Underemployment: 6 stop-gap gigs for the Nigerian millennial

by Alexander O. Onukwue

‘There comes a time in the life of a man or woman that you drop that certificate and hustle’, the sort of advice that is sure to have come to many a Nigerian youth. With unemployment at 21% and white collar outfits struggling with the Nigeria business environment, it has literally become an all-man-for-himself environment over the past three years.

But the Nigerian youth doesn’t just lie low and sulk. No social security means you just have to get up and give it a good go, whatever it is that can be found out there. And, yea, every skill set finds something to do. The word to describe a job which does not live up to one’s academic qualification is ‘underemployment’ but it is far better than being broke and lazy. They are not permanent engagements, just sufficient to keep body and soul together.

Here are the top underemployment gigs at the moment, for those between 15 and 35.


‘How could she buy a house in Banana Island from just gossip? I have a laptop, and I can write, therefore, I will start my own blog too’. Somehow everybody hates on Linda Ikeji but wants to have as much of her Naira. The success story of top Nigerian bloggers have inspired/enviously driven many a youth to start up their own mini gossip sites, to land some of the dot-com boom. What everybody does not do so well is the investment in time and financial resources and consistency over time which the successful ones put into it.

Social Media/Affiliate Marketing

This is also for those who have gained some tech skills and are looking to combine it with their ability to attract people to a product. An experience in sales could be handy here and you may not even consider it an underutilisation if you have a degree of diploma in Marketing. In the big age of advertising, where revenues are available but in high competition, affiliate marketers are becoming more specialised in their roles.


Oh dear, the ready-made option, especially for those whose audition in front of mirrors have met with approval from their reflection. Nigerian music is in its era of boom but it also is in the danger of representing an escape for the inconvenience of society and rich-quick gig. Some are doing it well and cashing out as much necessary for uploads to digital platforms and a few returns. Friends get friends to cook them up a good beat using computer software and if it comes out well, who knows? Just one request: work on the lyrics guys.


We are seeing the rise of bead making, bag making, confectioneries, soap makers and the use of Ankara and local fabrics to make books and sandals. Now incorporated in tertiary entrepreneurial courses and NYSC programmes, the value of handcrafts are back and it may not totally be unconnected with the non-available Shell jobs. It is a convenient support system for many Nigerian youth, especially ladies who have taken to it and are making honest means. The role of Instagram and Twitter in making these crafts appreciated has also played a role; it is common to see pictures of bags or some handmade products, with the tag “my customer might be on your TL”. Thumbs up to all, we’ll keep retweeting and regranning.

Instagram Skits

And speaking of Instagram, is there a bigger talent mill right now than the emergence of short video comedians from Instagram? From Frank Donga to Twyse, to Klintoncod and EmmaohmaGod, to the prophetic duo and (perhaps the best of them all) Maraji, there is a growing fanbase reach and value for money on Instagram, battling stand-up comedy at the moment. [Of course, those I mentioned above have gone beyond underemployment to assuming this as their jobs now, but there was a time when it was all for fun].


Perhaps the most underrated short-term ‘employment’ by youth should really be explored more. Granted that many volunteering opportunities do not offer payments, the opportunity to learn and prove one’s professional competence should not be underestimated. It should not always be about the money first; learn something for free.

What other good stop-gap gig do you know that is working for Nigerians at the moment?

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