African Development Bank (AfDB) President Dr Akinwumi Adesina, on Wednesday 7th April, 2021, advised the federal government of Nigeria to urgently empower young people by enacting bold policies to guarantee their global competitiveness, warning that addiction to crude oil receipts remain injurious because future billionaires can no longer spring from a sector currently in its twilight.
Adesina gave the charge at the Joshua Generation International Youth Conference on the theme “Living with a Purpose” organised by the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion where over 21,000 youths gathered at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State.
The former Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development challenged the government to do everything possible to reinvent itself by focusing on the youth, who represent the future of the country.
He listed troubling blights plaguing young Nigerians to include unemployment, limited technical and vocational skills, limited inclusion in social and political space, and lack of financing for ventures and businesses.
The AfDB boss added that Nigeria, with a population of 206 million people, of which 70 per cent are under the age of 30, should look into youth matters to secure a better tomorrow for the country and continent.
‘The greater wealth of Africa, and of course Nigeria, will come from the youth. I know there are several misconceptions about the youth. I don’t understand why, because I was once a youth myself,’ Adesina said.
‘The youth are not the problem of Nigeria, the youth are the assets of Nigeria. We must not relegate the youth to the background; we must put the youth in the fore.
‘As a nation, Nigeria must do all possible to reinvent itself by focusing on the youth. Yet Nigeria’s youth face several challenges, including unemployment, limited technical and vocational skills, limited inclusion in social and political space, and lack of financing for ventures and businesses.
‘Nigeria must embark on bolder measures to grow its youth into a well-trained globally competitive workforce.
‘The youth do not need empowerment. Look around, often those who say they are empowering them are actually simply empowering themselves.
‘The youth do not need handouts. The youth need investment,’ Adesina stated.
He further said the AfDB recognised the importance of young people to the economy, adding that this was why the bank created the Youth Entrepreneurship Investment Banks.
Through this, he said, there will be financial institutions for young people, run by first-rate young bankers and financial experts, to drive youth-wealth creation in Africa.
He also said the African Development Bank is implementing a programme to support Africa’s youth in computer coding for employment.
Launched in 2018, he said the Bank’s “Youth in Africa Coding for Employment Programme” has already equipped over 80,000 young people with ICT skills to enhance their employability in this digital era.
‘Huge opportunities exist for the youth in agriculture. You might wonder why? Well, consider this: the size of the food and agribusiness market for Africa will be worth a whopping $ 1 trillion by 2030,’ he added.
‘The millionaires and billionaires of Africa will no longer come from the oil and gas business, they will come from agriculture. Nobody drinks oil. Nobody smokes gas. But everybody eats food.
‘Nigeria must ensure that poverty does not become the heritage of its youth. Today, Nigeria’s youth are largely poor, unemployed, underemployed and unhappy.
‘Majority of them are in informal sector which accounts for 93 per cent of all employment. The high level of youth unemployment is at the core of the massive wave of insecurity being witnessed in Nigeria.’
He said while Nigeria’s youths have lost hope, huge opportunities exist for them.
‘But it will take determination and unflinching resolve to succeed. Success will never be handed to you on a platter of gold,’ he added.
From Uche Usim, Abuja