DAMILOLA TIAMIYU tells a story of a Nigerian graduate who build a house with proceeds from hawking food in a wheelbarrow
Selling food on the streets, in this clime, was regarded as the exclusive reserve of unskilled workers, a no-go area for those who had passed through the four walls of a higher institution. It is, in fact, regarded as hawking.
But unemployment in Nigeria has changed the narrative. If a graduate of Banking and Finance, who is supposed to be in a cosy office attending to depositors, could settle for cooking pots of soup for a fee, this story has just started.
Nigeria’s unemployment rate stood at 23.1 per cent in the third quarter of 2018, up from 18.1 per cent a year earlier, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
To worsen expectations, Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, in March, projected the country’s unemployment to hit 33.5 per cent by next year.
Unemployment rate in Nigeria jumped by nearly 30 per cent to 16 million last year, according to a November report by the NBS.
For NBS, to be ‘unemployed’ implies that a person falls within the current labour age of between 15 and 64, but must be willing and capable of working for a minimum of 40 hours per week, but has no work to do.
Expectedly, the increasing unemployment and under-employment in the country are beginning to trigger employment from unusual quarters.
Graduates have a great deal of difficulty in getting established. Also, people that didn’t go to university, who should be getting vocational training, are not getting it. They’re not getting into formal employment either. It’s a challenge not just for Nigeria, but also for Africa and the world as a whole.
Women form 49 per cent of Nigeria’s population and yet the NBS report shows a 6.3 per cent gap in the unemployment rate between women and men. The imbalance along the gender line points to the direction that more women might be dependent.
Mrs Jossy Otu, a graduate, did not wait for the government to empower her. She looked for white-collar job for two years after graduation, but not anymore. Married to a lawyer, she instead chose to earn a living by hawking food in a wheelbarrow.
Excited Mrs Otu said that she was not ashamed of the business that made her.
“Hello, this is me; I sell food on a wheelbarrow. Yes I went to school. I am a mother, married to a lawyer. Some would ask why I am doing this? Some even say I am more beautiful to be selling food in a wheelbarrow. I laughed.
“When God wants to bless you, he takes you out of your comfort zone. I am not ashamed of my hustle, I got praises and criticised for it,” she wrote on her social media timeline.
Though the first time she pushed the wheelbarrow out, she almost went back home ashamed.
Her soliloquy, “I asked myself, what would my friends and family say?”
At that point, courage became her most prized resource. “But then, I got courage and went back to the streets. I said ‘to hell with what people will say about me.’
“The second day, I sold all my food and made N3,000 profit. Considering that my capital was N5,000, I was over-excited.”
That was the beginning of good things to come. In the following two months, she made a profit of N150,000.
“By selling fried akara (bean cake), I have built a house and I am able to train my children in the university,” she added.
Mrs Otu has since won public acclaim by her feat.
Unemployment stoked her passion for business –after years of job hunting.
Now, what stops a Nigerian graduate from selling food on the streets?