For months, 26-year-old Houmeira Moussa Garba made the weekly trek to her local employment office, the Agence Nationale pour la Promotion de l’Emploi (ANPE), in Niger’s second largest city, Maradi. There, she would sit with a career counselor, search for available jobs, and most importantly, keep herself motivated in the job hunt.
“When I was unemployed, I went to the ANPE almost every third day,” said Houmeira. “I learned motivation, job search techniques [and] I learned how to write my CV and cover letter.”
Though she had recently graduated with a baccalaureate degree, Houmeira found herself in a similar position to many young Nigeriens – ripe with ambition and skills, but limited job prospects. An estimated 23 percent of Nigeriens between the ages of 15 and 29 are unemployed, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO).
For others like Houmeira, the numbers are seemingly stacked against them. Niger has one of the fastest growing populations in the world, increasing at a rate of 3.8 per cent annually, putting pressure on its economy and the need to support its young population. This has already been a challenge, with more than 500,000 young people entering the country’s labour market every year, according to the World Bank.
Despite recent economic growth, Niger is among the world’s least developed countries according to the Human Development Index. Other factors such as the adverse effects of climate change and security challenges have also dampened socioeconomic growth, leaving a bleak picture for the country’s youth.
As a result, some young Nigeriens have migrated in search of better livelihood opportunities. While statistics are difficult to come by, the country’s National Migration Strategy has made the link between employment and migration clear, identifying the need to create decent jobs for young people as one of its many strategies. Job creation helps ensure that young Nigeriens have economic opportunities directed towards the country’s development, and also reduces the chances for irregular migration.
"Unemployment, and particularly youth unemployment is a major concern at all times for politicians at the highest level, the structures in charge of the integration of youth into the workforce, in this case, the National Youth Council, and the relatives," says Ibrahim Nahantchi, the Director General of the ANPE. "The critical number of young graduates who come each year to the job market with limited short and medium-term perspectives, considering that the job offers are clearly inferior to the job demands, calls on all the actors to reflect and act to find appropriate measures to face this issue," he adds.
Policymakers have thus turned their attention to investing in job creation as a way to ensure that young Nigeriens have economic opportunities that are both directed towards the country’s development – and away from irregular migration.
Starting in late 2017, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has supported this effort by developing the capacities of the ANPE through the “''Supporting youth with efficient and effective employment counselling centres in Niger”12-month project funded by the IOM development fund. With eight offices dotted around the country, the agency is charged with providing job counselling and a job matching service, working with both employers and youth to place people in the right roles.
"By strengthening the role of the ANPE through technical support and adequate equipment, IOM supports the government in facilitating the conditions for youth employability. Thus contributing to providing alternatives to irregular migration by creating effective labor market integration mechanisms for youth in Niger," says Seve Diomande, IOM Niger Chief of Mission ad interim. "The Organisation views the integration of youth as an essential component of an effective and comprehensive migration management strategy that fosters social inclusion and good relations across diverse groups, thereby contributing toward diverse and inclusive and cohesive societies."
The project was to support the ANPE’s expansion effort – both in the quality of job counselling, but also in the number of job placements. To this end, the centres were equipped with new Information Technology equipment and training was provided to staff who, in turn, assist young Nigeriens in writing their cover letters, walking them through job interviews and directing them toward relevant employment trainings.
It was during one of her visits to the ANPE that Houmeira found out about an internship opportunity at a pharmacy. The internship gave her the launch she needed, providing her with sales training and paramedical techniques. As part of the agreement, the internship later turned into a full-time job.
“The agency [ANPE] helped me because when they signed the contract, they notified the manager of the office that they should hire the trainee after the internship,” said Houmeira, who now works as a salesperson at the same pharmacy.
Houmeira is one of the more than 19,000 youth, the project has successfully secured jobs for in the private sector since its inception in late 2019. This effort to expand private sector partnerships has meant that the work is often better paying and can meet the young people’s aspirations.
Since the launch of the project, 46,378 youth have sought job counselling in ANPE’s regional agencies an 19,052 had found an employment thanks to the support they received from the agency.
By emphasizing career guidance and training, the project also aims to increase employment opportunities for Niger’s young, and in the process, mitigating irregular migration. The next step will be to scale up this effort – an ongoing process – and in doing so, turning a demographic challenge into a demographic dividend.