The world is undergoing transformation at an unprecedented pace and scale, with the fourth industrial revolution advancing at a rapid speed, driven by data and powered by hitherto unimaginable computing power in mobile devices.
This transformation of the economic landscape presents nation-states with opportunities and threats that could either propel them into relevance or move them further into irrelevance.
China in the last 30years has been able to move about 800million of her citizens out of extreme poverty, while growing to become the second-largest economy in the world, through a deliberate policy of human capital development that has led the country to acquire expertise that has led it to become a major manufacturing and export hub in the world today.
Nigeria has within this period been a major importer of virtually all of her needs while exporting her finest human resources especially those in the youthful age bracket who seek greener pastures in Europe, Asia, and America. Edo state has acquired a reputation as a major exporter of migrants seeking greener pastures and having to resort to crime in Europe, driven by the fact that many of the young in the state had lost hope of moving up the ladder of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
Successive governments had failed to create enough opportunities for Nigerians in Nigeria and Edo state was no exception to this rule as the wave of migration both legal and illegal continued to gather momentum. In his campaign in 2016, Governor Godwin Obaseki made it clear that his administration would focus on building a digital economy to enable the youth to fulfill their God-given potentials and move up the rungs of the economic mobility ladder, without having to resort to crime.
Upon assuming office, the governor launched the Edo Skills Development Programme (Edo Jobs), to create employment opportunities for about 200 thousand citizens of the state. There has never been a shortage of “youth empowerment schemes” in Nigeria that have become channels for diverting state funds to vested interests and for funding crony/patronage networks, without any significant benefit to the society.
Edo Jobs, however, was a first-of-its-kind program due to the fact that it was so brilliantly conceived that it attracted partners from the private sector and international development institutions.
Being a thorough professional and visionary, the governor domiciled the project in Edo State Skills Development Agency, led by the 36year old Ukinebo Dare as Managing Director. The state government took a different approach to the Edo Jobs initiative, wherein the goal was to build a large pool of employable youths rather than the usual system of giving handouts without proper data or impact monitoring and evaluation mechanism being put in place. Edo Jobs commenced with a statewide registration of the youth and their categorization based on interests, educational level, and skills, which then guided the implementation of the program.
The Edojobs job matching portal was created to connect job seekers with job opportunities. EdoInnovates was conceived to train talents in the state around ICT knowledge and to help them become entrepreneurs and freelancers. Edo Production Centre, a 23thousand square meter property with constant power availability, was also created as a warehouse for industrial opportunities for the youth to have access to knowledge, equipment, and markets in various vocational enterprises including artisans and small scale manufacturers such as machine fabricators, waste recyclers, pencil, producers of pencils, toothpicks, furniture, hair extensions, among others.
In the last four years, Edo Jobs has matched over 50thousand youths to jobs, while about 30thousand have been upskilled, with over 20million Naira given in grants through a pitch competition.
The state now boasts a vibrant and growing community of digitally literate youth who are already doing freelancing jobs and earning in dollars. The Edo Jobs program has also targeted specific interventions at returnees from Libya and other countries, to enable them seamlessly reintegrate to socio-economic life back home in Nigeria.
The Edo Jobs program has been so successful that it has attracted a diverse base of partners including partners such as GIZ, DFID, Oxfam, SOS Nigeria, MainOne, Slot Academy, and the Bank of Industry. About 160thousand youths have been reached through the Edo Jobs program, with the numbers set to grow even more in the coming years.
Edo Jobs is a clear example of the way government programs ought to be structured with private sector partners, to ensure accountability and sustainability of government interventions over a longer timeframe to enable the people to reap their multiplier effects.
The Edo Jobs programme has made huge strides in aggregating demand for jobs and consolidating supply in Edo state through a structured skill acquisition system. This model ought to be emulated by both the Federal and state governments in Nigeria to arrest the downward slide of employment and underemployment figures in the country.