ThisDay Newspaper Online Publications, September 12, 2014, reports the position and view of the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association, NECA, with regards to the composition of the members of the newly inaugurated Presidential Jobs Board. It decries the exclusion of the “real” private sector from the Presidential Jobs Board.
But it was reported yesterday by ThisDay that the President said:
“We have carefully constituted the Jobs Board to include key members of the public and private sector, (and) this is to ensure that the Board can draw on the cross expertise of people in government as well as those in private enterprises.”
In the statement above, it is clear that representatives from the private sector are included in the Board as members. However, it seems that NECA has a different view and definition of the private sector from the government’s. NECA emphasizes on the “REAL” private sector which it describes as “Grassroots enterprises and entrepreneurs”. This means that the private sector being recognized by the government is not the “real” private sector. According to the Director General of NECA, Olusegun Oshinowo, the government is mistaking “successful entrepreneurs” in the country for the “real” private sector. And this, perhaps, is wrong.
The “Real” Private Sector in Nigeria
NECA defines the “real” private sector as “grassroots enterprises and entrepreneurs”, and members of the following institutions: “Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association, NECA;Manufacturers’ Association of Nigeria, MAN; Nigerian Association of Chambers ofCommerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, NACCIMA; National Association ofSmall and Medium Scale Enterprises, NASMEs; and the National Association ofSmall Scale Industries, NASSIs". This implies that any individual or organization that does not meet this definition is not and should not be recognized as being a representative of the “real” private sector.
Let us take a look at the individuals appointed by the Federal Government to represent the private sector. They include, the Chairman of the United Bank for Africa, Mr. Tony Elumelu; the President of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote; the Chairman, Stanbic IBTC Plc, Mr. Atedo Peterside; the Chairman, Innoson Group, Mr. innocent Chukwuma; the Managing Director, First Bank of Nigeria Limited, Bisi Onasanya; the Chairman/CEO of Aiteo Oil and Gas, Mr. Benny Peters; and others.
From the list above, it is arguably clear that the individuals appointed as representatives of the private sector are successful entrepreneurs and do not reflect the description of NECA of the “real” private sector and hence, they are not true representatives of the real private sector. As far as NECA and, perhaps, its sister institutions are concerned, they are not included and represented in the Presidential Jobs Board.
Possible Implications of this Perceived Exclusion on the Initiative
- Non-Involvement and Non-Participation of the Real Private Sector
The real private sector is the backbone of any employment intervention in the economy. Excluding this sector and its members spells doom for any job creation initiative. The involvement, participation and contribution of the grassroots enterprises and entrepreneurs should be earnestly courted, if any success is expected from the Presidential Jobs Board.
- Lack of Strategic Partner and Ally
Any initiative of the government at addressing the critical issue of unemployment in the country must enhance strategic alliances and foster more effective partnerships amongst stakeholders with genuine interest in achieving real outcomes and benefits. The real private sector is a major partner and stakeholder and should not in any way be excluded and less represented.
- Imminent Failure of the Initiative
Neglecting the “real” private sector is an indication that the present initiative of the Federal Government to create 3 million jobs in one year is likely to fail just like many others before it. Undermining this sector and group is a wrong step being taken by the government. The government and its associates should know that the most likely place to look for new jobs is the “new firms”—that is, the real private sector. The real private sector and its young and new firms are major drivers of new jobs, and should thus be well represented in any initiates, policies and programmes designed to address the dire employment situation in the country.
The cry of exclusion and non-representation of the real private sector by NECA is a pointer to the fact that the initiative of the government to create 3 million jobs in 12 months lacks the required foundation and structure to be successful. If there had been a comprehensive National Employment Policy Framework, the involvement, participation of all relevant stakeholders and partners would have been considered and welcome.
The cry of exclusion is far from over. The Women in Enterprise and young entrepreneurs are not included and represented in the Jobs Board. That is a weakness and deficiency in the initiative that must quickly be addressed before any meaningful progress can be made. Exclusion is a weighty issue in socioeconomic development today that must not be overlooked.