I am on a mission to make Nigerians youths employable.
Let’s put these numbers in perspective, the Nigerian government records youth unemployment rates at 24.9 percent. A government official reveals that only 10 percent of graduates get decent jobs two (2) years after graduation – I am on a mission to reverse this trend.
High unemployment rates have enormous social consequences as it increases crime rates. Secondary school graduates are a principal fraction of the unemployed, accounting for nearly 35 to 50 percent. The rate of unemployment among those 20 to 24 years is at 40 percent and those between 15 to 19 years at 31 percent.
These statistics are alarming and if care is not taken, can get out of hand. It is clear that the present Nigerian economy is unable to absorb the high number of graduates churned out of tertiary institutions every year. The average Nigerian graduate also has the tendency to become an ‘unemployable’ graduate. That is, incompetent to carry out basic tasks expected of them even as junior employees. One of the reasons can be traced to the lack of certain skills expected amongst this set of people.
As a response to the unemployment rate, my organization Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN) has made it a mandate to train and provide a digital jobs platform to unemployed young Nigerians. That is, making skill training opportunities available to the average unemployable youth ready to dissociate from the increasing number of unemployment statistics.
The most important set of people in Nigeria today are youths. There are categories of them: the unemployed, the disadvantaged, the underserved, among others. Many of these young people have incredibly high potential with little to no existing opportunities or the capacity to encourage themselves to be all that their ‘fortunate’ peers are.
How have you financed this idea?
The Paradigm Initiative Nigeria Digital Jobs project is currently funded by the Rockefeller Foundation. Our agenda is to create awareness, provide information and training to disadvantaged youths and help them gain access to jobs.
The Rockefeller Foundation’s Digital Jobs Africa initiative, seeks to impact the lives of 1 million people in six (6) African countries by catalyzing sustainable ICT-enabled employment opportunities to those who otherwise would not have had the opportunity for sustainable employment.
Who is your target market?
We focus on young people. Our target market are the most important set of people in the country. Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN) began its operation in Ajegunle – one of Nigeria’s underserved communities. The impact of the program revealed that human capacity and skills do not have to go to waste.
What is your competitive edge?
Our ability to connect disadvantaged Nigerian youths to ICT-enabled opportunities. My organization’s value system aims to imbibe the mind-set of entrepreneurship to the average Nigerian youth and to encourage entrepreneurial skills among various categories of this targeted group through the use of ICT. We have a consistent track record of projects that have been successfully implemented and have made genuine impact in the lives of young people.
What is your 5-year plan?
The long-term plan is to reduce unemployment in Nigeria.
What challenges do you face ?
Basic ICT training has become very essential. A good number of our program applicants find it challenging to understand the self-explanatory materials. In addition, how do we ensure that these young people translate their online work into a sustainable means of income? These are some of the challenges that we face and we are committed to overcoming them.
What five (5) key things have you learned since starting this idea?
- A problem-solving idea becomes very attractive to its target population and even attracts more support from non-sponsors to help its successful realization.
- Reaching a milestone creates further motivation to do something better knowing the impact and value in the lives of the target audience.
- Solving one problem opens up many more problems that needs to be solved.
- You must be able to know and understand what appeals to your target audience. This is the most effective means of communication.
- There is no such thing as ‘no jobs.’ So many opportunities exist, but the knowledge of where to find them and how to maximize its use serves as a major challenge.
What five (5) things do start-up entrepreneurs need to know?
- Know and understand your target audience,
- Learn how to sell your ideas,
- Differentiate between purpose and profit,
- Environmental factors/government policies will discourage you at some point,
- Create a plan and follow it
What advice do you have for youths looking to start an idea but say ‘there is no money’?
Money should not serve as a motivating factor. If your ideas are sustainable and realistic, they will attract funding. Believe in your dreams and do not be overly ambitious in setting goals. Take it one step at a time and watch your dreams grow into actualization. I will use this example again, Rockefeller approached PIN with the ‘digital jobs’ project because they saw us as focused and passionate drivers in the promotion of ICT to Nigerian youths. They also saw a track record of success in the projects that we have handled in the past and were confident in our abilities.
How do you think African youths can continue to support each other?
There are several platforms that connect and promote collaboration between African youths. We acknowledge that local problems are best solved locally and that some of the solutions to our problems are resident on the continent. It is good to seek international advice and best practices but better to look within. For example, the ‘digital jobs’ project will gather participants in the digital jobs campaign from all the participating African countries to learn from one other on how they have been able to surmount challenges, reach out to more youths, and achieve success within a short timeline. In addition, the social media platform serves as an effective tool that more African youths can use to continue to support each other rather than using it as a tool for unprofitable discussion.
How has technology enhanced your business idea?
Technology is the core of Paradigm Initiative Nigeria as a social enterprise. PIN’s activities cannot be separated from the use of technology. PIN uses technology platforms to spread the knowledge of ICT by equipping youths with information and skills. The use of social media (Facebook, Google plus, Instagram, Twitter, Mail chimp, E-mail accounts, Youtube, Blogs, videos, radio and television interviews, etc) in reaching our target audience cannot be underemphasized. In short, PIN uses technology to circulate the importance of taking advantage of ICT opportunities.
How can we support and improve innovation in Africa?
First, by standing firm for what should be or what ought to be regardless of the policies that seem contrary to the way the future is meant to play out. Correctional measures to old ways of doing things are an important ingredient, and to this end can help improve the existing status quo.
At the moment, one of PIN’s 2015 projects is focused on funding ICT oriented student ideas – this is the TENT Angel Investment Scheme, which has been set up to encourage students’ innovative abilities while in school. This keeps them focused on their projects and academics. The funding will nurture their ideas from beginning to maturity stage. PIN is working towards having a Nigeria where students will not just graduate with CVs but with business ideas that create will create livelihood means for them; thus making them employers of labour. Our aim is to tackle ICT challenges from the root, hence our involvement with secondary and tertiary institutions.
For more details on PIN visit: