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Yesterday, I saw some of the pitifully sad and abandoned-looking 84,000 able-bodied 'educated' youth almost 'strapped' together like the 17th century slave caravan hoping to be one of ONLY 500 spots the Ghana Immigration Service is looking to enlist in 2018. Yes, only 500 spots competed for by 84,000 people.
Folks, the unemployment and hassle is real. And yet, we will be adding to this growing number of unemployed youth through retrogressive education policies we are currently churning out that defeats skills-based education in favour of half-baked champions of rote-learned courses.
But how do current plans by the government to fix the unemployment hurdles compare with reasonable policy? Here is what we made of the plans.
Unemployment continues to be a major challenge in the country despite numerous promises and policies to create jobs for the youth. The government for instance in the 2017 budget projected about 750,000 jobs would be created under the Planting for Food and Jobs programme. The 2018 budget however provided no details on the number of jobs that have been created so far under this programme.
In the 2018 budget, several policies and programmes have been outlined to create new jobs for the youth in various sectors. To deal with the increasing graduate employment challenge, the government has allocated GHs 600 million to employ 100,000 graduates as part of the Nation Builders Corps programme (NabCorp). Successful recruits will be trained and engaged in various sectors of the economy, ranging from health, education, revenue mobilisation etc.
This programme is a reflection of policy incoherence and a myopic approach to solving graduate unemployment challenge. The focus of the 2018 budget is to revamp agriculture for food sustainability and feeding the numerous factories to be established under the 1-district-1-factory policy. Interestingly, the amount allocated to the Ministry of Agriculture, which is annually inadequate, was cut by 21 percent. The decrease is likely to affect productivity outcomes in the sector. However, the elephant in the room is the ageing cocoa and food crop farmers and the low interest of the youth to venture into agriculture. One would have thought a policy to engage graduates across the country would centre on finding innovative solutions to encourage graduates into agriculture.
A more prudent solution to graduate unemployment would be to invest the 600 million cedis allocated to the NabCorp into providing financing through a seed fund to encourage more graduates into the value chain of agriculture. The existing financing options for the youth interested in agriculture are unfavourable, expensive and limited. Existing programmes such as planting for food and jobs targets mainly existing farmers and does not make available direct access to funds for agro-based start-ups. Other training programmes targeting the youth at the district levels do not come with grants. Seed funding for graduate agribusinesses will therefore be a better option to create immediate jobs across the country, which can be scaled up over time with financing from traditional financial institutions.
Also creation of the establishment of NabCorp is an affront to the NEIP policy that aims at creating an entrepreneurial nation. The biggest challenge graduates face in starting businesses after their national services is access to “cheap funds” and business development to pilot their ideas or project research after school. However, only 50 million cedis has been allocated to NEIP as initial funding to support 500 youth businesses in 2018. The allocation to the nebulous NabCorp when channelled to NEIP to create a special venture capital for graduate startups/projects would create more sustainable jobs in the medium term.
Though the details of how the NabCorp programme will be operationalized has not been stated, it is difficult to differentiate between it and the compulsory one-year national service every graduate in the country has to undertake. The National Service programme already provides hands on training and apprenticeship to graduates and transitions them well into the world of work after school as they serve their nation in various sectors. What additional skills will the NabCorp offer graduates who have been trained for four years in specialized fields?
What graduates in Ghana need are sustainable jobs created by a thriving private sector, entrepreneurial training and seed capital to start their own business.
By: Franklin Cudjoe