“We must adopt a Pan-African approach to solving unemployment. We must show our young people that they can stay here and find meaningful work” -Naomi Lucas.
Nigeria, also known as the “Giant of Africa”, boasts an immense population of around 182 million with a fairly young demography aged between 18 and 45. As with many Sub-Saharan African nations, some 40 per cent of these young people are currently unemployed or underemployed. The country’s commercial capital, Lagos, which is already home to around 10 per cent of the total Nigerian population, continues to attract these young, energetic and vibrant Nigerians. It is estimated that Lagos welcomes at least 100 people every day from across Nigeria, all attracted to the allure of the city as a land of opportunity and ‘hustle’, only to be confronted by the stark reality of a city bursting at its seams and a job market that is oversaturated.
Yet, this hasn’t hampered the Nigerian spirit for enterprise. Djembe Communications’ recent study, Job Creation in Sub-Saharan Africa: Entrepreneurs. Governments. Innovation, found that 86 per cent of 1,000 Nigerians aged between 16 and 40 preferred to start their own business rather than work for a company. Naomi Lucas, Founder of Graduate Pro and Project Director of Africa’s Biggest Book Project, best embodies this unique Nigerian aspiration.
Lucas is an example of a new generation of African women entrepreneurs who are capitalizing on new trends to launch businesses that address greater social challenges in their countries. In Lucas’s case, it was the desire to bridge the large knowledge gap that existed amongst Nigerian youth and the stable wage-paying job market that launched her entrepreneurship career.
Leveraging Africa’s biggest innovation hack – the mobile phone – to reach the masses, Lucas launched Africa’s Biggest Book Project, featuring an audio book entitled “I’m a Graduate, Now What?”. It comprises 55 powerful narrations by exemplary Nigerians from a wide range of industries. The next step in her ambitious project is to implement work-readiness, residential boot camps across Africa to re-calibrate the minds of Nigerian youth.
In her own words to Vanguard recently, Lucas said: “My aim is to use the power of audio-visuals, young people’s attraction to the creative industries and the pervasiveness of internet and mobile technology to reverse the scourge of unemployment on the continent. Learning styles have evolved and the onus is on those who facilitate learning to remain one step ahead”.
As a Nigerian myself, I cannot agree more. Nigeria, like many other diversifying African economies, has immense potential to generate new job markets for its youth, provided that the large skills gap can be addressed at a swifter pace. Nigerian youth are among the most technology-savvy, making them early adopters of new trends in learning and education.
Lucas is an example of a Nigerian who has understood the need to build African solutions for African challenges. In doing so, she has taken action to fix Nigeria’s persistent problem of unemployment by providing the necessary insights to help Nigerians increase their employability. The initiative will be taken to other African countries, where similar issues continue to hinder socio-economic growth.
Perhaps what Africa needs is more Naomi Lucas prototypes – a powerful hybrid of businesswoman and social entrepreneur – to unlock youth potential.
By Babatunde Aribido, Senior Account Manager, Nigeria
This article first appeared on the Djembe Communications blog