Although Nigeria boasts the largest economy in Africa with a GDP of $510 billion, economic growth (which averaged 6-7% annually from 2000-2014) declined in 2015, largely due to falling oil prices and lower growth rates in non-oil sectors. Nigeria’s oil sector has made a modest recovery from the low prices of 2013, but the manufacturing sector experienced rapid decline and negative growth in the first two quarters of 2015. Agriculture, the largest sector, contributes over 20 percent of GDP, but its low productivity levels continue to stunt economic growth.
Furthermore, Nigeria's economy has failed to produce good jobs for the vast majority of Nigerians, especially in the formal sector. The official unemployment rate of 7.5% masks large numbers of underemployed workers, many of whom rely on seasonal work and subsistence agriculture. When these are taken into consideration, nearly a quarter of all Nigerians lack full-time employment; including almost half of all young people. Agriculture accounts for 70% of all employment in the country but remains mired, especially in the north and northeast, in subsistence farming that provides little in the way of opportunities beyond informal production.
The lack of formal sector job opportunities can be traced to Nigeria’s business environment. Corruption, lack of access to capital, and the poor state of the country’s infrastructure have stifled the growth of the country’s 17.3 million Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), an overwhelming 99.87% of which are microenterprises and which collectively produce only 32.4 million jobs, fewer than two per enterprise. This will be grossly inadequate to accommodate the coming youth bulge, which will double the number of youth in 20 years.
The report concludes with some lessons learned. Although evidence on the impact of workforce development programs is limited, the authors have identified the following lessons: 1) comprehensive programming that deals with both supply and demand tends to be most effective; 2) programs designed for urban populations cannot be easily replicated in rural areas, and scant information exists about what works well for rural youth; 3) labor market information systems are important and effective, but are more so when the educational system is used as a platform, rather than using one-stop shops; 4) training is more effective when combined with asset provision; 5) most TVET programs have not been shown to have much impact on short-term job placement or income generation; and 6) there is little evidence that employment mitigates conflict reduction, but research supports conflict-sensitive approaches.