From Classrooms to Hustling: How Nigerian Graduates are abandoning their Certificates for Entrepreneurship

From Classrooms to Hustling: How Nigerian Graduates are abandoning their Certificates for Entrepreneurship

For most Nigerian students, the ultimate goal of going to school is to land a white-collar job after graduation. The hope of landing a well-paying job after spending four years in the university or polytechnic is very strong among undergraduates such that they become very frustrated after that hope is dashed in Nigeria’s huge unemployment desert.

Available statistics show that Nigerian universities produce more than 500,000 graduates each year with the majority of them ending up unemployed.

From Classrooms to Hustling: How Nigerian Graduates are abandoning their Certificates for Entrepreneurship
From Classrooms to Hustling: Desmond Edet in his garden and Sharon Akpa in her shoe workshop. Credit: Israel Usulor for
Source: Original

According to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the unemployment rate in Nigeria as of the fourth quarter of 2020 stood at 33.3% while youth unemployment stood at 42.5%. This high rate of unemployment is forcing young people to completely abandon their hard-earned certificates and they are turning to entrepreneurship as a lifeline.

The word out there is that it is no longer feasible to wait for the government or private cooperation to provide jobs for young people. Young people are urged to create their own jobs.

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Many Nigerian graduates have embraced this idea. took to the streets to identify two of these graduates that have abandoned their certificates and are exploring the exciting waters of entrepreneurship.

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I went into gardening because the only job I could get after graduation was teaching

After bagging a degree in Mass Communication from the University of Calabar in 2012, Desmond Edet decided to move to Port Harcourt in search of the proverbial greener pastures. After several failed attempts at getting a well-paying job, it became clear to Desmond that the pastures are not really greener in Port Harcourt.

According to him “the only job I could get was a N30,000 job”. He decided to take his destiny into his own hands.

At that moment he was desperately searching for a job, his aunt who incidentally is a gardener advised him to take up gardening as a profession. He accepted the advice and submitted himself for training under his aunt and now he says “God has been blessing me in this business”.

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Asked when he decided to go into horticultural entrepreneurship, he said:

“I have been in the system since 2009.”

Like most Nigerians, Desmond’s entrepreneurship journey started as a pass-time job, like a joke or something to just keep one busy in the absence of a good job. But Desmond, who is now the CEO of Desmond Flourish Gardens, soon decided to dive fully into gardening.

“I studied Mass Communication at the University of Calabar. I graduated in 2012 and I served in 2013 in Bayelsa State. So when I came to this town to look for a job, the highest job I saw was N30,000. This pushed me to go and learn handwork. I wanted to learn furniture, but my aunt who is into flowering work told me there is money in the work. So what I did was to learn the work.”

How I started Gardening as Business

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According to him, after years of formal training under his aunt, he finally got a chance to establish his own horticultural farm in 2017. He rented a piece of land along Sir Celestine Omehia Road, Port Harcourt. Now, the business has grown to the extent that he said he won’t be able to work as a salary earner again even if he is paid N150,000.

He said:

“When I started this place, it was a thick forest. This is where people normally came to pour waste. People were saying that I’m suffering here. If I tell you what I pass through here. But the past has gone. Now, anybody that passes here, they will not remember how it started.”

The lesson I have learned

Going further, Mr. Desmond told that he has learned a lot of lessons especially the fact that school is just for certificates.

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The father of three said:

"I have learned a lot of lessons. School is just to go and collect your paper and come back. My children, once they finish JSS3 and SS1, every holiday, they will go and learn handwork.”

Sharon Akpa, the lady who makes shoes for a living

Just like Desmond, Miss Sharon Akpa has decided to dump her degree certificate and pursue a career in entrepreneurship. But unlike Desmond, “Ada Ebonyi” as she is fondly called is not into flowers and ornamental plants, she is a shoe-maker! traveled further to Abakaliki, the Ebonyi state capital to have a chat with Sharon who is making waves in the state’s local shoe market.

A graduate of Educational Administration and Planning from Ebonyi State University, Sharon is not just a degree holder, she also possesses a National Diploma (ND) in Mass Communication which she obtained from Fidei Polytechnic, Benue state in 2012.

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“Yes, I have always been a business-oriented person, while in school I didn’t think too much about using my certificate immediately after graduation, I know I want to be a lecturer someday. In order to achieve that, I will have to further my studies and equally have something tangible that gives me income which is necessarily not working for someone but for myself, so yes, I knew I would not be using my certificate immediately."
Nigerian graduates abandoning their Certificates for Entrepreneurship
From Classrooms to Hustling: A photo of Sharon slaying and another of her in her workshop. Credit: Sharon Akpa/Facebook
Source: Original

How I started making shoes

She never studied shoe-making in school nor does she have parents who were shoe-makers. It all started at the National Youth Service (NYSC) Orientation Camp in Oyo state. During her compulsory one-year national service in 2017, Sharon participated in the NYSC skills acquisition program called SAED.

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SAED stands for Skills Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Department. Launched in 2012 by the NYSC, SAED has the stated aim of facilitating access to requisite skills and resources for entrepreneurship development among young graduates.

It was this program that Sharon took advantage of to learn shoe-making. Out of the numerous skills available, she chose shoe-making. Narrating how it all began back in 2017 during her youth service she told

“It started during my national youth service program and the compulsory SAED.”

But contrary to what many would think, Sharon does not think it is odd for a lady to be making shoes instead of the conventional skills like tailoring, hairdressing or being a restaurateur. She told

“It’s not odd. People are very supportive and impressed. I had no problem going for shoemaking because nice footwear grabs my attention. I have always had good eyes for footwear. I admire people’s footwear first before even looking at their face.”

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Before starting her shop, Sharon further honed her skills by doing a two-year apprenticeship in already established shops. After then, she decided to take the bull by the horn and start hers.

But she said:

“It was a gradual phase, I worked in people’s shop for two years before I rented mine.”

Salaried job not in my agenda for now

Just like Desmond, when asked if she is considering doing a salaried job, the answer got from Sharon was an emphatic “No”. She said she is succeeding greatly in the business hence she is not considering taking up a white-collar job.

Yet, there are very difficult challenges plaguing entrepreneurs in Nigeria. But the Ohaozara-born shoe-maker said she has learned to tackle business challenges. She said:

“Yes, shoemaking is quite tedious, it takes physical strength and a lot of attention, most times I fall sick cause of dust from my bench grinder, inhaling gum and exhaustion, during those sick days, I tend to get a little discouraged but bounce back happily to my work once I get well.”

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Sharon sells her products online through Facebook, WhatsApp, and other platforms. Recently, she added another arm of the business, a delivery service to cater for Abakaliki residents.


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