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Nigeria, popularly known as the giant of Africa, has seen its fair share of Glory and trouble. Renowned for its massive economic growth, Nigeria (which is currently the largest economy in Africa) seems to be breaking the boundaries and pioneering the ever booming growth of Africa’s economy in recent times. However, despite the economic success Nigeria enjoys, its overall growth as a nation seems to be hampered as a result of various challenges negatively affecting its developmental process. One of such challenges is the high unemployment rate in the country.

Over the last five years, Nigeria’s unemployment rate has more than tripled (Ekekwe, 2020).

Presently, unemployment in Nigeria stands at 27.1%, and with a labor force of 82.1 million people, this means that approximately 21.7 million Nigerians are currently unemployed (Kazeem, 2020). Moreover, Nigeria’s unemployment and underemployment rate (28.6%) is a combined 55.7% (Nairametrics, 2020), meaning approximately one in every two Nigerian is either unemployed or underemployed (Kazeem, 2020). The unemployment challenge in Nigeria is further escalated by its rapid population growth. Nigeria’s population of 182 million, is currently the 7th largest in the world (Hackett, 2018) and is projected to become the third-largest population by 2050, with over 300 million people (Mbachu and Alake, 2016). This rapid population growth has resulted in massive demand and competition for jobs.  Furthermore, the youths of Nigeria, who make up more than 50% percent of its total population (Meribole, 2020), are the most affected by the prevalent unemployment crisis. The unemployment rate among the Nigerian youths aged 15-35 in Nigeria stood at 55.7% in 2019 (Aljazeera, 2019); one can only imagine how much that number has increased considering the impact of covid-19 in 2020. Moreover, the majority of these youths that are able to secure a job are based in the informal sector, which creates 65% of all jobs in Nigeria and is characterized by low earnings and poor working conditions. 


The high unemployment rate in Nigeria is a consequence of many factors. One significant factor is the flawed model of the Nigerian educational system. In Nigeria,  educated youths struggle to gain employment as they lack the skills and competence needed by employers. The existing skill gap is due to the poor quality education received by the youths, which is characterized by outdated curriculums, non-practicality, and lack of relevance to the job market (Ajaegbu, 2012). Furthermore, the aspirations of most Nigerian youths also contribute to the existing unemployment challenge. Most   Nigerian youths go to universities with the hope of acquiring a white-collar job when they graduate; this mentality makes these youths ignore opportunities to create jobs for themselves through entrepreneurship, and as a result, they end up competing for the limited pool of available job opportunities.

Another factor that contributes to Nigeria’s high unemployment rate is corruption. It is indeed difficult to talk about factors contributing to any of Nigeria’s major challenges (including unemployment) without mentioning corruption. Due to the high level of corruption in Nigeria, investments are seldom made in key areas of the country to improve the people’s standard of living. For example, money put into developing social projects are diverted and stolen by politicians. This results in a cycle of underdevelopment and lack of growth, which further contributes to the high unemployment rate.

Also, the difficulty of doing business in Nigeria, coupled with its harsh business environment,  contributes to the existing unemployment challenge. Due to rampant instabilities resulting from several factors (including terrorism, tribal clashes, etc.), Nigeria’s environment is not appealing for doing business. As a result of this, foreign investors are mostly discouraged from investing in Nigeria, as they fear their investment may not last long enough to yield fruition. Also, the difficulty of doing business in Nigeria has restrained existing industries’ growth capabilities, forced some to liquidate or relocate from Nigeria, and discouraged new ones from emerging (Oseni, 2018). This results in a situation where old jobs are lost without the creation of new ones.

Moreover, the sole dependence of Nigeria on its oil sector also contributes to the existing unemployment crisis. Upon discovering crude oil in 1956 (Okotie, 2017), Nigeria has largely neglected other sectors while focusing solely on oil shipments. The agricultural sector that used to be the bedrock of Nigeria’s economy has been left behind, despite being the country’s largest employer. As a result, agricultural holdings in Nigeria are generally small and scattered; farming is often of the subsistence variety, characterized by simple tools and shifting cultivation (Yakubu, 2015). This lack of diversification of Nigeria’s economy inhibits job creation, as development and innovations in other sectors are seldom made. 


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The high rate of unemployment in Nigeria has brought a lot of negative consequences, and one of such is the massive level of poverty in the country. The rate of poverty in Nigeria is skyrocketing. Presently, 87 million Nigerians are living in extreme poverty (Hofer, 2018), and in 2018, Nigeria overtook India to become the world’s poverty capital (Adebayo, 2018). The high level of poverty in Nigeria has resulted in poor living conditions and poor health conditions for most Nigerians; according to UNICEF, Nigeria has the second-highest burden of stunted children in the world, with a national prevalence rate of 32 percent of children under five  (UNICEF, 2019).

brain drain - a serious threat...
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The high crime rate in Nigeria is also a consequence of the existing unemployment challenge. In a bid to survive, Jobless Nigerian youths venture into various crimes, including kidnapping, armed robbery, and gang violence  (Ajaegbu, 2012). Currently, Nigeria ranks number 17 in the global crime index list (Numbeo, 2020), and is also among the top ten countries with the most cybercrimes (BBA, 2020). 

Another consequence of the unemployment challenge in Nigeria is the ever-increasing brain drainage it experiences. Millions of young and talented Nigerians flee to other countries every year, searching for jobs and greener pastures. In 2019, 12,600 Nigerians obtained permanent residency in Canada, making Nigeria the fourth leading country source of new migrants in Canada (Nairametrics, 2020).

Furthermore, the income inequality gap in Nigeria is rapidly increasing due to the unemployment crisis. The poor population of Nigeria are the majority, and as a result, they are the first to be hit by the effects of unemployment. This further widens the gap between the extremely rich and poor, almost vaporizing the middle-class that have a higher propensity to purchase and effectively contribute to the nation’s growth (Oseni, 2018).

Also, due to the unemployment crisis in Nigeria a large proportion of its labor force is left inactive and non-productive.  Moreover, considering that the world is rapidly changing due to  innovations and advancement that comes with the 4th industrial revolution, Nigeria’s inability to capitalize on its human capital due to unemployment would be detrimental. It would further widen the gap between Nigeria and other parts of the world in terms of development, resulting in increased levels of poverty and stagnant growth in Nigeria.


Despite how gloomy the unemployment situation in Nigeria is, I believe it can be effectively tackled. Here are some courses of action that can be taken to stamp out unemployment from Nigeria, once and for all

Career Guidance Services:

Career guidance centers should be set up across all tertiary institutions in Nigeria. These centers should be responsible for guiding students in making the right career choices. They should provide students with up to date information about the labor market and should also be the link between the student and the employers. Furthermore, the career guidance centers should ensure the colleges and universities’ curriculum are up to date and are also relevant to what employers require. Through these career guidance services, students would be equipped with the necessary employability skills needed to thrive in Nigeria’s labor market. 

Creation of Advanced Labor Market Information System:

The government should come up with an advanced labor information system for keeping track of the labor market trends and changes. This system should be accessible to tertiary institutions all across Nigeria as it would enable them to update their curriculum in line with the labor market demand. The system should be regularly updated (agile) and should direct the government’s developmental efforts in terms of improving the human capital of Nigeria. Through this system, the government of Nigeria and the educational institutions would be able to see the gaps between the Nigerian labor force’s capabilities and the qualifications required by the labor market. This will help direct the labor policies being made and give room for innovations to bridge the skills mismatch gap and equip Nigerians with the skills needed to gain employment and create employment.

Promotion of Entrepreneurship:

Entrepreneurship should be promoted in all spheres of Nigeria. Youths should be encouraged to create jobs. In schools, entrepreneurship should be integrated into the learning process. Furthermore, incentives, such as loans, equipment, and facilities, should be provided to aspiring entrepreneurs to enable them to grow faster. By getting more people to venture into entrepreneurship, more jobs would be created in Nigeria to absorb the massive number of youths entering the Nigerian workforce annually.

Leveraging the Agricultural Sector:

More investment should be made in Nigeria’s agricultural sector, and more youths should be encouraged to see agriculture as a viable career path. The government should make an effort to train the youth of Nigeria on innovative agricultural practices; educational institutions also instill the entrepreneurial mindset to their students so that they don’t see agriculture as a means of survival but rather see it as a viable business which they can scale to be very big. Furthermore, existing businesses in the agricultural sector of Nigeria should be assisted and given the needed aid to scale up and grow. Through these, more jobs would be created, and more youths would be given the chance to add value and contribute to Nigeria’s economic growth.

In conclusion, the aforementioned solutions depend on how minimal the level of corruption in Nigeria is at the moment of their implementation. The existing corruption in Nigeria has the ability to render all of the proposed solutions sterile. It is indeed sad that corruption continues to be one of the biggest barriers to various solutions and initiatives that are capable of eliminating Nigeria’s major pain points, including unemployment.  I guess the better way to go would be to come up with solutions that are corruption proof. Can such solutions be created? I don’t really know, but one thing I know is that nothing is impossible with creativity and innovation. 

Literature Review Infographics


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