The implementation of public work projects in Edo State, designed to create jobs for citizens of the state, is helping the state government to achieve its desire to create 200,000 jobs in four years, writes Emma Okonji
Prior to Governor Godwin Obaseki’s administration in Edo State, there was a massive job deficit in the state, which had many cascading effects on the society. Countless youth in the state had taken to irregular migration, thuggery and other uncharitable acts and vices in the society with unemployment rate staggering.
But the Managing Director, Edo State Skills Development Agency, Mrs. Ukinebo Dare, under the leadership of Governor Obaseki, has revived the economic landscape of Edo State, with regards to the creation of jobs which has geared up a hitherto moribund economy.
Right from the onset, there was a clear-cut mission by the administration of Godwin Obaseki. It was centered around creating 200,000 multi-sectorial jobs in four years, an initiative that has almost been achieved in the past three years.
For every mission to be achieved, you need a driver, someone with passion and experience, hence Dare, who is already considered a pioneer in the area of skills development and job creation in Nigeria before joining the Godwin Obaseki’ administration. She had implemented numerous successful skills development and job creation projects for almost decade in different states in Nigeria, including Edo State and in Kenya. She has received both national and international awards for her work, including The Ford Foundation Prize for Youth Employment in 2015, The Future Awards Prize for Employment, Business Day 40 Under 40, among others. In addition, she received the JCI Ten Outstanding Persons in Nigeria award in 2017, celebrating her in the Personal Achievement category. She was also chosen by the United States government as a 2017 Mandela Washington Fellow.
Thereafter, she was appointed to head the EdoJobs Initiative having been the Senior Special Adviser (SSA) to the Governor of Edo State on Job Creation. Her passion for development led her to accept the appointment. Based on her accomplishments prior to the agency as well as her achievements as the Head of the EdoJobs Initiative, she was subsequently appointed as the pioneer Managing Director of the Edo State Skills Development Agency. It is evident that her leadership at Edo State Skills Development Agency (EdoJobs) has been pivotal in creating the new narrative as envisioned by the Executive Governor of the state.
The early phases of the EdoJobs project involved carrying out a registration of over 200,000 job seekers in all local government areas (LGA) in the state. The demographic data received was layered with an in-depth analysis of each LGA to design demand-driven interventions that have transformed the job landscape in Edo State and influenced various programs across Nigeria.
Key focus areas were itemised based on the core competitive strengths of Edo State and its people. For instance, Agriculture is a key part of the state’s potentials, with its rich oil palm and other crops, well suited for export.
Governor Godwin Obaseki recently said, “If the state must move on after the COVID-19 pandemic, we must improve capacity, knowledge and skills of our people. Our focus is on creating an agriculture-based post COVID-19 economy. After the COVID-19 pandemic, we would not have the money to rely on import but rather grow what we need to consume and process our produce for export.” The governor spoke during the inspection of ongoing construction work at the state-owned Edo State College of Agriculture, which according to him, is being transformed into a world-class school of agriculture. The college is expected to specialise in extension services, run short and intensive courses, and train young men and women to support farmers in various communities.
Apart from the College of Agriculture, the state has implemented programmes through Edo Food and Agric. Cluster as part of its job creation efforts. The project connects farmers to aggregators of farm produce and provides training, inputs and processing facilities. The state also has the agripreneurs programme and the independent farmer initiative, which also create jobs in the sector under the purview of the Ministry of Agriculture.
There are four other focus areas for the Edo Skills Development Agency, namely Information Technology, Manufacturing, Construction and the Creative Industry. These are areas that Edo citizens are learning and getting better.
With strategic direction coming from Dare, Edo Creative Hub has been unleashing great potentials in the people of the state. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s Creative Economy Report 2008 defined the creative economy as “the interface between creativity, culture, economics and technology as expressed in the ability to create and circulate intellectual capital, with the potential to generate income, jobs and export earnings while at the same time promoting social inclusion, cultural diversity and human development.” This is what the governor and the strategic team of the agency are working towards. The United Nations further listed the germane productive sectors which include:
Cultural sites like archaeological sites, museums, libraries, exhibitions, among others, including visual arts like paintings, sculptures, photography and antiques, as well as publishing and printed media like books, press and other publications, are other areas of development in the state that are geared towards state development and job creation.
Additional areas include design like interior, graphics, fashion, jewelry and toys; performing arts like live music, theatre, dance, opera, circus, puppetry; audiovisual like film, television, radio and other broadcasting; new media like software, video games, digitalised creative content; and creative services like architectural, advertising, creative research and development, cultural and recreational.
According to Dare, this is what the Edo Creative Hub encompasses, with blistering ideas on film and other audio-visuals to tell the African story. This has been developed through collaborations with top media brands like Trace, Iroko TV, Tatafo HQ and Benin Film Academy.
Some projects executed by Dare and her team in Edo Creative Hub include: Film production and acting training for returnees and other Edo youth; Co-Funding Edo Youth to produce 10 Edo-Centric movies through the Film-In-Edo Competition; Developing the EdoJobs Documentary Squad; Africa Magic Auditions for a Telenovella; Placing Libya returnees in jobs with the support of IrokoTV Libya
All of these projects, Dare pointed out, had created employment for youth in the sector, as results are always a vindication. Hence, a clear vindication of the Edo Innovates programme is the victory at the Rosatom Atoms for Africa competition conducted by the Russian government. A team groomed at the Edo Innovation Hub, Benin City, won the Rosatom Atoms for Africa competition, defeating over 65 participants from across Africa.
