What Problem Are We Going to Solve?

Nigeria has an employment problem, period. According to the most recent report from the National Bureau of Statistics available here, unemployment rose from 9.9% to 10.4%, the fifth consecutive rise since Q4 2014. Also, underemployment rose from 17.4% to 18.4%. The employment problem is particularly worrisome for the bulging youth population. The combined unemployment rate for those aged 15–34 years is 30.4%, while the underemployment rate is 54.4%. These are all worrying numbers, which will create a socio-economic crisis, if not resolved.

This is why Governor Akinwunmi Ambode identified employment as a critical focus area and promised to establish an Employment Trust Fund to tackle this problem. On March 3 2016, the Governor fulfilled this campaign promise by inaugurating the Board of the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF). In addition, Lagos State’s contribution to the fund for the first year was immediately paid on the Governor’s instructions. So, yes, there’s N6.25 billion to deploy; once we are done with the learning and building phase.

Since our inauguration, a lot of people have asked questions about the LSETF and our plans to reduce unemployment. I’ll answer some of those questions here.

what is the fund’s objective?

According to its enabling law:

The objective of the Fund shall be to provide financial support to residents in the State for job and wealth creation, in order to tackle the problem of unemployment in the State, and give equal opportunities to all citizens of the State in a conducive environment.

This explains the main thrust of the Fund. The LSETF was set up to provide financial support to Lagos State residents who are either seeking employment or looking to create wealth. As the Executive Secretary of the Fund, I usually say we should solve problems in two areas: entrepreneurship and employability. This means helping entrepreneurs start up or grow their businesses; while also improving the skills and capabilities of the unemployed workforce, to ensure they are qualified to fill existing vacancies. If we are able to improve the overall performance in these areas, it will go a long way in ensuring strong and sustainable economic growth in Lagos State.

How Will the LSETF Solve These Challenges?

We know that there’s more than one way to skin a cat, so our solutions will combine several ideas on how to solve the job and wealth creation challenge. These will include funding businesses (which could be a combination equity, debt and other solutions); providing technical assistance and capacity building support; and advising Government on policy initiatives that will boost job creation and economic growth. However, the specific strategy framework is being developed,and once completed, will be shared publicly for information and feedback.

What Have You Been Doing Since Inauguration?

No, I haven’t played a round of golf since we were inaugurated.

For those who know the old adage in carpentry:

Measure Thrice, Check Twice and Cut Once

That is what we are doing; measuring and checking.

It is very tempting to jump into the heat and immediately start trying to solve this huge challenge. However, from past experiences, we know that lasting solutions are usually found by analyzing the problems correctly and identifying the root causes. This is what we have been doing. In addition, being a new initiative, we are mindful of the need to build a best-in-class governance framework to ensure the Fund is run transparently, so we can properly account for every Naira spent. We are now in the homestretch, and expect to complete these tasks soon.

When will the Fund Start Disbursing Funds?

Or as Jerry Maguire famously said:

LSETF-Jerry-Maguire

We should complete our strategy and governance framework development next month, and seek the relevant legislative approval immediately. Once approval is granted, the application process will be publicised, and the first set of beneficiaries should receive support soon.

However, this is a marathon, not a sprint. So it is important that we build the transparent and effective structures before disbursement. Once we are confident these have been done, implementation will begin.

What Does Success Look Like?

Please take a minute to listen to Governor Ambode here. This is our picture of success; fin.

What is Your Role in Ensuring the Fund’s Success?

As a citizen, your support is critical in making the LSETF a successful model.

  1. We don’t have all the answers, and we need your help in understanding the full scope of the challenge and possible solutions. For the next few weeks, we will be crowd sourcing ideas and comments on our social media pages and in town hall meetings with different communities in Lagos. Please follow our twitter and Instagram handles @lsetf, like our Facebook page and subscribe to our YouTube channel. Remember, please keep the ideas coming.
  2. Please share our messages with your family and friends. You just might be bringing a solution to someone in need.
  3. If you are able to donate to the Fund, we will be eternally grateful. At the appropriate time, we will share details for corporate and individual donations. Remember, donations don’t have to be only monetary. You can donate money, service, time etc.
  4. If you are eventually a beneficiary, you can help us by putting the support we provide into good use. If you ensure the resources are put in your business or personal skill acquisition, we will achieve our objective of energising the economy and making Lagos the preferred investment destination in Africa.
  5. Keep us Honest! We will share our strategy, financial statements and other relevant documents. Please read them and provide constructive feedback.

That’s all folks.