Nigerian graduates live by word of mouth as jobs crisis deepens

Most of the time, Clément Akinnouye goes to a market near his home in the town of Kaduna, in northern Nigeria, to sell shoes or household goods to local traders, far from what he thought he was doing when he would earn a five operations management degree. years ago.

The 24-year-old earns a few thousand naira ($ 7-13) a day, but the work is irregular. “I have applied for over 100 jobs since I graduated – Federal Civil Service, Civil Defense, Nigerian Customs Service, NNPC [the national oil company], federal road safety, even Nigerian prisons, ”said Akinnouye, who has lived alone since the age of 12 and studied at university in Kaduna. “Finding work here is very, very difficult for normal people, unless you know someone.”

Akinnouye is one of millions of unemployed young Nigerians, victims of an economic crisis that worsens poverty and sows insecurity in Africa’s most populous country, which has just emerged from its second recession in five years.

The unemployment rate has more than quadrupled since President Muhammadu Buhari took office in 2015, to stand at 33.3%. More than 60 percent of the labor force under 34 is even worse: more than half (53.4 percent) of those aged 15 to 24 and 37.2 percent of those aged 25 to 34 years were unemployed in the fourth quarter. , according to government figures.

Nigeria pumps out hundreds of thousands of new college graduates every year, and millions of young people without additional degrees are entering an economy that cannot produce enough jobs to absorb them. About 19 million Nigerians entered the labor market in the past five years – or 300,000 per month – according to World Bank estimates, but only 3.5 million jobs were created during the period. , which means that 80% of new workers found themselves unemployed.

“Going forward, nearly 30 million new jobs would be needed by 2030 just to keep the current employment rate constant,” according to the bank’s economic update in Nigeria.

Clément Akinnouye: “ In Nigeria, you have to know someone, who knows someone, who knows someone – and you have to pay someone, who pays someone, who pays someone, before get that job ” © Neil Munshi / FT

When Buhari first took office, Nigeria was entering its first recession in decades. The country, which depends on crude for about half of government revenue, had barely recovered from the 2015 oil price drop when the coronavirus sank its main product again last year.

Critics have long argued that the policies of the Buhari administration – including maintaining multiple exchange rates, which it is only now taking steps to unify – have prolonged the recession.

The government has gone further than any predecessor in developing support programs for individuals, families and small businesses, said Zainab Usman, Africa director of the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. She added: “After decades of not doing much, I think it’s great to see Nigeria making progress. . . but they [the policies] are still not enough. Government officials were not available for comment.

Along with rampant unemployment, Nigerians also face 20% inflation, with food inflation at a high level in 12 years and economic growth that is far behind one of the highest population growth rates in the world. .

Bisola Lateef: ‘Watch the rate they’re kidnapping people now – don’t be surprised if a lot of these young people have been trying to find jobs © Neil Munshi / FT

“I think the government really needs to look to help create more industries to accommodate more of these professional courses that we study at university. . . instead of having to import everything we use, ”said Maryam Ado, a 2018 glass and silicate technology graduate who sells bags and shoes online to earn extra money.

Young people across the country are complaining that the few jobs on offer are usually reserved for friends and family of government officials or businessmen. The rest are often only available to those willing to pay exorbitant bribes.

“In Nigeria, you have to know someone, who knows someone, who knows someone – and you have to pay someone, who pays someone, who pays someone, before you get that job.” , said Akinnouye.

“You have people who graduated for 10-15 years who don’t have a job, who now resort to menial jobs or even just live in tandem, some drive kekes. [local three-wheel rickshaws] because you try to try and nothing has happened, ”said Aliyu, a 31-year-old man who has not had a full-time job since graduating in political science in 2014 “You have that little hope left and it’s been happening day by day – it’s horrible, it’s horrible.

The economic crisis has helped fuel a nationwide epidemic of banditry, where roving gangs of young armed men kill and kidnap for ransom. “Look at the rate they’re kidnapping people now – don’t be surprised if a lot of these kids have tried to find jobs, but they don’t have options, so they’re starting to do it, they’re starting to defraud people. online, ”said Bisola Lateef, 2018 accounting graduate at Kaduna, which sells bags and shoes online. “There will be high crime rates everywhere, and the situation will get worse if this continues.”

Sumaaya Tofa, a recent graduate in international studies, feared that the disillusionment of her generation could have dire consequences not only on the security of the country, but also on the prospects for higher education in Nigeria.

“Most of us think you go to school and get a certificate so that you can work and earn something. . .[but]if you come into the world and can’t find a job people start to think, oh, what’s the point anyway? she says. “I think most of us are feeling very hopeless about the situation right now.”

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