Need for national job creation policy (3)
Garment factories have succeeded in Indonesia, Bangladesh, Singapore and Malaysia and accounts for over 50% of their foreign exchange earnings, accounts for mopping up over 45% of their unemployed youths into gainful employment, accounts for attracting billions of western investment dollars, short and long term into their economies, accounts for the successful execution of micro credit facilities and labor mobility to surrounding Asian economies.
The question therefore is, why can’t we adapt such a tested and proven job creation policy, considering the boom in the industry worldwide? The answer is simple: Visionless leadership and corruption.
A successful garment factory with sufficient capacity to mop up a good percentage of our teaming unemployed population requires first and foremost, the government to consider unemployment as a national security threat that requires urgent attention.
Second, the government should promote skill development in this sector, which will attract capital infusion into the industry, functional and efficient business friendly banking systems, identification of a nitch market willing and ready to bulk purchase from primary producers, production friendly markets, stable exchange rates, production friendly cost of labor in relation to profit maximization in secondary markets, identification of tertiary markets, and the development of economies of scale. Can we meet up with these expectations? Yes we can, with the right political will.
While some will be quick to point out that government cannot be involved in business at a time the rest of the world is privatizing state owned investments, the truth is that the cost implications, market fluctuations, shipping logistics, lack of support infrastructure, state compliance and standardization neglect, lack of drive from employees due to low wages to enhance profit maximization in secondary markets, makes this venture unattractive to the private sector on the short run, even though if properly executed is a promising long term investment.
Bangladesh has similar characteristics like Nigeria. They have little or no natural resources. As a matter of state policy with rising unemployment and poverty, they decided to invest in the textile industry and training their vast unemployed youths as tailors and garment makers.
Today, the textile and clothing industries provide the single source of economic growth in Bangladesh’s rapidly developing economy. By 2013 exports of textiles, clothing, and ready-made garments (RMG) accounted for 77% of Bangladesh’s total merchandise export.
A job creation policy of this sort will readily work in Nigeria. The administration of President Jonathan built some work stations called “skill development centers, with Billions of Naira in contracts, however, there’s no specific workable program on how to use these centers to reduce unemployment other than mounting a few computer work stations in a building and calling it “skill development centers”.
Skill development centers without a definite national job creation plan is a project in futility. Bangladesh with a population of about 156 million has the highest population density in the world.
This Country has a similar population like Nigeria, while 45% of their youths are actively involved in the textile employment; over 45% of Nigerian youths have no hope of ever being employed if only they are employable.
The first question any investor would ask in promoting any venture would be is there a market for the garment industry? The answer is yes. In addition, there’s a large garment industrial need in Africa and the United states currently dependent on the Asian garment industry.
Let me point out here, Nigeria is notorious for failed projects. To get this right, all component units of the state must be efficient and being able to communicate with one another.
In summary, unemployment in Nigeria remains a function of failed state policies, an underfunded failed educational system that over the years has produced unskilled and unemployable graduates, coupled with a failed political class whose vision of Nigeria has been blurred, the prevalence of institutionalized corruption and a replacement of merit with sycophancy and mediocrity in all levels of government and policy execution.
All hope is not lost, as a people, so long as we can identify the problem, then there’s a solution. With the emergence of Muhammadu Buhari, the right leadership is in the offing.
Recommendation for Buhari’s Administration
The Incoming administration should revisit AGOA and set up institutions to moderate compliance and standardizations and in addition, expand AGOA to include more Agricultural products for which we have a comparative advantage.
The Federal Government should establish laboratories that would ensure that exportable Agricultural products under the AGOA agreements meet the required international standards.
As Osemede earlier suggested, the establishment of a functional commodity board and commodity exchanges, to moderate the demand and supply of commodities should be promoted if we must attain our expected objectives with the AGOA agreement.
The federal government should support the creation of Agricultural Cooperatives by unemployed youths and they should be provided with professionally targeted export orientation training, to enable them engage the agro export trade, taking advantage of AGOA.
This venture if funded by a well-managed micro credit program will mop up a large percentage of the unemployed population in Nigeria.
The Government should convert our redundant skill acquisition centers to pilot programs to implement the garment factories. Skilled business professionals should pilot the initial project with goals of commercialization to explore opportunities in secondary and tertiary markets globally.
Finally, government intervention is necessary in the communications industry to improve broadband capacities utilization.
While I will not speculate here on the nature of this intervention, it should be noted that Nigeria pays one of the highest rate per minute in phone and broadband utilization worldwide.
If broadband accessibility remains an exclusive preserve for the rich or unlimited accessibility is not attained for a fixed affordable rate in the nearest future, then our dream of reducing unemployment may never be attained or at most will remain a campaign promise.
I hope the incoming administration will get it right this time.
•Odidi is a United States-based project management consultant. (PRINCEWILLODIDI@YAHOO.COM)
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