From Classroom to Street: Inside the Entrepreneurship Drive of Nigerian Unemployed Graduates

Like the sound of reggae and hip hop songs, the traders filled my ear with noise, asking passersby to buy their gadgets and electronic products as we walked through the electrical section of the Alaba International market in Lagos on Saturday afternoon.

“Oga come, come check here, I get certified products”, say the traders almost in unison as they jostle in multitudes with each other to snack up customers. Even under the heat of the scorching sun, they remain determined because their lives depend on the sales they make.

After about a 10-minute walk inside the market, this reporter finally settled in a small-sized shop owned by 29-year-old Abdulgafar Toheeb. The inscription at the entrance reads “Toheeb Computers and Gadgets”. As a buyer, Toheeb gently adapted a plastic chair to accommodate this reporter on a stool belonging to his customers.

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From Classroom to Street: Inside the Entrepreneurial Drive of Unemployed Nigerian Graduates
Young unemployed Nigerian graduates find solace in entrepreneurship, and Abdulwasiu Hussein is one of them
Source: Original

Oga, which one do you want to follow me to buy the”, he convinced the reluctant reporter while presenting different types of products. “You see, I am a graduate. I own this shop, which I use to feed my family. So rest assured that I will not sell you fake products” he added.

When asked why he chose to do business in the market rather than get a job after graduating, he responded by saying:

“I applied for several jobs after graduation, but I didn’t get them. And because the government did not provide us with jobs, we have to provide one ourselves. I have dreams and a family to attend to,” he said.

Unemployed but self-employed graduates

Toheeb’s appearance and comfort is an eye-catcher for this reporter to take his sense of literacy and responsiveness. A 2020 graduate in Mass Communication from Esae University in Cotonou, Republic of Benin, he said that his dream was to practice as a journalist but that he was inspired to set up his computer business a year ago after failing at several jobs he applied for.

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“I wanted to practice as a journalist, because I studied mass communication at university. Fast forward to after graduation, I couldn’t get feedback from the jobs I applied for. Things were hard, and I was staying idle at home, that’s why I thought of starting a business”.

Although his business still seems small-scale, Toheeb said it was an easy decision to get into, considering he learned how to repair computers during his undergraduate studies.

“Getting into this business was not a problem, I learned about computer repair during my undergraduate holidays. The only problem I could think of was capital, but I was able to cope with the small fund I collected myself,” he said.

Toheeb’s experience is a healthy reflection of the entrepreneurial drive of many young graduates in the Alaba International market.

Like Toheeb, Hussein Abdulwasiu is a physics education graduate from the Federal University of Technology, Minna, but he is in the salmon business. He buys smartphones, iPhones, dead TV scraps and panels from technicians in Alaba International markets and resells them at a higher price to Waste to Wealth Inc- a scrap company in Ikeja, Lagos.

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“The scrap business is what I do to support myself. I buy dead phones and electronic panels from technicians in Alaba International Market to sell to companies like Waste to Wealth inc. in Ikeja. Sometimes, I go to markets in other states to buy them when I don’t get them in Alaba,” he said.

Hussein Abdulwasiu takes up his remaining business
Source: Original

Sharing his experience with this reporter at his residence in Ilemba Awori community in Lagos state, he said he wanted to go into entrepreneurship but it is not too early as he is doing now. Hussein noted that his unemployed status forced him into the current business.

“My short-term goal right after I graduate from the Federal University of Technology, Minn., is to work in a public or private institution where I can gather enough experience, resources and time to achieve my long-term goal of entrepreneurship. planning. But in this country, you just have to resort to self-help.”

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“Now that I have started this business, my biggest dream is to grow it to become an employer of labor and provide business opportunities to young graduates,” he said confidently.

Nigeria’s alarming unemployment rate

In Nigeria, the average graduate hopes for a well-paying job after graduation. However, increasing unemployment and underemployment are making it very difficult.

“At least 1.8 million graduates in the country complete their degrees and move into the labor market every year,” says Okonjo Iweala, Nigeria’s former Finance Minister, but completing a degree now does not guarantee a place in the country. field of work.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) 2018 data, Nigeria’s unemployment rate increased from 18.8 per cent in the third quarter of 2017 to 23.1 per cent in the third quarter of 2018. The NBS said out of the 9.7 million unemployed who did so completely. anything from the third quarter of 2018, 90.1% or 8.77 million were first-time job seekers and had never worked before.

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Fast forward to 2022, it continues to increase, as Statista showed that the total unemployed population in Nigeria was estimated to have peaked at about 33%, a figure projected to be 32.5 percent in the previous year .

Graduate trade is to blame

Although Toheeb turned his unemployment into self-employment, he said Legit. ng that the increased rate of unemployment in Nigeria is a result of the negligence of the government. He said that the government was negligent in paying effective attention to policies and initiatives aimed at addressing unemployment.

“It is true that the government is introducing policies to solve unemployment in Nigeria, but it is difficult to point to policies that are reasonably successful. Governments are undertaking this solution without giving it financial and administrative attention,”

Unlike Toheeb, Hussein Abdulwasiu believes the government has little or no fault. While blaming the unemployment problem on the unemployability of Nigerian university graduates, Hussein noted that today’s Nigerian graduates place a high premium on university degrees and less emphasis on acquiring technical and professional skills.

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“An undergraduate is expected to explore practical opportunities and experimental aspects of his field during his course. Many graduates spent ninety-nine percent on reading, today’s society has passed that stage. It will in no way make them employable to employers after they graduate,” he said

Entrepreneurship, self-employment as a sign of hope

Amid rising unemployment, the entrepreneurial drive of graduates like Toheeb and Hussein shows a sign of hope for Nigeria’s unemployment problem, according to Wasiu Moshood, Economist and founder of the WAM foundation.

Mr. Wasiu explained that entrepreneurship, especially SMEs, plays an active role in job creation and that a high unemployment rate is associated with a weak level of entrepreneurial activities. Thanks to the creation of new enterprises, the unemployment rate is reduced.

“Small Medium Enterprises (SMEB) are very important in creating jobs and growing a country’s economy. As a business grows, entrepreneurs have more hands to help them. They engage in more business transactions with more business owners alike. By doing this, they share wealth, and people who work for them and in related businesses also grow,” he said.

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Mr. Wasiu noted that young graduates who started their business after graduation may face some challenges considering the Nigerian business ecosystem but if they are determined to tackle them they will succeed in the long run .

“Given the regular challenges of starting a business and Nigeria’s unfavorable business ecosystem. Graduates willing to start a business or engage in entrepreneurship may face discouraging difficulties such as debt and poor cash flow. But concerted efforts to challenge them will encourage and help prepare their businesses for greater success,” he said.



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