Dis­places, leaves hun­dreds be­hind

The Punch - - SPECIAL FEATURES -

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

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