The Chief Operating Officer of Cuttler Communications, Ms. Laura Oloyede, in this interview with ADEMOLA ALAWIYE speaks on the need to tackle the scourge of unemployment
The business climate is such that most businesses collapse after few years of set up, what can be done to save these businesses from collapsing?
When the Minister of Finance said we must promote entrepreneurial education, she did not mean we should all start creating jobs today. If the word education is there, it means we have to learn something. Businesses collapse today particularly in our nation because people are not skilled; people don’t understand what it is to manage a business. Let’s go back to our education system, look at the quality of students we are churning out. I’ve had an opportunity to participate in a recruitment process; you should see what these prospective employees showed. They lacked skills; they could not speak good English. When somebody like that sets up a business, it will fail. An entrepreneur is somebody who understands resource management and when you are talking about resource management, it starts with timing, plants and machinery, human capital. A typical Nigerian will start a business today, both the net profit and gross profit will be squandered in the club. We need to promote entrepreneurial education and not job creation. The solution to our problem is not job creation at this time, we do not have that mind-set, and our values are warped. Even when we build, we don’t have a sustainable culture to ensure growth because we don’t know how.
Who should create jobs. Is it the public sector or private sector that should create jobs?
I don’t even want to talk about my thoughts now. Based on statistics and research that we have done, it’s a collective responsibility. We should recognise that government is not responsible for creating jobs, it is responsible for providing the enabling environment. Individuals and the organised private sector are responsible for creating jobs and not government. If you look at advanced emerging markets or secondary emerging markets, about 70 to 90 per cent of their economy is driven by the micro, small and medium scale sector. The same thing with Nigeria, I think about 70 per cent of employments is absorbed by the MSME sector. Part of what the initiative sets out to achieve is making Nigeria realise that government will not provide jobs; it does not even have the capacity to provide jobs. Government does not have the resources to provide jobs, the earlier we rise up and embrace this reality, the better for us. One of the challenges in Nigeria is blame-trading; we don’t know who is responsible for certain things we desire.
But in Nigeria, the enabling environment to create jobs is not there. What can government do to provide such environment?
Government’s responsibility like I said is to create the enabling an environment. When you talk about enabling environment, what are you talking about? You are talking about financial facilities, infrastructural facilities and then you are looking at sustainable policies. These things are not going to happen in one day, it is a process. There’s a limit to what the Bank of Industry can do. How many commercial banks in the country have SME departments? Part of the enabling environment that government should provide is to ensure that the interest rate is not what it is today. I don’t know how long it is going to take but it is going to take a while. Our focus is not so much looking at the problem because everybody is looking at the problem; our focus is on creating the solution. Finding solution is your responsibility as a citizen.
Interest rate is a major problem. How could entrepreneurs source for capital apart from approaching banks?
There are different types of people that are not employed today. In the world today, we have seven billion people while we have one billion people in Africa. In sub-Sahara Africa, we have 17 countries with 800 million people. Out of this 800 million people, there are 500 million people that are youths under the age of 30. Out of the 500 million youths, 220 million people are jobless. According to SURE-P and Nigeria Bureau of Statistics, there are 40 million people that are jobless in Nigeria. Do you honestly think that government can produce 40 million jobs? It’s a rhetorical question.
Do you think the private sector can accommodate these 40 million people?
No, when you look at the figure, you already know government cannot accommodate these people so that leaves us with private companies and employed citizens like us. We know that finance is a problem so let us look at people who are currently employed. If you continue to give financial aids for consumables to people, you are not helping them. When you have someone who is dependent on you and not employed, instead of giving them money for consumables, you can give them money to start something, sit them down and ask them what they are passionate about. Can you guys set up a business together? What we are looking for is a paradigm shift – moving people from job seekers to job creators. Can I set up a bakery or a laundry business? Those are the questions you should ask yourself. If you have been working for five years, there is a tendency that you have personal savings, there’s a tendency that your bank will be able to loan you money and there is a tendency that you belong to a cooperative body in which case you may be able to access as little as N2m. If you have access to N2m, what do you want to do with the money. I am not saying you should quit your job, but can you set up something and start employing people. Look at bloggers, make-up artistes, how did they start? There are so many things one can do. We need a structured financial institution but there are so many ways to access finance. The fact that you are a staff of company A does not mean you should not look for ways to improve yourself as an entrepreneur. To save your future, you should think about what to do. In that way, you are growing the SME sector. Instead of keeping that N10m in the bank, what can you pump it into?
What is the PEE initiative all about?
The initiative started in December 2013 when we recognised the need to tackle unemployment which is a national issue. The initiative is called PEE and it stands for Promoting Entrepreneurial Education. We’ve been taking a look at our economy as a whole and we recognise that there are so many issues in the country as of today – issues of poor education quality, security and so on. The archive of Cuttler is a container that has so many shoes to address but this is a front burner so we decided to embark on it.
Is the PEE initiative a short term initiative?
Certainly not, when you are trying to bring about change, it is as good as saying it is a lifelong process. If you are going to change the mindset of Nigerians, you have to realise that it’s going to take a long time. As long as we are a nation, PEE is a lifelong initiative.
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