Displaces, leaves hundreds behind
workers lack the skills that are required to fit in.
Experts say this is worrisome when one considers the fact that Nigeria is made up of a largely youthful population.
According to the NBS, more than 91 million Nigerians are young people, below the age of 30.
For most of the young people to lack technological skills, it implies that future employment and incomes in the fast changing modern world will be a challenge.
After seeing the result of a skills impact survey, the Director General of the Industrial Training Fund, Joseph Ari, concluded that Nigerian youths were unemployable.
He said the survey conducted by the ITF in collaboration with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation showed that vacancies existed in all sectors of the Nigerian economy.
“The challenge is finding requisite skills by Nigerians to fill those vacancies and so some of the positions are usually mostly filled by nonnigerians,” he said.
According to him, poor adoption of technology does not mean that Nigerians are not internet savvy.
Many studies have indeed shown that a lot of Nigerians are on the internet and that the country has one of the largest internet penetrations in Africa.
A recent survey showed that 47.1 per cent of the Nigerian population were internet users in 2018, a share projected to grow to 84.5 per cent in 2023.
Despite the huge internet penetration rate, there is no corresponding impact on productivity because majority of Nigerians who use the internet do not deploy it for productive purpose but for chatting and other non-profitable pastimes and perhaps cybercrime, weetracker says.
The most essential sectors in Nigerian economy do not deploy technology, according to analysts.
They have equally observed that technology is lacking in many essential aspects of Nigeria’s life.
For instance, they say agriculture, which is poised to be a replacement for oil in the Federal Government’s Economic Recovery and Growth plan, is seriously lacking in needed mechanisation, technology and innovation.
“Nigeria cannot grow the agricultural sector without mechanisation. Currently, mechanisation is lacking in the sector and the sector cannot get to a level to replace oil unless the government invests in mechanised farming,” an economist and the Chairman of the Foundation for Economic Research and Training, Lagos, Prof Akpan Ekpo, says.
The Commercial Manager, Tractor and Implements, Dizengoff Nigeria, Mr Damisa Enahoro, also says, “One of the issues limiting the increase of food production in the country is poor level of mechanisation.
“Nigeria has the potential of becoming the food basket of Africa and mechanisation is key to achieving it.”
Eighty per cent of the farming population in Nigeria consist of smallholders who still deploy the laborious and time-consuming hoes and cutlasses in farming, according to analysts.
Oba is confident that six-month training in basic heavy duty technology and the maintenance of machinery of mechanisation will turn a farmer from someone who can barely farm one acre with hard labour to somebody who can farm 500 acres.
The Deputy Director-general, Partnerships and Capacity Building, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Dr Kenton Dashiel, echoes the same thought when he compares the average crop yield in Nigeria to other countries, saying while other nations record 12 tonnes per hectare, Nigerian farmers only do about seven tonnes per hectare.
While 70 per cent Nigerians are involved in agriculture, only two per cent farmers produce food enough for the entire US population, analysts maintain.
Importance development of human capital
A huge percentage of Nigeria’s working population is made up of artisans, some of who did not go to school. This, Oba says, is considered a positive development in many advanced countries of the world.
He says, “All prosperous societies are built on the back of robustly confident and technologically savvy artisanship.
“We need to know that apprenticeship and artisanship should be given priority in our human capital development system.”
He laments that Nigeria has failed to move its artisan population into the modern age.
“In some major industries, the degree to which we have left our artisans behind is outrageously criminal. If you see an average building in Nigeria, because of the method the artisan will apply, the owner is wasting between 10 and 15 per cent of the value,” he says.
Findings have however shown that most Nigerians are eager for an opportunity to grow and improve themselves.
This is clear from their response to various global initiatives such as those offered by the Bill and Gates Foundation and Founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, which are geared towards improving their technological leaning.
Reports show that in January 2019 about 142,110 Nigerians visited freecodecamp.org, an online platform, to learn how to code for free.
“The ingenuity of Nigerians and their hunger to learn cannot be questioned,” says a lecturer at the Department of Employment Relations and Human Resource Management, University of Lagos, Dr Dayo Badejo.
“All over the world, where you see things working, if you search, you will see one or two Nigerians who are driving the process.”
He puts it down to leadership, saying with the right leadership, Nigerians will excel in every area.
Badejo says, “You want to give it to an average Nigerian, even the so-called quacks do some things that are marvellous despite the way we look at them that they are not educated or whatever. If given the right environment they have what it takes.”
He adds, “One of the things that really work for us is that we have the population. All we need to do is harness it. We need to do more in human capital development. An average Nigerian is viewed as useless or lazy but when they get to a clime where everything is set, they break records. So there is nothing wrong with us, it is just our orientation and the way we do things.”
With the right leadership creating the right environment, Nigerian workers will achieve milestones in technological advancement, experts maintain.
Oba says leadership in other countries has not only understood technology but has found handhold for its artisanal class and are getting rewarded for work rendered.
“Automation is an asset where leadership has the vision; marshals resources to complement that vision with the primary aim of uplifting and edifying humanity.
“The essence of leadership is using the products of education for wealth creation or public administration, making sure that policy articulation coordinates all society to be in the same ship of progress.
