Confronting the Challenges of Poverty and Unemployment: The Option of Entrepreneurship and Small Scale Business in Nigeria

Adeojo Olanrewaju Oladokun, Leigh Oluwaseyi Augustine


Poverty has a profound impact on people’s physical, social and emotional welfare. In its extreme forms, it can undermine their human dignity and deprive them of the fundamental human right to life[1].Contending with other world’s worst problems – terrorism, drug and human trafficking, ethnic conflict, disease and genocide - absolute poverty together with its evil twin, unemployment, have unleashed their ruinous march unabated and unrelenting on unwary countries of the world wrecking in their path untold havoc, bringing in their way excruciating misery and leaving in their wake, sad tales of untold hardship.

Today, between forty and sixty nations, home to close to a billion people, have, as their citizens, people who wallow in abject poverty aided by unemployment. Poverty reduction is a major challenge both for the international community and within most states in the world community. But the world has also not observed the adverse effect of poverty with studied indifference. Even though certain underlying currents of politics have seen a haphazard, uncoordinated assailment of the throes of poverty, yet it is a safe assumption deducible from history to conclude that initiatives have been taken both at global, regional, national and individual levels to banish or at worst assuage the strangulating hold of poverty on mankind.

For example, at the international level, the United Nations has mobilised all the world’s governments behind the Millennium Development Goals which range from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education, by the target date of 2015. Most countries have also adopted legislation that regulates a broad range of areas relevant to poverty reduction such as social security, housing, health care and education[2].The economic challenge posed by unemployment also, has been huge. In today’s global world, recognition is extended only to those states which are distinguished by their economic competitiveness as well as their ability to keep their citizens in gainful employment[3].

In the case of Nigeria, having a clear notion of the economic, social and political challenges posed by poverty and unemployment has resulted in aiding the country to consider the options open to it and to establish the framework for its achievement, thereby situating in the right perspective, the policy formulation to tackle the problems. Essentially, this will oblige the government to adopt a pragmatic, rather than a doctrinaire solution to the country’s monumental problems[4].

The aim of this paper is to bring in one piece the research results of both isolated and communal efforts taken by actors and advocates of the banishment of poverty – as an index of social policy and enthronement of human development - in the nations of the world and the underlying and influencing political motives that have informed such actions. Specifically, the paper intends to articulate what the Nigerian nation has been able to do - as a member of and within the world community - in certain areas of her sphere of influence in confronting the malaises of poverty and unemployment and balance this against any fresh insight that may be suggested.

In the final analysis, this paper proposes to be a reference text for further studies on the Nigerian effort by making a tentative if not definitive statement on the twin option of development of entrepreneurship and support for cottage industries in Nigeria as adopted panacea by the nation for confronting the twin problem of poverty and unemployment.

Keywords: Poverty. Unemployment. Entrepreneurship. Small-scale business.

[1]. Sandra Liebenberg, Poverty Reduction; The New Oxford Companion to Law, 2008, Oxford University Press, Inc., New York, p.921.

[2]. Ibid at p.921

[3]. According to the World Bank in its May 2013 Nigerian Economic Report, it was observed that “the number of Nigerians living in poverty was increasing too rapidly… that Nigeria’s annual GDP growth rate of 6 to 8 per cent, as impressive as it looks is not capable nor sufficient to reduce poverty in the country.” Ahmed Tunde Popoola, “Entrepreneurship and self-reliance building” reported in the Guardian Newspaper, Tuesday, March 4, 2014 p. 72.

[4]. For example, while 28.1 % or about 17.7 million Nigerians were in poverty earning less than about One Hundred and Sixty Eight naira, (equivalent of about $1.00 U.S.) a day in 1980, this has moved to 67 % or 112 million people as at 2012. This position is not helped by the postulation that Nigeria is one the highest crude oil exporter in the world, deriving about 98 % of the total income from same. The oil receipts has not translated into improved standard of living for majority of its citizens.

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