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Could a cleaner environment create more jobs in Nigeria?

Sylvia Nwoko
September 14, 2018

Nigeria is struggling to create jobs for its 69 million unemployed young people, while facing growing fossil fuel consumption. Analyst Sylvia Nwoko thinks focusing on meeting climate change goals could cut unemployment.

DW eco@africa - burning waste in landfill
Image: Bernard Kalu

Nigeria's current challenge to reduce carbon footprints is in dire straits because fossil fuel consumption is ever increasing as energy challenges grow.

New jobs are needed, but the private sector needs to drive a low carbon growth to attain sustainable growth, centered on important climate targets, with information and communication technology as a strong driver for communication and innovation.

In fact, Nigeria's Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) - a country's goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions - borne out of the Paris Agreement, focuses on rapid growth sectors that can deliver double digits GDP growth with the right frameworks.

Nigeria Umweltprobleme
Analyst Sylvia NwokoImage: @rukkydidit

Creating jobs while tackling climate change

The truth is, with 69 million young people mostly unemployed, the spotlight must be on creating about 3.6 million jobs annually to reach the 40 million jobs needed by 2030.

Currently, Nigeria creates below 400,000, causing increased restiveness and an urge for economic and social migration, as the rate of unemployment significantly increases in comparison.

So agriculture, power and manufacturing, being the highest-impact climate change sectors, could potentially bridge these gaps and tackle youth migration, with reliable models. The skilled youth remains the key to achieve digital growth and agro-industrial transformation.

DW eco@africa - a harbour in Nigeria
Nigeria "has always imported petrol and diesel, despite its oil resources"Image: Mohini Ufeli

Nigeria 'exporting what it needs'

It was mortifying to learn in June from the African Development Bank that Nigeria accumulated over $22 billion out of the $35 billion for all of Africa's agro-based raw material imports in 2017 – because it used to be the largest exporter of agricultural produce like cocoa and palm oil.

It is evident that Nigeria has a history of importing what it can produce while exporting what it needs, considering it has always imported petrol and diesel, despite its oil resources. This has remained mind-boggling.

The Nigerian population growth rate of 2.2 percent is higher than its current GDP of less than 2 percent.

Due to fragmentation of enablers and drivers, businesses tend to collapse, or suffer revenue and job losses because they cannot sustain huge overheads for utilities like power, which adds more than 40 percent to 60 percent to costs of production.

DW eco@africa - soot on hands
Nigeria is facing growing fossil fuel consumptionImage: Bernard Kalu

A dent in Nigeria's Paris Accord goals

I think that with the private sector's knowledge of the NDC sectors' operations and challenges must come financial clarity and access to expanding green financial mechanisms like the green climate funds.

However, the NDC does not clarify this, which limits any opportunity to develop coherent business models and dents Nigeria's 2020 Paris Accord goals.

A low carbon focus is achievable as long as cost savings benefits are demonstrated.

For instance, the motorbike riders could save money on fuel costs if they were to switch to Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), being the most ubiquitous means of transportation nationwide.

DW eco@africa - planting in Nigeria
Traditional farming methods need to be made more eco-friendlierImage: Chibueze Ebii

Making agriculture greener

The NDC highlights agriculture (and other land use activities) as the sector with the highest-producing carbon footprints.

The traditional farming methods for rice cultivation emit a lot of methane. Reducing emissions from rice farming means harvesting a few weeks earlier, dry seeding and early field drainage to prevent build-up of methane gas in the paddies.

The cap-and-trade system used in California, USA, significantly reduces the amount of rice straws left to be decomposed in flooded fields.

DW eco@africa - soil erosion in Nigeria
Changing agriculture methods to reduce soil erosion is an issue in NigeriaImage: Chibueze Ebii

When you know, you do better

I recently attended a workshop for the Third National Communication for Nigeria's NDC, organized by the Federal Ministry of Environment and the UNDP, where elaborate comments were made on the structure and outreach of the NDC.

However, the lack of focus on digital solutions in re-defining communications and ensuring that information spreads exponentially was noteworthy.

In a country of over 180 million people with six geopolitical zones, adopting effective and innovative digital solutions not only increases penetration or amplifies production (e.g. through early climate warning signals), but also promotes development by bridging information gaps.

In a typical case of when you know better, you do better - from the market trader's coal stove to gas flaring, carbon emissions in Nigeria remains the enlightened man's issue.

Sylvia Nwoko is the Stakeholder Engagement and Communications Analyst on the Nigerian Economic Summit Group. She is currently on a sabbatical to work on Nigeria’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC).