For startups in Nigeria and around the world, the ability to navigate the digital realm is not just a competitive advantage but a necessity for survival. Recognizing this, the Ministry of Communications, Innovation, and Digital Economy in Nigeria took a significant step towards fostering innovation and growth by convening a workshop in Abuja on the 29th of August 2023. This workshop brought together over forty startups and training providers specializing in technical skills training, aiming to co-create a framework that would guide the development of technical talents in the country. This article explores the lessons learned from this crucial event and how Opolo Global, a social enterprise organization, is positioned to drive the development of technical talents in Nigeria.
In today’s rapidly evolving global economy, the importance of a technically skilled workforce cannot be overstated. Nigeria, with its youthful population and burgeoning industries, stands at a critical juncture where investing in talent development can lead to unprecedented growth and prosperity. Opolo Global, a forward-thinking organization, is uniquely positioned to play a pivotal role in driving this transformation by harnessing the potential of Nigeria’s youth and equipping them with the technical skills needed to thrive in the modern world.
The State of Nigeria’s Workforce
Figure 1: Unemployment and Underemployment rate in Nigeria by age category Source: World Bank, 2022; Opolo Global Innovation, 2023.
Nigeria, often referred to as the “Giant of Africa,” boasts a population of over 200 million people, with a significant percentage under the age of 30. While this youth demographic represents a considerable asset, it also presents a formidable challenge, as the majority of the youth are not gainfully employed in the country (see Fig. 1). The country’s current workforce is largely characterized by a lack of adequate technical skills and training, which hinders its competitiveness on the global stage.
Lessons from the workshop
The five key lessons from the workshop training are as follow.
Lesson 1: Collaboration is Key
One of the most significant takeaways from the workshop is the vital role of collaboration. Startups, training providers, and government entities must work together to bridge the technical skills gap in Nigeria effectively. By sharing insights, resources, and expertise, these stakeholders can create a collaborative ecosystem that nurtures innovation and growth. This collaborative spirit should extend beyond workshops and into ongoing partnerships, mentorship programs, and knowledge-sharing initiatives.
Lesson 2: Tailored Training Programs
The workshop emphasized the importance of tailoring technical skills training programs to the specific needs of startups. While a one-size-fits-all approach may work for some, startups often have unique requirements that require specialized training. Training providers need to adapt their curricula and delivery methods to address these specific needs, ensuring that the skills imparted are relevant and immediately applicable.
Lesson 3: Accessible Training Resources
Access to training resources emerged as a significant concern during the workshop. Many startups, especially those in underserved areas, face challenges accessing quality training programs. To address this, stakeholders discussed the development of digital platforms and remote learning opportunities to make technical training accessible to a broader audience. Additionally, discussions revolved around financial support mechanisms to help startups and individuals afford these programs.
Lesson 4: Continuous Learning and Adaptation
In the fast-paced tech industry, skills become obsolete quickly. Therefore, the workshop highlighted the need for continuous learning and adaptation. Startups and training providers must adopt a mindset of continuous improvement, staying updated with the latest trends and technologies. The framework developed during the workshop should allow for flexibility, ensuring that training programs remain relevant in a rapidly changing digital landscape.
Lesson 5: Government Support and Policy Alignment
Lastly, the workshop underscored the critical role of government support and policy alignment. The Ministry of Communications, Innovation, and Digital Economy’s commitment to fostering innovation and growth through this workshop is commendable. It is essential that government policies and initiatives align with the goals of the startup ecosystem, providing the necessary support and incentives for startups and training providers to thrive.
Opolo Global’s Vision and Transformation of Nigeria’s workforce.
Ọpọlọ Global Innovation Limited, is a leading innovation enabler, incubator and accelerator that focuses on empowering talents to become innovators, and provides platforms for innovators to scale and thrive, while providing solutions to societal challenges. The vision of the organization is to offer a springboard for innovators to succeed, and mission is to identify talents and ideas, support and accelerate early-stage, growth-driven startups through infrastructural support, resources, capacity-building, mentorship, financing and attract investments funding, technical and advisory support. In line with the lessons learnt from the workshop, Opolo Global recognizes the urgent need to transform Nigeria’s workforce into a technically skilled one, capable of not only meeting domestic demands but also participating in the global digital economy. Their vision revolves around the idea that by training and empowering Nigeria’s youth, they can unleash a wave of innovation and productivity that will elevate the nation’s standing in the global marketplace.
Key Strategies to Empower Nigeria’s Youth
The following strategies are proposed to drive youth empowerment and workforce transformation in Nigeria:
- Quality Education: Opolo Global can collaborate with educational institutions across Nigeria to enhance the quality of technical education. This can be achieved through curriculum development, teacher training, and the provision of modern educational resources and infrastructure.
- Skills Development Programmes: Initiating skills development programmes that cater to the needs of various industries is crucial. This includes training in fields such as information technology, financial technology, engineering, data science, and renewable energy, among others.
- Public-Private Partnerships: Establishing strong partnerships with both the public and private sectors is essential. Government support in the form of incentives, policies, and funding can bolster Opolo Global’s efforts, while private sector collaborations can provide valuable industry insights and employment opportunities.
- Online Learning Platforms: Given the widespread access to smartphones and the internet, Opolo Global can develop online learning platforms that enable Nigerian youth to access high-quality technical training from anywhere in the country. These platforms should offer both theoretical knowledge and practical skills.
- Mentorship and Internship Programs: Connecting students with experienced mentors and facilitating internships with reputable companies can bridge the gap between education and real-world application, helping students gain hands-on experience and industry insights.
- Entrepreneurship Support: Encouraging entrepreneurship among young Nigerians can foster innovation and self-reliance. Opolo Global can provide resources, mentorship, and funding opportunities to aspiring entrepreneurs.
- Community Engagement: Building strong ties with local communities is vital for Opolo Global can actively involve communities in their initiatives, ensuring that their programs align with the unique needs and challenges of each region.
Opolo Global’s commitment to transforming Nigeria’s workforce should be guided by tangible metrics, including:
- Employment Rates: Tracking the number of graduates from Opolo Global programs who secure jobs or start their own businesses.
- Industry Engagement: Measuring the level of engagement and collaboration with local industries to identify skills gaps and adapt training programs
- Educational Partnerships: Assessing the growth and impact of partnerships with educational institutions and their contributions to improving technical
- Innovation and Entrepreneurship: Monitoring the number of successful startups and innovative projects that emerge from Opolo Global-supported
The Abuja workshop held on the 29th of August 2023 was a significant milestone in Nigeria’s journey to empower startups and bridge the technical skills gap. The lessons learned from this event emphasize the importance of collaboration, tailored training, accessibility, continuous learning, and government support. By embracing these lessons, Nigeria can create an ecosystem where startups have the skills and resources they need to innovate, grow, and contribute to the country’s digital transformation. As we move forward, it is crucial that these insights are translated into actionable strategies that propel Nigeria’s startup ecosystem to new heights. Opolo Global is positioned to drive the quest to catalyze Nigeria’s transformation into a globally competitive, technically skilled workforce. By investing in education, skills development, partnerships, and community engagement, Opolo Global can be the driving force behind this monumental change. Together, we can empower Nigeria’s youth to not only meet the demands of the modern world but also to shape it through innovation and excellence. The time to act is now, and the potential for growth and prosperity is boundless.
Dr. Oluwafemi Oyedeji (Research for Innovation and Community Coordinator Opolo Global Innovation Limited, Lagos, Nigeria.)