June 25, 2021: Miss Yvonne Kaze and Sarah Pam, both graduates from Central Nigeria’s Plateau State, are perhaps giving a new definition to womanhood. They are not just economically self-reliant, a rare attribute among 21st century African women. They are creating jobs and above all, making hits in a near totally male dominated industry – shoemaking.
Yvonne, a graduate of Mass Communication from the National Open University of Nigeria has been making shoes for nearly a decade now. To her, shoemaking is pure business, and is not gender specific.
“I don’t believe it’s a man’s world. If a man can make quality female shoes then I can also make it, and even do it better,” said the leather entrepreneur,” said Yvonne in an interview.
Yvonnes has made thousands of male and female shoes, rated among the best in Jos, the capital of Plateau State. These have sold beyond Nigeria, providing a comfortable life for the 32year-old.
“I’ve made enough to sponsor myself through school and I’m still doing good. Moreover, this is about passion. For no reason will I accept a paid job,” she said.
Pam Sarah, the Chief Executive Officer of Sarah Wealth Creatives, is a financial graduate of Kaduna State Polytechnic, currently competing with multinationals in Nigeria’s commercial city of Lagos.
Just like Yvonne, Sarah believes shoemaking is a universal trade. “Shoemaking is not a gender-based profession. Many people now respect female shoemakers and also patronize them without any doubt,” said Sarah in a Facebook post.
Sarah is proud of her job, and is training many like her. “Yes, I am a Shoemaker, Yes I make beautiful shoes. Yes, I go to work early morning like normal people! Yes, I have taught many ladies! Yes, I want to be more creative,” she wrote.
Sarah is a training partner of the Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development (SAED) programme of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). She wants to “inspire and motivate people, whether man or woman,” she said.
Unemployment in Nigeria
Unemployment in Nigeria last year rose to the second highest on a global list of countries monitored by Bloomberg. The figure surged to 33.3% in the first three months through December, from 27.1% in the second quarter of 2020, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
A third of the 69.7 million labor force in the country either did nothing or worked for less than 20 hours a week, making them unemployed, according to the NBS. Another 15.9 million worked less than 40 hours a week, making them underemployed, the NBS said.
This may have contributed to a leap in poverty rate, which stood at 84.8 million as of December 2020, representing 41% of the the year’s estimated 199milliom population of Nigeria. In June 2021, a report by Premium Times says number of Nigerians living in extreme poverty increased to 86.8 million, representing 41% of the nation’s 209 million population. This figure is expected to soar to nearly 50% by 2022, due to challenges from Covid-19, the World Bank says.
What can SMEs do?
In Nigeria, 41.5 million Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) were registered in 2017, Statistician-General of the Federation and CEO of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Dr. Yemi Kale said during the release of the 2017 NBS-SMEDAN Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) National Survey of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise (MSMEs) Report in Lagos, on July 19, 2019. As of 2013, Nigeria had 37 million MSMEs, with complementary employment contribution of 59 million persons, Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Industry Trade and Investment, Mr. Edet Akpan added.
By employing 59 million out of 171.8million Nigerians in 2013, the existing 37million MSMEs in Nigeria then reduced unemployment by 34.4%. At the 41.5million population, MSMEs grew by 10.8% in 2017. This suggesting an increased employment capacity of 6,372,000 people, brings the total employment by MSMEs to 65,372,000, representing 34.2% of Nigeria’s 191.9million population in 2019.
These figures are expected to have skyrocketed due to advancement in technology and the internet economy. However, infrastructure deficit and frequent public policy changes and somersaults limits their capacity, the Nigerian Statistician-General of the Federation and CEO of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Dr. Yemi Kale said. In addition, “most MSMEs rely on personal savings and money from friends and relatives to kick-start their businesses,” Grace Akinosun wrote in techpoint.africa.
Thus, with the advent of Covid-19, unemployment rose from 23.13% in Q3 of 2018 when the last official records were released to an estimated 27.1% in Q2 of 2020, suggesting a drop in employment platforms, MSMEs included.
The recent Twitter ban in Nigeria, which is thought to have caused over $2.6m daily losses to local startups relying on the platform for adverts and distribution could spike the figures. But Yvonne and Sarah, and many others still holding on could make a difference, with the supporting policies, infrastructure and networks.