Sustaining Global Skills Inequality? Skills Transfer and Skills Protectionism in the Nigerian Multinational Corporate Sector

Monday, July 14, 2014: 11:15 AM
Room: 419
Oral Presentation
Joseph JIBOKU , University of Fort Hare, East London, South Africa
Wilson AKPAN , University of Fort Hare, East London, South Africa
While the vital role of skills in the socio-economic transformation of nations is well espoused in the literature, little scholarly attention has been paid to the international dichotomies in skills and the dynamics that underpin them. In many countries in the global South, there is a plethora of liberal policies that seek to attract industrial investments by corporations in the global North, the hope often being that the transfer of vital skills – and eventual national socio-economic transformation - will result from such investments. Yet, studies have shown that in many developing countries, years of active multinational involvement by multinational corporations in the local economy have not had the desired effects: anticipated spill-over effects in the form of socio-economic transformation in the developing countries have not occurred. It is against this backdrop that this paper examines the skills development programmes and strategies in Nigeria’s multinational corporate sector vis-à-vis the dominant national discourses on skills development in Nigeria. The key focus is on the extent to which multinational corporations operating in Nigeria have facilitated the acquisition, by Nigerians, of vital skills. From interviews conducted in key Nigerian national manpower policy agencies and two multinational companies, each with over half a century of active industrial operations in Nigeria, the paper argues that despite the long period of involvement, multinational companies operating in Nigeria still source vital skills from their home countries. Besides, the levels of investment in skills development in the local economy suggest a possibility of skills protectionism – an active or unwitting process of ‘hoarding’ vital skills rather than transfer them to local employees. The paper thus highlights the challenges and contradictions of aligning the economic calculations and objectives of corporations to national human capital development imperatives, and one of the subtle ways in which global skills inequality is sustained.