Is Nigeria’s youth ready for a digital revolution?

January 28, 2021
4 min read

By Femi Balogun, Monitoring, Evaluation & Research Specialist at Jobberman Nigeria

An increase in technology adoption in businesses will see an estimated 46% of work activities in Nigeria susceptible to automation according to the World Economic Forum. COVID-19 is accelerating the development of digital businesses and simultaneously changing the landscape of the jobs market for young people.  But how ready is Nigeria’s booming youth population to take on these new digital job roles?  

With a population of approximately 200 million, Nigeria is home to half of West Africa’s young people, estimated at over 100 million, between the ages of 15-35 years old. In theory, this would appear to be the ideal mass community to power the Fourth Industrial Revolution. However, the current state of the labour market highlights a far from ideal reality; at first glance, one out of three young people are unemployed and recent data revealed jobseekers are applying for more than 20 jobs per day. According to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics, underemployment amongst youth between 15 - 34 years rose to 57% in Q2’2020. This, in part, suggests that young people are either underpaid or holding positions in the workplace they are overqualified for. Also, more women are unemployed as 63% are more likely to be unemployed or underemployed than men (43%). This means that 3 in 5 women are either unemployed or underemployed. 

Further observation shows the standout issues impacting youth unemployment and underemployment are largely linked to more people entering the labour market than the number of jobs being created at any point in time. For instance, in 2018, Nigeria only created about 450,000 new jobs while over 5 million people joined the labour force. This led to an increase in the number of the unemployed by 4.9 million people in the same year. Not to mention a widening gap of hard and soft skills, where the skills of the labour force fail to match the requirements of employers. 

Identifying the digital skills gap

A closer look at the digital sector reveals an overwhelming skills gap based on competencies assessed in three sub-sectors - Software Development Digital Analysis and Network & Cybersecurity. Within the Software Development cluster, for instance, our findings indicate that 73% of jobseekers rate their proficiency at a beginners level across skills such as computer programming, cloud infrastructure, UI/UX, web design, mobile development and design thinking. A similar pattern exists within the competencies assessed in the Digital Analysis and Network & Cybersecurity clusters. Across the three clusters, there is a demand gap for positions such as Security Engineering, Data Science, Cyber Security and Security Architecture with a demand scale ranging between 10% and 45%.

However, within the Digital Marketing sub-sector, the data suggests growing competencies in the areas such as social media management and content development with proficiency ratings above 40% at advanced levels. However, there appears to be a skills gap in Sales, Marketing Campaigns and Search Engine Optimisation with proficiency levels as low as 8.13% and no higher than 16.92%. Within the Digital marketing cluster, we found demand gaps in roles such as CRM and Email Marketing as well as Digital Strategy with a demand scale of 33% and 46% respectively. .

There has been a shift in recent years for practical competency tests alongside certification as a basis for recruitment. With many looking for their ideal candidates to possess both hard and soft skills. However, most jobseekers are aware of their digital skills gap but have no idea of what soft skills are (personal effectiveness, work preparedness, communication skills, problem-solving etc.) and how this helps to secure a job.

Solving the problem

So what needs to be done? With an increasing youth population and having the largest mobile market in Africa, the benefits of this potential are already visible across macroeconomic indicators, and if the predictions about the Fourth Industrial Revolution are anything to go by, Nigeria can be the poster child for digital transformation on the continent. 

The gap in human capital optimisation is at the core of the limitations in the labour market as Nigeria captures only 49% of its full human capital potential, compared to a continental average of 55%. The ICT sector is leading in terms of its contribution to national GDP (17.83%) and estimates suggest the digital sector could add $88 billion and 3 million jobs to the economy by 2027.   Nigeria’s digital economy presents a unique opportunity for employment and job creation. However, this will require improvements in digital skills, literacy and soft skills training amongst young people. And it will also require robust government initiatives.

The government plans to lower the access barrier to digital tools for citizens, setting a benchmark of 95% digital literacy rates to be achieved in the next ten years (2030) through States and LGAs support. It is expected that through the policy young people will be equipped with the necessary skills to get a decent job while transforming Nigeria into a leading digital economy. 

Nigeria’s youth will be ready with strategic investments that support human capital development, create an enabling environment free from restrictive policies, tapping into the global ecosystem in ways that provide remote opportunities for local talent beyond our borders and attracting foreign tech players as well as advancing initiatives that encourage innovation within the digital ecosystem.

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