NIGERIA: Economic growth masks high unemployment

Thursday, July 3, 2008
An overall trend towards economic growth in Nigeria masks the fact that millions have been forced into low-wage jobs in the once industrial north, trade experts warn.

“In the last 15 years more than three million jobs have been directly and indirectly lost in Kano alone with the collapse of more than two-thirds of our industries,” said Ahmed Rabiu, deputy president of the Kano Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“This has caused a lot of socio-economic hardship to the laid-off factory workers and the multiplier effect on the society is immeasurable.”

The decline is blamed in part on structural adjustment programmes in the 1980s which involved the devaluation of the local currency and weakened factories’ ability to buy raw materials and machinery. The country’s shoddy power network compounded problems. More recently an influx of cheaply, more efficiently produced goods from Asia has left many factories untenable.

“With economic liberalisation, our country was flooded with cheaply produced goods from Asia where interest rates is not more than 5 percent which are usually smuggled and our factories became disadvantaged because they could not compete and they were forced to close down”, Ali Madugu, head of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria said.

Hard options

Many laid-off workers have turned to driving commercial moped taxis known as ‘achaba’ to earn a living.

“Work is hard to find because the industries have closed and we are left with no option but to look for other alternatives to survive”, confirmed Dahiru Kabiru, a laid-off factory worker now turned commercial motorcyclist.

Accidents are some common that a whole ward is exclusively reserved for victims of achaba accidents in the city’s general hospital. Many of those who could not afford a moped turned to begging and sending their children out on the streets.

“The proliferation of child hawkers on the streets and its attendant negative implication is a direct consequence of the closure of the industries in the city”, a social worker Musa Ahmed said.

“At the moment there is a widespread hopelessness among the people which has led to social confusion and commotion”, Rabiu of the Chamber of Commerce said.