Edo Innovates is an intervention from the agency, to create jobs in the tech sector. It boasts of robust programmes like: CovenLabs Artificial Intelligence and Data Science Training; Google Tekly Code; Girls Can Code; Robotics programmes for kids; Siemens Power4Edo Hackathon; HP Life Entrepreneurship Training programme and Amazon Web Services Training.
Others are Edo Bits ICT and Digital Design Academy; Laptop and Mobile Phone repair programmes and 3 Startup Incubation Hubs including the South-South Innovation Hub from the office of the Vice President among others.
Edo Innovates has helped in leading the charge of innovation in furtherance of the realities of the fourth industrial revolution. Little wonder, Edo State is the third state in Nigeria to activate the Uber partnership, which is currently creating thousands of jobs for Edo youths. It is no wonder that over 27,000 young people have benefitted from Edo Innovates since it was commissioned by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in June 2018.
Cumulatively, jobs created in agriculture and creative sector is well over 3,000 and these jobs are taken by people hitherto riddled with economic challenges and some returnees in the state.
Artisans and small-scale producers are also in the centre of the Godwin Obaseki administration job creation efforts. The Skills Development Agency set up Edo Production Centre, where welders, shoe makers, fashion designers, furniture makers and other tradesmen have access to constant power supply, factory space as well as funding from Bank of Industry.
Dare has been working with world class partners on these projects. These partners have expressed their delight at the programmes and have commended the Edo State government on its empowerment drive with a focus on inclusion for women and people living with disabilities. These partners which include the World Bank, Facebook, Siemens, Curators University, Office of the Vice President, SabiHub, Great GSM Village Edo State, Slot Academy, MainOne and many others, are confident of the leadership of Ukinebo Dare.
According to Dare, Edo State is indeed the big heart of the nation with its giant strides. “All her state ministries, departments and agencies work together to achieve the job creation target of the administration and the state has become a beehive of economic activities, almost surpassing its target of 200,000 jobs in four years.”
Citing a recent report highlighting the giant strides of the administration, Dare says over 75 per cent of its target jobs had been created in three years as at November 2019. It seems that if not for the economic slowdown of COVID 19, the target may have been surpassed before the end of 2020.
According to Dare, since inception, the Vocational Skills Development and Entrepreneurship that handles Paint production, POP Installation, Soap Production, Fashion and Beauty, Face Shield Production, among others, has so far trained 23,874 people.
Edo Innovates that handles skills development, job placement and entrepreneurship development in tech, leveraging on the economy and partnerships with private sector, trained 27,673 people.
Job tracking that has to do with job creation through various MDAs and government projects, trained 47,163 persons.
Job matching and placement initiative that handles employability training and job matching to vacant roles in the private sector, trained 4,064 persons, while Edo food and agric that provides aggregation services, farming inputs, equipment, training, that has impacted farmers of poultry, cassava, pineapples, tomatoes and many more, trained 1,657 persons.
The Edo Production Centre, an initiative for artisans and small scale manufacturers, trained 161 persons and Ministry of Wealth Creation Initiatives, created 10,100 jobs while Initiatives of the NSIP Office in Edo, created jobs for 12,413 persons with an indirect jobs offering for over 32,420 persons.
“In total, 161,271 people have benefited from these programs, in a population of five million spread across all the areas including the tribal area like the Bini, Esan, Owan, and Etsako.
There are many case scenarios to posit about impact, but I know the impact of 161,271 jobs will definitely benefit about 1.6 million out of five million people.
“At least, about 10 people or more are connected to one of the beneficiaries who now have certain levels of financial dependence. Considering a national population growth rate of over 3 per cent, the impact is then certainly far-reaching,” Dare said.
Godwin Obaseki oiled the economic wheel of every part of the state and stabilised it. The gradual transformation of the Edo economy has been a beauty to watch, a symbiotic movement between principle and purpose thereby creating privileges for those whose privileges have been hitherto squandered by political cankerworms. There is no part of the state without an economic push now.
In Akoko Edo, several jobs have been created like FirstMonie agents for mobile money, solar panel installation, solar kiosks and so on.
In Owan East, youth were up-skilled in paintmaking and application, as FirstMonie Agents, Bead makers and other apprenticeship and entrepreneurship programmes.
In Etsako East and West, opportunities were created in animal rearing, web design and, mobile money, solar installation and maintenance among other entrepreneurship programs.
In Ovia South-west and North-east of Edo State, the Edo Young Engineers programme developed AUTOCAD-certified individuals for electrical, interior design and architectural jobs, crop production, solar panel jobs, tiling and POP installation, and many others.
Edo State regularly buzz with job vacancies in private and public organisations. There is no LGA in Edo State that has not felt the job revolution.
The possibilities are endless and there is a viable tech sector. The agency and its partners have attracted over N21 million to start-ups through Edo Innovation Hub. “Do not be surprised when Edo becomes the next Silicon Valley, or need I say Edocon,” Dare said.
Undoubtedly, the achievements of the Edo State Skills Development Agency are a testament to Obaseki’s ability to spot talented individuals, who are leaders in their field and imbue them with his vision for the future of Edo State. Dare is a glowing example of one of such people and she is regularly featured on panels hosted by the World Bank and other international agencies to share the stories of change in Edo State.