During the oil boom years with a fairly stable economy, unemployment was not such a big problem. Now that Nigeria is experiencing economic crisis, the hope of getting gainful employment for the teeming unemployed Nigerian youths plunges towards bleak.
According to the latest report by the National Bureau of Statistics, the youth unemployment rate has risen to all-time high of 42.24% in the first quarter of 2016.
Needless to say, Nigeria’s economy has been hurting on account of the drop in oil prices in the international market. All oil-producing countries are feeling the impact of the precipitous plunge in the crude oil price.
However, a lot of stakeholders in the ICT sector have been advocating that the Buhari-led administration should start looking at the sector as an alternative way of generating income, hence creating jobs for the unemployed youth.
It is one of the premises on which Technology Times went to Computer Village, the largest hi-tech market in West Africa to look out for semi-skilled job opportunities in the Nigerian ICT sector.
Mr. Adetayo Koiki, a phone engineer, works for Yetoks Technologies. Koiki believes that fixing damaged phones in a period of mobile phone sales boom can engage a lot of youths productively and drastically reduce the galloping unemployment rate to a reasonable extent.
He told Technology Times in an interview in his workshop that Computer Village has the capacity to accommodate as many youths who are willing to learn how to repair phone and earn a living from it.
“For youths who are jobless, phone repairing is a good opportunity for them to have something to do. This market is big, it has absorbed a lot of them already and it can still accommodate many more,” Mr. Koiki said.
He added, “The IT world is so big and phone repairing is not only on hardware. There is also the software. So opportunities abound here. But it is left for them to decide.”
He however lamented that laziness and impatience among young people of today are some of the factors that make so many youth unemployed.
“What I see in today’s young people is that a lot of them are so lazy and impatient. They don’t want to work, but they want money so quick, which is why a lot of them prefer to be doing ‘yahoo yahoo’ (Internet scamming) instead.”
Reliving the experience of how he started on the job of phone repairing, Mr. Koiki told Technology Times that he was on apprenticeship for about four years to learn the job very well.
According to him, he has been repairing phones for over eight years now after gaining freedom from apprenticeship and “it has been a wonderful experience since then. Sometimes it all goes well and some other times, it goes bad as it is in everything people do.”
The phone engineer also bemoaned the rate at which some youths jump into the business with little or no proper training. They end up bringing distrust among consumers about phone engineers. To him, it is the biggest challenge genuine phone engineers are facing.
“Many people are just jumping into phone repairing now without going through proper training; as such, the value has depreciated in the eyes of the people,” he says.
“Now, all we do first is to try to convince people that we can really do the fixing without caring much about the money in order to scale up our reputation positively to win customer’s trust,” he adds.
Commenting on how government can be of assistance to phone engineers in the country, Mr Kioki said ”The government must set up an organization or a department that would be seeing to the affairs of phone engineers and other technicians all over. So that they will organize the engineers cadre by cadre in terms of their experiences and efficiency such that there would be order in the sector.”
Talking about income, Mr. Koiki says he makes enough money to live a comfortable life but complained that business has been difficult lately as a result of the incessant fall in the value of Naira.
“It has been very difficult; all the money you collect from the customers is almost consumed by parts and accessories with which you repair the phone. So now, we are making little money because customers are not ready to add money to the normal fees they are used to. Better still, they don’t even have the money in the first place because money is not in circulation,” he says.
“Before now, we fix like ten or more phones in a day. But we fix less than that now. However, our work doesn’t really depend on how many phones you repair in a day. You can fix one and be okay with it because that one may cover what you can get from fixing ten,” he adds.
According to him, the average amount they charge to repair a phone varies from N500 upwards depending on the fault of the phone.
According to him, people repair more of Infinix, Tecno and Injoo phones.
He says: ”They come with Infinix, Tecno, and Injoo, the so-called ‘China phones’ for repairs.”
Mr. Koiki advised phone users to patronize only phone engineers who have office as against roadside engineers.
According to him, even the roadside engineers in Computer Village have on countless occasions, disappeared with customers’ phones which, he says, wrecks their image worse.
He proposed establishment of a powerful association in the market as he believes such can curtail some of the sharp practices in Computer Village.
“On daily basis here, you will see police coming to arrest people for all kinds of crime like buying of stolen goods and all that. All these will reduce if we have a working association,” Mr. Koiki added.