Recruiting Difficulties Intensify in Nigeria

By Leah Shepherd August 1, 2019
Recruiting Difficulties Intensify in Nigeria

​Nigeria faces significant recruiting challenges, including some skills gaps and an upswing in violence. Demographically, however, recruiting prospects in the country are promising.

With more than 200 million people, Nigeria has the largest population in Africa, according to Worldometers, a population data website. Nigeria also has the biggest economy in Africa, followed by South Africa and Egypt, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Nigeria's economy grew eightfold between 2000 and 2014, but it suffered a recession after that, explained Max Bramer, global director of international solutions at Velocity Global, which provides global talent acquisition services. That downturn, along with a growing population of young people, has left the country with high unemployment and underemployment rates—which means the recruiter may have the advantage.

Concerns About Violence

While there's no shortage of talent, the increasing level of violence in Nigeria still hampers recruiting efforts.

The Nigeria Security Tracker, a project of the United Nations Council on Foreign Relations, tracks violence motivated by political, economic or social grievances in Nigeria. It counted 2,384 deaths from June 2018 to June 2019.

"Violence and the hardships of living in Nigeria have always made it difficult for multinational organizations to bring nonnationals into the country, and it hasn't gotten easier in recent years," Bramer said. "The Boko Haram terrorist group remains active in the country's ungoverned northeast, with occasional terrorist acts reaching into areas such as the centrally located capital, Abuja, where many multinational organizations have a presence."

In recent months, the violence has also involved conflict between nomadic herdsmen and farmers in north-central states and a rise in kidnappings and killings in northwestern states, according to Human Rights Watch.

Nigeria's recent elections, which ushered President Muhammadu Buhari into office for a second term, sparked political violence, some at the hands of soldiers and police officers. At least 233 election-related deaths occurred from Oct. 14, 2018, to Feb. 20, 2019, according to SMB Intelligence, a market intelligence firm that follows news in Nigeria.

In Lagos, a large financial hub in Nigeria, "violent crime is prevalent and often targets Westerners," Bramer said.

Adora Ikwuemesi, director of Kendor Consulting, an HR consulting firm based in Lagos, confirmed, "I think violence or perception of violence definitely makes it harder to recruit in the affected areas. For example, people living in more peaceful parts will not choose to relocate to areas with issues of violence."

She added that violence is just one issue that may make recruiting for multinationals more difficult. She said that "there are other socioeconomic issues that can make the country unattractive to potential employees, especially when combined with being a developing country."

Bramer agreed, saying, "Lagos, along with most of the country, experiences power outages, inflation, poor medical facilities, civil unrest, poor infrastructure, severe traffic, unsafe public transportation, high pollution and poor sanitation services. Companies may need to pay a premium on top of an employee's base salary if he or she is to be in country for a significant amount of time."

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Big Demand and Supply

In a country with such a large population, the demand for talent is high—but so is supply.

"There's a larger pool of available candidates than years prior, including those with college educations," Bramer said. "Those who are employed are often underemployed, with jobs below their qualification levels. There is more competition for the thousands of Nigerians returning with degrees from foreign institutions each year."

He added, "The competition for educated workers is also increasing as the economy diversifies away from its dependence on oil. Nigeria is home to a burgeoning technology and startup scene, and the government has implemented policies in hopes of improving capital markets, STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] education, and infrastructure."

In some cases, recruiters are dealing with a skills gap in the local talent pool as demand grows for certain roles.

"There is an increase in demand, especially a rise in existing job roles and new roles that never existed before," Ikwuemesi said. "The downsides are that the skills to match such job opportunities may not have grown as quickly. We experience this more in the technology-driven industries."

As the unemployment rate remains high, she added, "I see the mismatch between the skills required and the skills available. … People are very optimistic and apply for jobs they clearly are not qualified for. This often means that advertised jobs receive a large number of unqualified applications. This causes huge inefficiencies, especially as most recruiters don't use applicant tracking software and receive manual applications via e-mail."

Leah Shepherd is a freelance writer in Columbia, Md.



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