“Are we doing that well enough? No. So, the problem is not automation; the problem is leadership in Nigeria.”
A lecturer at the Lagos Business School, Dr Akin Oparison, calls on leaders to position workers to adapt to the disruption arising from technology.
Also, President and member of the Governing Council, Chartered Institute of Personnel Management, Mr Wale Adediran, stresses the need to develop the workforce in preparation for the disruption to technology in the workplace.
Adediran recommends training and manpower development, saying that a new trend in employment focuses on young people that belong to the jet age and employ speed in every process.
Adediran therefore advises workers of the older generation to educate themselves on technology so that they will be able to work with the younger ones in the same environment without conflicts.
Jobs to be created by technology
The WEF the Future of Jobs Report 2018 has predicted the creation of 133 million new jobs by 2022.
It says this extraordinary swing in jobs will pose a challenge to both employers and workers.
“For employers, it means making the right investments in technology; for workers, it means acquiring the right skills,” the report noted.
It revealed that 54 per cent of all employees would require “significant” training to either upgrade their skills or acquire new skills altogether.
Of these, 35 per cent would require additional six months of training; nine per cent would require training lasting six to 12 months, and 10 per cent would need more than a year to upgrade their skill set.
“By 2022, everyone will need an extra 101 days of learning,” the report said.
The authors of the report took a survey of executives, especially chief human resources officers from 313 of the world’s biggest companies, representing over 15 million workers in 20 developed and emerging economies.
The companies represent a diverse set of industries such as automotive, aerospace, supply chain and transport, travel, financial services, healthcare, IT, mining and metals, oil and gas and professional services.
They identified four primary drivers of change that will dominate from now until 2022, namely: ubiquitous high-speed mobile internet; AI; the widespread adoption of big data analytics, and cloud technology.
Among the companies surveyed, 85 per cent said they would likely expand their use of big data analytics between now and 2022.
An equally large proportion of companies said they were likely to adopt and expand their use of such technologies as the Internet of things, appand web-enabled markets, and cloud computing.
Some companies plan to expand their workforce to new productivity-enhancing roles.
“In 2018, an average of 71 per cent of total task hours across the 12 industries covered in the report were performed by humans, compared to 29 per cent by machines,” the WEF authors wrote.
“By 2022, this average is expected to have shifted to 58 per cent task hours performed by humans and 42 per cent by machines.”
Boye Ademola, Partner and Lead, Digital Transformation at KPMG in Africa, said, “We are witnessing a new genre of companies shaping the business landscape by leveraging emerging technologies and applying them with such potency to create competitive advantage.
“These organisations have a quest to scale. They are big on customer experience. They are open to partnerships and are able to deploy their products and services at scale through Application Programming Interface. They are big adopters of the cloud and quite often are born in the cloud. They embrace design thinking and are happy to return to first principles to find innovative solutions to business problems; and they are relentless at leveraging the power of artificial intelligence (AI) for insights and decisionmaking.”
In an article titled, ‘Leading Through Digital: AI Powered Transformation’, which dealt with the power of the AI and its inherent potential to transform businesses if harnessed properly, KPMG pointed out that a study of the tech giants reveals a relentless focus on the AI and its application at scale.
It stated, “Google’s search engine and its widely adopted Google maps are powered by the AI while Apple and Tencent have strong customer analytics engines with the capability to study customers and prescribe products and offerings that are personalised.
“Amazon and Alibaba have extended the power of the AI into their supply chain and are able to reduce costs while delivering packages at significantly reduced times.”
Steps to stay relevant
Many African countries are tapping into the technological revolution and putting structures in place to stay relevant.
For instance, in many industries in South Africa, there has been a massive drive towards incorporating the AI and machine learning into business and products to streamline operations, analyse user behaviour and determine or predict potential purchasing behaviour.
Reports have it that tech giants, data scientists and entrepreneurs are exploring the potential that the AI can have in critical sectors such as agriculture, health and education on the continent.
In September, the Dakar Institute of Technology opened its doors, offering the AI programming courses. Its mission was to train local people in using data to solve pressing issues such as the impact of climate change on crops.
In Cameroon, a new mobile phone app called Agrix Tech allows farmers to photograph a leaf affected by blight and then, using the AI, diagnoses the problem and recommend treatment.
A project launched in Kenya recently also uses the AI to crunch big data and give smallholder farmers recommendations such as when to plant, in a bid to avert food shortage, according to French technology firm Capgemini.
In apparent response to the unfolding situation in Nigeria, the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, said the government has concluded plans to establish an agency for the AI and robotics.
During a visit from the Nigeria Science Academy in Abuja, Onu said the ministry had been working in the background for a long time to facilitate the establishment of the agency.
He said they had gone through a number of processes and finally were getting ready to start the agency.
“We are very committed to ensuring that we have at least one research institute, centre or agency that will concentrate on artificial intelligence and robotics,” he said.
With the government recently securing $500m African Development Bank funding to support technology innovation, there are high hopes that many (displaced) Nigerians will be reabsorbed and meaningfully reengaged.
•Modern office worker. Photo: Google