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We have said elsewhere in this column that the future belongs to those who develop their talents and deploy them as freely as they want. Such freedom and people are found in the realms of private enterprise. They are entrepreneurs. The future of the world economy is in the hands of entrepreneurs. This is why every thinking county that plans its future is doing all it can to promote private sector stake in its economy. This was the idea behind the massive privatization programmes in Europe in the 80s that saw Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher sell British Telecom. That same wave of receding frontiers of government, led to the privatization of the telecom industry in Nigeria with attendant boom in jobs and prosperity.
One thing that is certain is that the global economy will continue in its failure to provide enough jobs for all those who need jobs. High and rising level of unemployment, which has already scandalized many governments, will not abate in a hurry. Many governments, especially those in the ever developing but never developed world, have shown that they cannot significantly improve on their already very poor capacity to create job-creating opportunities. The world, not just Africa and her poor friends, is stuck with diminishing social welfare standards as the challenge of unemployment continues to be prominent.
The millennials who, according to the United States Census Bureau, are those born between 1982 and the year 2000 are coming out to work. They have come of age and now bringing their characteristics to bear on the labour market. Research shows that they surpass the baby boomers, an earlier and more privileged generation, and are the fastest growing segment of the workforce. This group of young people have come to be identified with certain characteristics that are reshaping the global workplace. They are known to be highly technology-driven. They are therefore closer to their laptops, smart phones and other high-tech gadgets, than they are to humans. The millennials are less physical than the generations before them and therefore prefer to communicate by emails, Whatsapp and smart phones than being physically present. Due to the fact that they cannot imagine or survive well in a world without 24/7 electricity, internet and smart phones, in addition to their deep family-centric nature, they prefer to work flexible hours or from home, where these things are likely to be present. Being privileged and even “spoilt”, they crave attention. These traits have created the impression that the millennials are prone to job-hopping – a plus for entrepreneurship.
Essentially, today’s youth are restless and tend not to survive in straight-jacketed work places. Their job-hopping habit, boosted by their having been over protected, makes them go in and out of employment. They actually do not fancy the idea of keeping jobs for donkey years like their parents, and that is where they come into conflict with the current economic environment, which offers fewer job-changing opportunities. So how and where would they survive? The answer is entrepreneurship. In many cases, their response to the dwindling opportunities for employment has led them to create and innovate. Several Apps are now online and making millionaires out of many young people who create them. The future truly belongs to private enterprise. As job opportunity shrinks and population rises, only those who can create their own jobs or Blue Oceans will make it to the next economic boom. These are people who are reflective; people who think deeply about phenomena and people who are willing to take a step forward on a risky path.
Today, we begin a series on entrepreneurship, which will focus especially on what entrepreneurs do. For starters, let us dismiss the myth that to be an entrepreneur one always has to invent something new. That thinking is exactly what it is – a myth. It does not exist in reality. The truth is that there may be some wheels to be invented but they are not too many left. What abounds is the opportunity to rework, reshape and reform the wheel. Therefore, to be an entrepreneur, one may or may not make a new discovery. We can do something new – create a new product or discover a new formula for solving a problem. However, using a new technique to solve an old problem is also an invention. The definition of entrepreneurship is extensive enough to cover such activities. Of course, some entrepreneurs are riding on the back of ground-breaking inventions but others are either advancing existing ideas or doing an old thing in a new or better way. In other words, tweaking an existing invention or what is already in use, and making it better able to serve its original purpose, is also entrepreneurial.
There are new business ideas that are already changing the way certain businesses are done in Nigeria. Plumbers are now available on the touch of an App. Similarly, automobile mechanics and those that repair domestic equipment, such as refrigerators and electronics, can now be hired online. It is about providing novel alternatives or variations of whatever that already exists and in making outright discoveries. Services like Uber and Taxify are simply riding on the old theme of taxi cabs. They have just found better ways to get a taxi ride. The way forward for the young and able is to think of better ways of doing old thing even as they seek to break new invention grounds.
The labour market is full of young people who have been uncharitably branded unemployable, with handsome blame apportioned to those who train them; not because they truly lack useable skills but because the economy has been run aground by the truly unemployables – politicians and their collaborating public service managers. It has therefore become fruitless to continue to hope for jobs in an economy that is actually contracting, both literally and relatively speaking. The future is indeed, lies in creativity and the application of talents to create one’s own job. Entrepreneurs improve the working of what works or make it work better. Or better still, they replace what works with something that may not be entirely different but does the work even much better. There lies the way forward, as ignorant population policies drive unemployment to the blue skies of many poor countries.