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Kati Suominen, Nextrade Group and Alliance for eTrade Development

Developing country labor markets have major challenges as economies digitize. Most developing country workers have limited technical skills, which arrests their incomes and adaptability to  employees’ rapidly changing needs. Developing country workers’ returns to education and work are low – an additional year of schooling or working increases developing country workers’ incomes less than it would in advanced nations. There are severe labor market mismatches in developing countries, such that human capital is not sorted optimally into jobs where it provides the highest return.


Nowhere are these challenges as great as in Sub-Saharan Africa. Most of Africa’s human capital is underprepared and poorly utilized.

In addition, data on workers’ skills and abilities are limited, making it harder for companies to identify and match job candidates and current employees to best-fit jobs and for governments and businesses to tailor skills development programs that are most impactful in different segments of the population. How to then identify what types of skills exist in the region’s labor markets and how well they service employees’ current and future needs? 


The purpose of this report is to start answering some of these questions by reviewing the results of a large-scale data and lessons-learned from an online survey measuring the cognitive abilities and skills of  27,216 Nigerian students and employees across a wide range of sectors, performed by the Jobberman employment portal of Ringier One Africa Media (ROAM) using the survey template from PeopleTree on 1 March-30 September 2021. This tool has previously been employed by large organizations that want to understand the composition of talent within their ranks and identify ways to match workers better to jobs. Here, we test the applicability of the data and methods to understanding the skills and aptitudes of workers across firms and sectors.  The pilot project and this report are supported by U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the USAID-supported public-private Alliance for eTrade Development II of which ROAM forms part, with 11 other companies.


The result was a ranking of 60 competencies per survey taker, grouped in 18 major characteristics or archetypes. The respondents further self-selected into one of five groups depending on how they engage in digitization and ecommerce, such as whether they identify and develop ecommerce strategies or support customers in onboarding to a digital environment. The survey also captured each individual’s age, gender, sector, occupation, geolocation, educational attainment, and income level.


These rich data can have for various applications, such as to:


  • Inform the individuals taking the assessment about their skills and aptitudes and the work environments for which they are best suited;


  • Enable employers in the Nigerian ecommerce sector to understand and visualize the skills and aptitudes of that exist in their own organizations and identify mismatches between individuals and their jobs; and develop workforce reskilling strategies;


  • Inform Nigerian policymakers about the skills and aptitudes that exist in the country’s economic sectors and overall labor market, especially among the youth; which skills and aptitudes are particularly prevalent in digital businesses; and to what extent the current skills and aptitudes of informal online sellers might restrain firms and economic sectors’ digital transformation; and


  • Enable public and private sector stakeholders learn about the potential of scalable online platforms to capture policy-relevant data on an ongoing basis to help shape and monitor training, learning, and educational policies around the country.


There are also some limitations to the data – most immediately there may be limitations to cross-sectoral comparisons due to sectors’ unique human capital needs. Critically, to gauge the match of talent to jobs, the data on the supply of talent would ideally be matched against data on demand for talent – and demand for specific archetype employees – among Nigerian employers.  

The authors' views do not necessarily reflect the views of the United States Agency for International Development or the United States Government or any of the eTrade Alliance members.

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