Iyinoluwa Aboyeji: Big for nothing industries (YNaija FrontPage)

For every TuFace Idibia earning millions on a single show, there is a OneFace grinding away on his terrible music, you are probably glad you will never hear of.

Last week, we talked at length about Nigeria’s youth unemployment problem and how it has fueled a national security crisis.

It turns out that around the same time last week, Audu Maikori, the head of Chocolate Music label which represents famous Nigerian music stars like M.I, Ice Prince and Jesse Jagz, asked a question on twitter. “I have a serious question: what are four areas you think can help create jobs in Nigeria for young people?”

I thought it was a really important question and thankfully it got a lot of somewhat thoughtful responses even on twitter. However, my disappointment was that perhaps because it was a music label head that asked the question, a lot of the answers included entertainment as an industry that could create jobs for young Nigerians.

The entertainment industry won’t like my reaction to this revelation of sorts but I really think it is a serious problem when the majority of youth in our society think of “entertainment” as a rock solid career path. That said, it is not in my place to judge any individual’s desired career paths so I’ll focus the conversation on why economically speaking, sectors that often get a lot of attention from young Nigerians like entertainment, oil and gas, and technology often yield poor results in terms of job creation.

Look at the entertainment industry for example. One would be remiss to ignore the tremendous growth that has happened in that industry over the last decade or two. In fact today, by some estimates, Nigeria’s entertainment industry generates revenues of $2 billion annually. However, what a lot of our youth turned entertainment industry hopefuls have failed to realize is that it is an industry that exponentially concentrates returns on the top 10% leaving the 90% in what I call the “following my dream” rut. For every TuFace Idibia earning millions on a single show, there is a OneFace grinding away on his terrible music, you are probably glad you will never hear of. For every Tonto Dike, there are millions of girls stuck in low budget Hausa movies no one will or should ever watch. Any one who has managed to peak through audition tapes of any major talent compete will likely agree with me. So at the end of the day, despite the incredible interest from Nigerian youth in this sector, they are only likely to deliver the promise of a living wage to a talented few.

Entertainment is not the only industry like that. In fact, most of the industries that have gained mind share in the young Nigerian’s mind as industries with viable career prospects are industries that have mastered the art of “jobless growth”. For example, the Oil and Gas industry – another dream career path for young Nigerians –also exhibits similar trends. Although these jobs do pay very well, it is optimized for a few very highly skilled individuals, automatically disqualifying the majority of job seeking young Nigerians. To make matters even worse, constant insecurity, and consistently declining oil production and oil prices, means even the few million jobs the industry has been generous enough to cough up are at risk. Oil majors like Shell have been undergoing calculated staff purges to match market realities of a declining oil and gas industry for the last few years now. We’ve seen the same patterns in banking as the need for consolidation to meet stringent liquidity and capital requirements passed down from the CBN increases. Even in tech, our status as a fraud friendly nation combined with the fact that our software engineers are either improperly trained or stuck writing VB scripts, really inhibits our ability to significantly contribute to the new Internet economy.

So back to Audu Maikori’s question, “where are the new industries that can create jobs for young Nigerians?”

I have a few ideas I’ll share with you next week.

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Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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