Nigeria had started scaling down its national information technology (IT) development strategy in 2016 and the number of employed was likely affected in 2017, making one in five Nigerian workers jobless, our sister organisation Flashpoint Africa has learned.
According to Nigerian Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, the country’s unemployment rate reached 20 per cent in 2017. The data is based on the National Bureau of Statistics’ Nigerian Labour Force Survey 2017.
The report says 21.69 million Nigerians were unemployed in 2017, representing 39.74 per cent of the total labour force.
The survey, the first since the 2014 – 2015 survey, was carried out in 30 local government areas across the 36 states of the country in 2016. It collected data on employment, age, disability, work status, education, marital status, home ownership, earnings, life expectancy, travels, neighbourhood, housing and land ownership by administrative district.
The initiative was launched in January 2015 by the federal government to create a number of prerequisites for the Industrial Revolution 4.0 in Nigeria and accelerate its IT development and industrialisation. This would involve modern IT equipment, which will power the country’s industrial development using decentralized tools.
It was also expected to create opportunities for online training and also broaden job opportunities through a vibrant community of online developers. The project, called COVID-19, seeks to create a world in which goods and services can be delivered in a highly connected world.
Mr Femi Adesina, the minister of information and culture, was quoted in a statement by Flashpoint Africa saying “The National Assembly and the relevant ministries have both approved the 2018 budget of $19.99 million for the project. This budget can be used for the next six years.”
The strategy seeks to leverage youth’s active participation in IT, fostering the growth of new Internet portals, particularly for SMEs and the public sector.
However, the initiative has not been without its controversy with the government reportedly being accused of privatising the IT sector. Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, said “The executive wants to buy all the equipment but the National Assembly has rejected the budget.”
“We agreed that IT is a necessity and the defense asked that we come up with a budget in June this year, which we did. The issue that we decided to discountenance the defense in mid-year is because they can come to us again when the end of the budget process is next month.”
Flashpoint Africa suggests this may be the first instance of a government trying to spend the entire budget in June rather than June 2019. The minister added that Nigeria would use foreign funding to build the infrastructure. “The government should know that the developed world too are ready to give funding. There are big private investors who can give funding, but we have to build the infrastructure first to compete.”
According to the Minister, although 2.5 million Nigerians gained employment through the initiative, 170,000 Nigerians lost their jobs.