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Nigeria: How youth entrepreneurship programmes reduce unemployment

In December 2018, Nigeria’s unemployment stood at 23.1% affecting 20.9million people, the majority of which are young people. But two programmes initiated by the Delta State government is addressing youth unemployment in that state



Unemployment has become a major problem that bedevils the lives of Nigerians, especially the youth, resulting in cybercrime, increased militancy, kidnappings, robberies and other violent crimes. The lack of work affects the mental and psychological wellbeing of a large percentage of Nigerians. Many young people have given up hope and some have committed suicide, leaving their families devastated.

Nigeria’s unemployment rate has increased from 18.8% in 2017 to 23.1%, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) released in December 2018. The report revealed that Nigeria now has 20.9 million people who are unemployed, a figure that rose from 17.6 million.

Many young people have given up hope and some have committed suicide, leaving their families devastated.

Of the 20.9 million people classified as unemployed, 11.1 million did some form of work but for few hours a week (less than 20 hours), while 9.7 million did absolutely nothing, the NBS said.

Due to the unfriendly economy, some companies in the country have been laying off their staff. According to the report, 9.9 million people were unemployed after they had lost their jobs.


Read: Nigerian women entrepreneurs draw the short straw on education levels

“Of the 9.7 million that were unemployed and did nothing at all, 35% or 3.4 million have been unemployed and did nothing at all for less than a year, 17.2% or 1.6 million for a year, 15.7% or 1.5 million had been unemployed and did nothing for two years, and the remaining 32.1% or 3.1 million unemployed persons had been unemployed doing nothing for three years and more,” the report states.

Rise in youth unemployment

The majority of the people affected are young people. According to the NBS, unemployment in the age bracket of between 15 and 35 stood at an alarming 52.65%, while in some African countries the rate is lower. Youth unemployment in Liberia stands at 4.7%, Kenya 18.7%, Egypt 26.3%, South Africa 27.7%, Lesotho 31.8%, Libya 43.8% and Ghana 48%.

STEP-and-YAGEP-beneficiaries- Asabametro

The federal government tried to address this by establishing Npower. The aim was “to foster productivity through skills development and valuable knowledge sharing and acquisition for economic growth and social development”. The impact has not been felt much.

YAGEP and STEP to the rescue


State governments also started churning out various programmes to reduce the rate of unemployment in their states by training the unemployed to become self-employed. The Delta State government is one of the states that established two programmes, namely the Youth Agricultural Entrepreneurs Programme (YAGEP) and Skills Training and Entrepreneurship Programme (STEP). YAGEP is focused on fish, rice and vegetable production, while STEP is focused on nine skill acquisitions. These include fashion design and tailoring, plumbing and audiovisual services, among others. The state government’s aim is to provide job opportunities and empower the youth.

Launching STEP shortly after his inauguration as the governor of the state in 2015, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa said, “We are not training you to remain one. We are training you to become successful entrepreneurs who would train and employ other unemployed youths.”

“We are not training you to remain one. We are training you to become successful entrepreneurs who would train and employ other unemployed youths.”


Cynthia Ehire is the Chief Executive Officer of Omas Events and Makeovers, based in Sapele, Nigeria. She was a beneficiary of STEP’s 2015/2016 cycle. She enrolled and learnt to bake cakes and pastries and to do makeovers. Now she is fully into cosmetics.

“I have never experienced anything like this before. My eyes were opened to the opportunities in decoration and events management before I diversified into catering, makeovers and skin therapy.” Cynthia has trained and graduated nine apprentices while more than 15 people are now undergoing training in her enterprise.


YAGEP has also been impactful. At its launch in 2017, the government allocated 154 YAGEP fish ponds, located at Ugbokodo in the Okpe local government area, to 77 YAGEPreneurs. Each young person was allocated two fish ponds to enable them to start their fisheries enterprise. The government has since established four more fish pond clusters, at Egbokodo-Itsekiri, Mbiri, Anwai and Alao-Ossissa.

High demand

Annually, more than 10 000 young people apply for both these programmes. In the 2017/2018 cycle, 15 000 people were reported to have applied, when there is space for about 800.

So far, more than 2 300 young people have been trained, nurtured and established in their choice enterprises under the STEP and YAGEP programmes of the Delta state government. Graduate trainees have in turn trained and nurtured thousands of entrepreneurs to become self-employed and economically viable.