Sim Fubara and the challenge of a new Rivers State: Tackling unemployment

By China Acheru

All things being equal, Siminialayi Fubara will be sworn in as governor of Rivers State on May 29, 2023 and he starts a path that will last either four or eight years.

As he prepares to assume office, he faces the pressing challenge of addressing key issues that have plagued the state for years. Unemployment, cultism, a poor business environment, thuggery, and inadequate workers’ welfare are problems that demand immediate attention. Fubara’s administration must adopt a comprehensive approach to tackle these issues head-on, promoting economic growth, fostering a peaceful society, and prioritizing the welfare of the state’s workforce. In the first of this seven-part series, we look at what the incoming governor can do about the unemployment situation in the state.

According to the statistics on Nigeria’s labour force released by the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics for the 2nd quarter (Q2) of 2020, Rivers State has a total number of 1.7 million (1,714,188) unemployed people.

This makes it the state with the second highest number of unemployed people in Nigeria behind Lagos.

A lot of people in the state do not have jobs and it is worrisome. We do remember that the outgoing governor, Nyesom Wike gave out 200, 000 ‘political jobs’ in 2022 ahead of the 2023 elections and announced 10, 000 jobs in the civil service sometime in April 2023, but will this in any way solve the problem of unemployment in the state?

Combating Unemployment

Since unemployment remains a critical concern in the state, to address this issue, Governor Sim Fubara must implement a multi-faceted strategy that encourages investment, empowers entrepreneurship, and promotes skill development. His administration should:

a) Establish an investment-friendly climate: Fubara must work with relevant stakeholders to streamline bureaucratic processes and reduce unnecessary regulations that hinder business growth. Simplified procedures for business registration, licensing, and land acquisition will attract local and foreign investors, thereby creating job opportunities. The situation where different uniformed men harass business owners for unverified taxes, or street leaders claim ownership of particular areas and make demands of business concerns has to stop.

b) Encourage entrepreneurship: Initiatives such as startup incubators, business mentorship programs, and access to low-interest loans can nurture the entrepreneurial spirit among the youth. Fubara’s government should establish partnerships with private organizations and financial institutions to support budding entrepreneurs. And no, we do not want another committee inaugurated to look into this.

c) Enhance vocational and technical training: Collaboration with educational institutions and industries can lead to the development of relevant vocational training programs. These programs should focus on emerging industries, equipping individuals with in-demand skills and increasing their employability.

d) Support key sectors: Identifying key sectors with high employment potential, such as agriculture, tourism, and manufacturing, and providing targeted support to these industries can boost job creation. Fubara’s administration should offer incentives, access to finance, and technical assistance to businesses operating in these sectors, thereby encouraging expansion and job growth.

e) Develop infrastructure: Infrastructure development plays a vital role in attracting businesses and creating employment opportunities. Sim Fubara should prioritize the improvement of transportation networks, power supply, and digital connectivity in the state. By investing in infrastructure, the government can attract industries, facilitate trade, and spur economic growth. Improvement of transportation networks is not another Fly Over, please.

f) Foster public-private partnerships: Collaborating with the private sector is crucial in tackling unemployment. Fubara’s administration should establish partnerships with businesses, industry associations, and trade organizations. Through such partnerships, job seekers can connect with potential employers.

g) Support innovative initiatives: Encouraging innovation and technology-driven entrepreneurship can lead to the creation of new job opportunities. Governor Fubara should promote initiatives such as technology hubs, incubators, and innovation centres. Supporting research and development in emerging industries can foster innovation, attract investment, and generate employment prospects.

h) Improve access to finance: Lack of access to finance is a significant hurdle for entrepreneurs and small businesses. Fubara’s administration should collaborate with financial institutions to provide affordable loans, grants, and credit facilities tailored to the needs of entrepreneurs and job seekers. This will facilitate business expansion, create startups, and generate employment opportunities.

I) Enhance collaboration with educational institutions: Establishing partnerships between the government, educational institutions, and industries will ensure that the curriculum aligns with industry requirements. This will equip graduates with the necessary skills and knowledge for employment. Internship programs, apprenticeships, and vocational training initiatives can be coordinated with educational institutions to bridge the skills gap and enhance employability.

By implementing these strategies, Governor Sim Fubara can take significant steps toward tackling unemployment in Rivers State, fostering economic growth, and improving the livelihoods of its citizens.

Good luck. It will not be easy.

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