Tackling unemployment with creative industries

IN its Q4 2020 Unemployment Report published last Monday, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) put the number of unemployed Nigerians at 23.1 million or 33.3 per cent of the population of persons in the economically active or working age population (15 – 64 years of age), which was 122,049,400. Although many Nigerians would regard the figure by the NBS as conservative, the import of the report is that at least three out of 10 Nigerians willing to work, most of who are youths, cannot get a job.

Youth unemployment is a major challenge in Nigeria because every year, close to four million young personsgraduate from the various tertiary institutions in the country without any concrete provision for their absorption into any of the nation’s sectors. According to available statistics, just about 200,000 (0.05 per cent) of the almost four million fresh graduates produced annually are able to secure good jobs. Four, five and even six years after graduation with a good result, many Nigerian graduates are still roaming the streets in search of the ever receding employment opportunities. It is the hopelessness and helplessness of their situation that drive many of them to crime and other vices. The nation’s rising youth unemployment rate is the major fuel for the insecurity situation the country is currently enmeshed in. Criminality in the country has gone hi tech because many of those engaged in it are highly educated.

Similarly, quite a number of young Nigerians regularly embark on the dangerous venture of voyaging through the desert or the Mediterranean Sea to cross to Europe in search of greener pasture. Many otherwise brilliant young people are stuck in one detention camp or the other abroad after being arrested for getting into those countries illegally.

The current administration, just like the ones before it, has come up with various programmes meant to scale down the high unemployment rate among the nation’s teeming youths. One of such is the Youths Entrepreneurship Support (YES) Project, which is an intervention programme of the government through the Bank of Industry (BoI), to empower youths with take-off loans for businesses of their choice. The scheme is intended to create about 36,000 jobs annually. Another is the 774,000 job opportunities created by the government to absorb 1,000 youths from each of the local government areas in the country.

But in spite of all these, youth unemployment has continued to rise. This therefore calls for a review of the modus operandi. I am of the opinion that adopting the strategy employed by the United Kingdom to scale down youth unemployment would be of great benefit to the country.

High rate of youth unemployment threatened to shatter the achievements of Mr Tony Blair when he was the British Prime Minister. He had to find a way round it or risked being roundly condemned as an ineffective leader. So, he came up with a strategy to widen opportunities for job creation and wealth generation, especially in areas not originally considered critical to employment generation. The administration came up with the Creative Industries policy in 1997. The government followed this up with the establishment of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), which identified 13 creative sectors in the United Kingdom.

According to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), creative industries “have their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent which have a potential for wealth and job creation through the generation and exploitation of intellectual property.”

Prime Minister Blair was clear in his mind about what he wanted to achieve with the promotion of the creative industries when he said he was looking at evolving a nation which would place higher premium on brains rather than brawn and encourage creative people to use their talents and skills to build great enterprises that would meet the needs of the twenty-first century. With this declaration, the government gave recognition to vocations, on which not much premium was hitherto placed, and put structure in place to ensure that those engaged in them were not shortchanged by the system or intermediaries.

Not only did this intervention result in the creation of new jobs, it also boosted the gross domestic product of the country.

Recently, the federal government demonstrated interest in developing creative industry as an avenue for wealth creation and employment generation. A proof of this is the signing of Memorandum of Understanding by the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Bankers’ Committee with the Federal Government on turning the National Arts Theatre to a creative industry centre. If well handled, this will go a long way to boost the creative industries and result in both wealth creation and employment generation.

The only snag however is that the backbone of the creative industries is the protection of intellectual property, which is quite weak in Nigeria. So, unless there is a proper structure in place to protect intellectual property, the objective may not be achieved.

This is because wealth is created in the creative industries when products of the industries are protected from unauthorized users. Wealth is generated when those who make use of such products are made to pay for them. As wealth is created, opening for employment opportunities increases. But when there is no structure to protect practitioners from those who may want to take advantage of them, the sector would be generating wealth and creating employment at a level far below its capacity. It also means that whatever employment opportunities the practitioners are able to create would merely be a fraction of the sector’s capacity.

So, to scale down the swelling number of unemployed youths, the government would do well to pay serious attention to the creative industries and emplace the proper structure for both the sector and the practitioners to prosper.

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