Let me begin by congratulating you on your Appointment and Confirmation as Federal Ministers of Youth and Minister of State for Youth. It is an achievement well deserved owing to your past contributions and dedication which has impacted in no little way to nation-building in your various fields. I must also commend and applaud Mr. President Bola Ahmed Tinubu (GCFR.) For giving the Youth a platform to serve and be a part of change-makers in his government. The youth of this country are indeed elated and grateful for fulfilling part of his campaign promises to Nigerians.
While still in the euphoria of the moment, I must call your attention to the herculean task before you by itemizing a few problems that have bemoaned the youth of this nation over the years and also proffer possible solutions in addressing this menace.
I. It is no news that the rates of youth unemployment and underemployment continue to soar all across the continent, and the value of human capital, as well as the pace of development, begins to plunge. Youths also account for a whopping 60% of Africa’s unemployed demographic (World Bank 2017). All over Africa, unemployment has led to an increase in insecurity particularly following the successful wave of terror in recent times. Today, some extreme political and religious organizations have taken advantage of the situation which may gradually become difficult to contain. In West Africa, the unemployment rate for the continent’s most populous economy, Nigeria quickly rose from 18.1% to 23.1% in the 3rd quarter of 2018 (NBS 2018). More alarming, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) says Nigeria’s unemployment rate was 41% in the first quarter (Q1) of 2023 and 53% in the previous quarter. Sustainable solutions like Innovation, youth empowerment and human capital development are therefore urgently required to counter the challenge of youth unemployment and restiveness in Nigeria.
I believe that digital transformation and innovation in our technical and vocational institutes all across the country are key to driving the desired growth in our economy; hence, our focus should be extensively directed towards the youth population who sit at the heart of innovation.
Our youth should be empowered with the right skill sets to enable them to become self-independent and also be able to compete favorably in the global market. In the words of the Minister of State for Youth paraphrased during his screening at the senate, “a digital training center can be established in various local communities and our technical and vocational training centers revived” to enable the ordinary Nigeria Youth to have access to tools and facilities that can enhance their psychomotor skills.
According to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Rishi Sunak, “There is the assumption that the only route to success was the university route, which was one of the great mistakes of the last thirty years. It led to thousands of young people being ripped off by degrees that did nothing to increase their employability or earning potentials” .Let me emphasize that It will not be enough to set out to train young people, this training should be based on a clear needs assessment of prospective private sector employers, current global trends in information technology, relevant and up-to-date skills required for jobs as well as meeting the aspirations of young people in the nation.
To be able to accomplish this great feat, we must begin to seek collaborations with the private sector, private institutes of higher learning especially in technical and vocational education, relevant government agencies and parastatals and also our traditional rulers to be able to galvanize youths in various communities to key into this new wave by consistent information and advocacy.
II. Secondly, Timely interventions directed at young people are more likely to yield a greater return for sustainable development than attempts to build these capacities later in their life cycle. Targeting youth, however, requires addressing the multidimensional barriers to inclusion they face. Of these obstacles, decent employment, education, youth empowerment and civic participation are the most essential to their well-being. Some of the constraints they confront may be related to a lack of opportunities, while others may be related to limited access to information and technology, the right skill sets and resources. Promoting youth inclusion makes good sense for progress. First, young people not only shape the present of any country, but they will also profoundly determine its future. Second, young people are at a stage in life characterized by a high capacity to learn and acquire skills and, in general, positive attitudes towards participation in society. Third, investing in young people has inter-generational benefits that can create powerful agents for change. Last but not least, the exclusion of youth from central societal sectors generates tremendous social and economic costs to society and may even lead to social and political unrest.
Therefore, you must prioritize the elaboration of relevant country-level analyses on youth inclusion and provide adequate training to support the capacity of national stakeholders to engage effectively in youth policy dialogue and youth policy design and evaluation. You can design an analytical framework to assess the factors determining youth inclusion and to support the design of evidence-based national youth strategies. This framework will take into consideration the multiple dimensions of youth inclusion (i.e. demographic, economic, social, legal, cultural and political) as well as the financial, legal, administrative and institutional implications of policy choices.
As I begin to round up, you must consolidate the various programs of the new administration in various MDAs targeted at the youth and ensure that the grassroots is carried along to ensure inclusivity and monitor for effective implementation. According to the old saying that youth are leaders of tomorrow, the tomorrow of yesterday is now today. The onus lies on you to justify the confidence reposed on you by Mr. President and millions of Nigerian youth that you are representing in your office as Ministers. I wish you Godspeed and I say we are routing for you.
Youth, TVET Consultant
The Africa College of Agriculture, Vocational and Technical Studies (ACAVATS)