By Adedoyin Giwa

As the world celebrates the 2020 International Youth Day today, the need for youth empowerment will for sure hit the front burner even in the midst of global chaos caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2020 IYD celebration with the theme “Engagement for Global Action”, seeks to highlight how young people can be engaged at local, national and global levels to reduce democratic deficits, increase fairness in political processes and contribute to better and more sustainable policies.

It is no longer news that jobs have been lost and the world faces harsh economic realities as we learn to live with the novel virus. A committee on Economic Sustainability Plan led by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo recently warned that 39.4 million Nigerians might be unemployed by the end 2020. The federal government recently unveiled plans to employ 1,000 persons each from each of the 774 local governments in the country. In the same vein, the federal government post COVID-19 Economy Recovery Plan is said to be targeting 5 million jobs. In the midst of it all, giving youths, who constitute the majority of Nigeria’s population a fair economic share has always been a clamour.

While we keep on the demand for inclusion of youth in formal political mechanism, it is worthy of note that  ecommerce can help change the narrative about opportunity, inclusion and balance in the Nigerian economic landscape for Nigeria’s teeming youth population. A joint research by the World Bank  and Alibaba Group revealed that ecommerce can be a powerful instrument for employment for semi-skilled workers and women in developing countries and in rural areas. These are general traits of Nigeria and African countries in general.

Conversely, job creation figures of leading global ecommerce brands should be an encouragement for more focus and investment in this sector of the economy. America’s Amazon disclosed recently that over one million small businesses on its platform have created 900,000 jobs. The Amazon brand alone has over 100, 000 employees on its payroll. Today, China has the fastest and largest growing ecommerce market in the world, accounting for more than 40% of the total value of ecommerce transactions worldwide. Simply put, more than 5% of employment in China is in ecommerce. These contributions are however tied to years of deliberate support and infrastructure investment which aided ecommerce.  

One might wonder how an industry that limits human contact holds such a huge employment prospect. A local example thus suffices. Jumia currently has over 15,000 sellers on its platform, with 80% being SMEs. Despite the fact that contact and face-to-face interactions are limited in the ecommerce service space, the interconnectedness of the industry requires that thousands of individuals work behind the scenes to ensure orders are processed seamlessly to customers’ preference and satisfaction. Aside from customer service representatives who interact with customers, take orders and customer complaints,  the shipping clerks, order fillers, hand packers, packagers, keep records and ensure orders are properly packaged and in good condition for transportation.

Apart from managers who oversee the daily operations in warehouses, there are also the market research analysts who study market conditions to examine potential sales of products. Ecommerce thrives on technology, which thus provides job opportunities for young application software and web developers who create programmes and also handle online stores technical aspects.  

Also critical in the chain are the last mile delivery agents. The immense employment and growth impact of ecommerce on logistics cannot the overemphasized. The recent boom in logistics business in major economic cities of Nigeria is being driven by ecommerce. Jumia recently announced it now has hundreds of pickup points/warehouses in Nigeria, while Konga also said it has improved on warehouse sites nationwide and have upped the capacity with more delivery partners and associates.  A crucial point to note in the chain is that as ecommerce firms expand their operation in nukes and crannies of major cities and rural areas, they bring with them economic opportunities for these residents of local communities. “We built our logistics platform to work with franchises in local areas. We partner and empower local people who know the dynamics of villages in Nigeria to deliver last mile for us,’ said Konga CEO Prince Ekeh.

Cross-border ecommerce is the fastest growing international trade, and a report by Boston Consulting Group said online marketplaces could create 3 million new jobs in Africa by 2025. If given proper attention, support and infrastructure investment, ecommerce will not only help in development of rural communities, but immensely reduce employment deficit in Nigeria. 

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