The youth bulges faced by Nigeria, like many other developing countries, pose great challenges, though it is understandable that they should also be recognised for what they can be: a historic opportunity for societal transformation and positive change, if the right enabling environment, which Nigerian government takes very seriously, is put in place.
Regardless of the recent imbroglio involving the Nigerian youth across the country, the present government has taken up a significant role in constructing the enabling environment and effecting positive social change that could help to integrate the youth into the society, strengthening their employability and citizenry, and thus empowering them to lead the lives they choose.
Ranging from education to skills training, and from full-fledged youth programmes to support of social enterprises that offer solutions to some of the problems faced by the youth, there is an increasing consensus that there are no easy solutions or quick fixes to the challenges that the youth are facing today, and an emerging recognition that the youth need to be approached holistically.
The youth inclusion has also been one of major concerns in the present government’s work and strategy, aimed at helping the government better design and implement policies. Now, the government is aiming to build and scale up successes that might come from a series of interventions targeted at the youth empowerment.
With regard to these endeavours, many other development actors have also made to shift their focus to the youth, by resolving to allocate increasing resources and support for exploring innovative ways to empower the youth in the country.
Unlike never before, the Nigerian policy makers have now acknowledged the pressing nature of the ‘youth bulge’ challenge and are trying to identify ways to successfully integrate the young people into the countries’ societies and labour markets.
Now, the federal government is committed to substantially empowering the youth. The Honourable Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, has recently disclosed that federal government has created a N75 billion Entrepreneurship Support Fund, to enable the youth in the country to grow their businesses and be economically independent.
She made the disclosure in an interview with media men after a meeting with Kaduna State Acting Governor, Dr. Hadiza Balarabe, on Saturday in Kaduna.
According to Ahmed, N25 billion will be released over three years starting from 2021. The Fund would support the youth to actualise their innovative and entrepreneurial ideas, and to help them to be productive and employers of labour.
Explaining why she went to meet Balarabe in Kaduna, Ahmed said it was in response to the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari for all ministers to return to their states and get inputs on best ways to empower the youths in each state.
“We came to meet the government of Kaduna State to discuss the issue of the protest that has been happening around us, specifically the #EndSARS protest. We are happy to report that the state has already prepared an excellent report on all the plans and efforts they have undertaken to manage the protests.” Shedding more light on the visit, Ahmed said, “we have also come to understand the challenges that they have and how best to support them.
Also present at the meeting was the Honourable Minister of Environment, Dr. Muhammad Mahmoud, who noted that the state government had kept a chronicle of events from the very first day of the protest, adding that the delegation was very impressed.
On the federal government 774,000 jobs, Mahmoud said some of the beneficiaries will be engaged in the various recycling plants built by the government in states, to recycle products, especially plastic wastes. He added that with the approval of the new policy on plastic waste management in the country by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) on Wednesday, “the ministry is working on several initiatives that will create employment opportunities and create wealth for the youths.”
In her welcome address, Balarabe conveyed the appreciation of the state government for the visit by the two ministers, and thanked the people of the state for remaining peaceful during the protest. “I think in Kaduna State, we have our own fair share of crises, and we know enough what it is and how quickly it can degenerate. We were conscious on the way we handled the protest in the state and I think that was one thing that played out for us.
“I pray that we continue to have that kind of understanding; whatever it is you didn’t get in peace, you would not get it in a war situation. Our youths have now understood how to settle issues. I want our youths to continue to be law-abiding citizens and conduct themselves in a manner that is worthy,” Balarabe said.
Also speaking on the Fund, the Minister of Youths and Sports Development, Mr. Sunday Dare, said the Fund, which is billed to cater for youths within the age bracket of 18 and 35, “is also meant to create a special window for accessing credit facilities and financing on the part of our youths that will help to fund their ideas, innovations and also support their enterprise.”
That the government deemed it expedient to respond to the challenge of unemployment of Nigeria’s youthful population in this manner is an expression of concern. Moreover, there are many skillful and potential entrepreneurial youths for whom a few million-naira worth of loan would be a life-changer if and when properly guided. To this category of Nigerian youths, this gesture is welcoming.
According to Dare, this is the first time in the country the youth would have a ‘‘youth bank.’’ He also stated that the Ministry of Youths and Sports Development would work with the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to facilitate youths’ access to the Fund and thereby meet its set objectives.