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RECIPE FOR YOUTHS' SELF-EMPLOYMENT

By NBF News

In his book, Guide To Youth Self Employment: A Practical and Simple Approach, Sam Nwanze presents pragmatic steps to tackling the current unemployment epidemic in Nigeria through self-employment. From the cover of the book, the reader sees illustrations by the author on the plight Nigerian youths face today. This is achieved in three pictures: a picture of graduates neatly dressed in their graduation gowns, smiling, hopeful and optimistic; a second picture shows members of the National Youth Service Corps dressed in uniforms and ready to serve their country; and the third picture shows a crowd of eager job seekers, restless and doleful.

With these pictures, the author has shown the cycle that youths in Nigeria almost inevitably go through as they search for office jobs upon graduation from tertiary institutions. Young Nigerian graduates leave the universities and colleges with great dreams and plans of making it big.

According to the author, 'their minds were already made up to work in banks, oil companies, Customs' where they hope to hit it fast after graduation (p.9).

Unfortunately, these youths are too fixated on their affluent ambitions of living in big homes and buying expensive cars that they fail to bear in mind the common aphorism: not all that glitters is gold, for, as the author discloses, the 'days are gone when graduates get jobs and cars soon after school' (p.10). It is important to point out that the author does not disparage such dreams; he simply implores youths to factor realism into their goals. Nwanze is careful to assess his subjects in question - Nigerian youths - and expose their lackadaisical attitude to self-employment.

Over half (320) of the 560 students interviewed by the author were not too keen on the idea of self-employment. Most of them were convinced that they would secure office jobs after university; others were afraid of being criticized and humiliated by their peers. A certain university student was afraid of her friends labeling her as a 'low profile girl.'  He, therefore, unearths the negative stereotypes youths in Nigeria have associated with self-employment.

In the first chapter, the author conducts a thorough reality check as he recounts his first-hand experience with the issue of unemployment as a media consultant for a company in Lagos. Nwanze was asked to handle recruitment and was shocked to learn that they had received 26,000 applications for only 29 vacant positions in a middle level company; a good number of whom had Masters' degrees and even Ph.Ds. Another case in point was a vacancy advertisement posted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which received over 400,000 applications. These large numbers indicate the mounting despair and desperation among unemployed Nigerian youths. With the narratives of his experiences, the writer builds trust with his readers for we see his direct interaction and analysis of the subject matter.

Nwanze then proceeds to proffer solutions to ease the despair of the youths, as well as that of the government: Self-employment. Encouraging youths to take a more proactive and dynamic approach to challenging their unemployment statuses, he showcases self-employment as a more feasible alternative to sitting around with folded arms, anxiously searching and waiting for government and office jobs.

The tone of the author waxes blunt and exudes honesty when he warns his readers in advance that the path to opening small-business franchises is not a joyride. In the third and sixth chapters, Nwanze reminds them that, like all other endeavors in life, people who embark on the venture of self-employment will face numerous challenges. Nonetheless, he assures them of their guaranteed success if they set their minds to persevere in spite of the odds such as self-doubt, capital, business location, funding inter alia. Nwanze exhorts the tenacity of the heroes at the heart of success stories throughout history; for, as they say, nothing good comes easily.

The book depicts insightful steps and practical examples of the benefits of self-employment, illustrating with real-life examples on ways to go about it. Nwanze answers the questions on what and how to establish business ventures, and the tactics of raising and soliciting for funds to initiate business ideas. He also gives his readers guidelines on ways to maintain their businesses. These jaw-dropping stories include an account of an akara seller, Mrs. Comfort Ogo-Oluwa from Ekiti State, who faced a myriad of challenges before her trade began to flourish. Today, with the proceeds from her akara business, she is the proud owner of an SUV and she is able to ensure that her children receive good education.

With literary and scholarly resources and citations ranging from Adam Smith's Wealth of the Nations, Norman Peale's The Power of Positive Thinking to newspaper excerpts (e.g. Vanguard, The Sun) on thriving youths who are self-employed, Nwanze enriches his book. He inspires his readers, enlightening them on the pros of positive thinking:  you are who you think you are. The author further enriches his book by giving expert opinions on the sociopsychological effects of unemployment, as well as its medical implications, thus emphasizing the dire state of the unemployment crisis in Nigeria.

As a former journalist, it is not so professional for the author not to provide the full names of majority of his interviewees. By not doing so, he tempts the reader to doubt the authenticity of his interviews. Offering such details would lend more credibility to the author's interviewees and will reinforce the readers' trust in their stories and the sources.

President Goodluck Jonathan, along with the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and the National Directorate of Employment (NDE), has 'happily' endorsed the book 'as a good material in job creation.'


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