Nigeria’s jobs gap: ‘Entrepreneurial development should take centre stage’

Akwa Ibom Governor Udom Emmanuel calls for a re-examination of Nigeria's education curricula

May 25, 2022

Udom Emmanuel took governorship of the Nigerian state Akwa Ibom in 2015. Since then he has transformed the southern coastal region from a civil service state into an attractive destination for private enterprise; one of the best states in the country for bringing in foreign direct investment. In this second video from the hour World Finance spent in the studio with Governor Udom Emmanuel, he tackles one of the most series issues facing Nigeria: unemployment.

World Finance: One of the most serious issues facing Nigeria as a whole is unemployment; how have you worked within your state to address this?

Udom Emmanuel: Unemployment is a major issue; not only in Nigeria, but I think in Africa as a whole.
But the problem is not just unemployment, but capacity building. Because recently I’ve just carried out some surveys; I discovered that a whole lot of organisations are still looking for manpower. Why are they looking for manpower when there’s a whole lot of people looking for jobs?

We’re trying as government to lay a lot of emphasis on this capacity building. Training the people – what I call the soft infrastructure, which is the knowledge base. We have set up a skill development centre in a place quite close to the capital. And I also look at what you can do with your God-given talents, with your hands, without necessarily being within the four walls of the university. That could mean a whole lot for the economy.

We should also train people in entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurial development should take the centre stage, where no matter what you do, you don’t just come out of school and then your first thought is, where do I apply to? Your first thought should be, what do I do to earn a living?

So I think that will come with the mindset change, will come with creating awareness of why that should be.

World Finance: How do you change those mindsets? How do you help someone understand that they could be an entrepreneur? An economy needs thousands of micro, small, medium enterprises; how can government help young people realise that that could be their future. That their start-up idea could be a success.

Udom Emmanuel: Entrepreneurial skillset is needed at every course content. Either in secondary, in tertiary education in Nigeria. We need to build that deliberately. So irrespective of your field of study, that should also be built in. How can you come out and be an entrepreneur? In your own field. How can you create work, how can you create something? I think that would really, really help. And that will call for a total review of all the education curricula, to actually make sure we capture this. And we will also move in line with the current realities of the global space.

World Finance: You’re talking just about your changes within Akwa Ibom State; nationwide, what needs to happen to unlock the future that young Nigerians deserve?

Udom Emmanuel: I think that can actually be blown up onto a larger scale or proportion. Because it’s the same problem! I mean, we’re all the same people. What can work in one sub-national can also work at the national level. All we need to do is the proportion, we need to blow it into a larger proportion to cover all the states!

And once we do that on a larger scale, I think the impact will be seen within a short period. That’s my belief.