The Platform

Young Nigerians during a pro-democracy rally in 2022. (Tolu Owoeye)

Nigeria is the most populous African country. Depending on what happens next, this can either be a boon or a bust.

Nigeria claims the title of Africa’s most populous nation, with numbers exceeding 220 million, situating it within the top ten most populous countries globally. Amidst this backdrop of human and natural resources, a dual narrative emerges: one of challenge and another of potential. While some regard this population growth skeptically, there exists a burgeoning belief that Nigeria’s human reservoir may indeed be its greatest asset.

The burgeoning populace of Nigeria carries with it the promise of bolstering consumer demand for a myriad of goods and services. The resultant economic dynamism could invigorate a more robust workforce, brimming with both skilled and unskilled labor, potentially unlocking a surge in productivity and heralding an era of economic expansion. The linchpin for harnessing this potential lies in the implementation of strategic policies, tailored to bridge the gap between labor supply and industry demand, thus fostering avenues for national progress.

A report from the consultancy giant KPMG casts a sobering projection: Nigeria’s unemployment rate may ascend to a staggering 40.6 percent in the short term. This forecast builds upon the 37.7 percent figure previously reported by the National Bureau of Statistics for 2022, attributing the rise to tepid economic growth and the persistent inability of the Nigerian economy to absorb the annual influx of four to five million university graduates.

The report elucidates, “Unemployment is expected to continue to be a major challenge in 2023 due to the limited investment by the private sector, low industrialization, and slower than required economic growth and consequently the inability of the economy to absorb the 4-5 million new entrants into the Nigerian job market every year. Although lagged, the National Bureau of Statistics recorded an increase in the national unemployment rate from 23.1% in 2018 to 33.3% in 2021. We estimate that this rate has increased to 37.7% in 2022 and will rise further to 40.6% in 2023.”

Nevertheless, with increased productivity and economic growth, the prospect for wider investment within Nigeria burgeons. Companies may seek to exploit the burgeoning market, initiating expansion plans to satiate the escalating demand, which could be instrumental in job generation and the alleviation of the country’s unemployment conundrum.

Nigeria’s substantial population in Africa ushers in a propitious era for innovative and technological strides, with the potential to revolutionize sectors such as healthcare, education, and critical infrastructure—encompassing roads, schools, and healthcare facilities. This evolution could amplify Nigeria’s political and economic clout on the world stage, attracting foreign investment and trade, while augmenting its geopolitical leverage.

This foray into the global economic arena could render the Nigerian economy more competitive, compelling businesses to adopt pioneering strategies to maintain their market edge. Nevertheless, the windfall of a large population does not come without attendant pressures. Escalating demands for vital resources may result in shortages and price inflation if the increase in demand outpaces resource availability.

Beyond resource constraints, environmental considerations loom large. As the population swells, the quest for land and resources could culminate in deforestation, water contamination, and an array of ecological adversities, all of which could detrimentally affect the health and standard of living of Nigerians.

Furthermore, the expanding populace may intensify poverty rates, with more individuals struggling to access basic amenities and shelter, potentially swelling the ranks of those living in poverty and negatively influencing the collective well-being.

To navigate these challenges and capitalize on the demographic dividend, Nigeria must pursue multifaceted solutions: investment in education and economic opportunities that foster job creation and improve citizens’ quality of life; dedication to sustainable development and environmental stewardship; and commitment to infrastructural and urban planning initiatives that improve transport, housing, and sanitation. These strategies are critical to transforming burgeoning population numbers from a source of concern to a cornerstone of national prosperity.

Ismaila Biliaminu Manne is a freelance journalist and writer, with a keen interest in African cultures as well as underreported storytelling of marginalized communities across Nigeria. He lives in North Central Nigeria.