Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, has said the spate of unemployment in the country is giving her sleepless nights.
Speaking while inspecting an ultramodern Information and Communications Technology factory of Omatek Nigeria Plc in Lagos on Friday, Okonjo-Iweala said, “According to the National Bureau of Statistics, each year, about 1.8 million young Nigerians enter into our labour market and we need to ensure that our economy provides jobs for them.
“In fact, some people ask, ‘What keeps you awake at night, with regard to this economy?’ I say it is the issue of job creation. And I know this is what keeps Mr. President awake at night as well.
“That is why we have responded to the challenge of creating jobs by trying to transform several sectors of the economy; from agriculture, where we’re expecting to create 3.5 million jobs and where the progress of reaching our goal of feeding this country is already well advanced.”
The minister said Nigeria lacked institutions on which to build its developmental programmes.
“When you look at Nigeria, for over 50 to 60 years, we’ve been working without the key institutions that some other people have. We keep making stopgap solutions. For 50 years, we didn’t have a Bureau for Public Procurement; for 50 years, we didn’t have a Debt Management Office.
“So many of the institutions that we have now are new and if you stand back, you’ll see there are still many gaps. It is now our job to try to fill those gaps.”
The minister said the Federal Government was putting in place more initiatives to encourage small and medium scale enterprises.
She noted that the Central Bank of Nigeria had put in place a N200bn guaranty fund for SME’s to access bank loans.
Okonjo-Iweala said, “Let me mention that the Minister of Information and Communications technology has started a Venture Capital Fund with about $15m, which is being financed by the government and other donors.
“The idea behind it is to help support innovative enterprises in the field of ICT. This is designed to lift up some of the young people in Computer Village doing all sorts of innovations.”
She asked investors to encourage public investment in their businesses and to list their companies on the Nigerian Stock Exchange.
The minister said the capital market had been revamped to allow the listing of SMEs through the Alternative Securities Market.
According to her, the platform has made it easier for SMEs to list their companies and to raise additional resources from the capital market.
She added that there were advisers to help small scale investors meet their listing requirements and to help them on how to get listed.
The minister, who described the stock market as a challenging one due to “infrastructural bottlenecks,” said in spite of the challenges, companies had kept growing and maintained high quality standards.
She noted that ICT remained one of the main platforms for the creation of jobs, adding that e-commerce was striving in Nigeria, while more companies were carrying out transactions online.