Bridging the skills gap in Nigeria

Shortage of available skills is one of the most common obstacle to overcome for many companies doing business in Nigeria. The more technical your company is, the more crucial it will be to find the right talent.
Afrikanisches Business Team, Studio Shot, Kamerun

Bridging the skills gap in Nigeria

Shortage of available skills is one of the most common obstacle to overcome for many companies doing business in Nigeria. The more technical your company is, the more crucial it will be to find the right talent.

 There is no need to introduce Nigeria anymore. Located in West Africa, Nigeria is the first market of the continent and often referred to as the “Giant of Africa”. Its 182 million inhabitants, including more than 35 million young people aged between 18 to 35 years old, make it the seventh most populated country in the world with one of the largest population of young people worldwide.

Despite not being as developed as in Europe or America, the school system offers remarkable programs to attract and form the best students around the country. The best schools in Nigeria include the Warri Business School, the University of Lagos and the Kaduna Business School.

More generally, Nigerian universities and schools offer programs and majors similar to those we are familiar with: MBA, executive programs, marketing, accounting, logistics, supply chain and so on.

You will find a lot of dynamism among young populations. A larger access to internet access has enable education to reach a higher number of students and foster conditions for development giving rise to many tech startups.


As a foreign investor, how should you organize your strategy to anticipate and overcome the lack of skills?

One of the answer is given by the example provided by large extraction companies such as Agip Oil Company; Total or Chevron. Being technology based companies, they require highly trained people with engineering background to work on oil exploration sites. They have adapted a strategy common to the oil sector: close partnerships with academic centers of excellence. Conscious of the difficulties and costs associated with bringing expatriates to work in Nigeria, those companies have developed scholarship programs with the aim of detecting and training local talents. With this strategy, oil companies are able to compensate the lack of skills available by attracting, training at an early stage young students and working closely with the best universities and schools in the country.

Another element to take into consideration is the fact that over 1, 5 million students applications are received each year by the different schools and universities, whereas these institutions, all combined, can only accept 600,000 students and are outnumbered due to capacity issues and lack of funding.

Due to the shortage of skills, the competition is high among companies to retain talents. Developing relationships and network with local business schools is a great way to recruit the skills that you need.

The diaspora is the second nest for skills for many companies. As an example, the Nigerian diaspora in America represents 3,25 million people, including 115,000 medical professionals, 175,000 IT professionals, 49,500 engineers. Why is the diaspora not the main source for recruitment of local talent? The answer is simple.  Members of the diaspora often cite lack of health system, the costs of living, lack of safety, corruption and political instability as reasons for not going back to Nigeria.

While this is and remains true, Nigeria’s situation is facing a steady economic growth (7% in average since 2005). Recent studies show that 70% of African graduates in the diaspora are now considering going back to Africa. For a company, relying on the diaspora is definitely a smart choice as many obstacles faced by foreign expatriates such as cultural differences and visa will be avoided.

As many other emerging markets, addressing the skill gap is of necessity at different levels for Nigeria from developing the country to social order. Nigeria has a lot of ambition for its development. Human capital is the first investment for any country to get out of poverty.

Companies and government have a major role to play in addressing the skills gap in the country.  Partnerships between private companies and universities shall be developed with the view of (i) increasing universities capacities; (ii) identifying talents early on; and (iii) offer training opportunities and scholarship programs.

Many recruitment companies targeting the diaspora are starting to appear. It is a good trend to support as they promote relocation to the candidate’s native country or country of origin. Last but not least, the Nigerian government should provide assistance in organizing the return of the diaspora, invest massively in education and infrastructures and eradicate corruption and violence.

There is still a lot to do for Nigeria to catch up with G20 countries; however, changes are around the corner and Nigeria should benefit from its already-qualified professionals

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