computer Village doing all sorts of innovations.”
The Minister also stressed the need for investors to encourage public investment in their businesses, adding that such businesses should be listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange.