Ways Political Parties can drive empowerment and employment of young people
The Federal Ministry of Education has tentatively committed to declaring state of emergency on education by April 2018. Even though I found this very absurd to appoint a particular time for what we term as emergency, it is also soothing that the government recognizes that there is a dearth in our value system as a nation. And except we deal with these issues now, the future is bleak and generations to come will not forgive us for our inaction.
The population of Nigeria is estimated to be about 193 million people in 2017 and projection from the United Nations shows that more than 440 million people will be in Nigeria by 2050. According to National Population Commission (NPC) in 2017, the demographic outlook shows that 32% of the population is between the age of 18-35 years and over 55% of the population is below 20 years. Further data from UNDP reveals that by 2050, 18-35 years old will make 69% of the Nigerian population. The youth population is on the rise year on year but there seems to be a decline in government’s focus to intentionally develop this set of people who would eventually become leaders. Recent data on global unemployment according to spectator index puts Nigeria’s unemployment at 33% and fourth in the world behind only S/Africa (1st), Greece (2nd) and Spain (3rd) and Nigeria is the 2nd country in the world where income gap is a big problem globally (83%) behind only Mexico (89%).
The Nigerian National Youth Policy defines youths as people between the age of 18 and 35 years. This is however in contrast with the United Nations definition which categorizes youths as people between the ages of 15 and 24 years. In whichever way the pendulum swings, these data only show that we have a huge issue in our hands that needs urgent solution.
The population of youths in Nigeria will continue to rise given improvement in primary health care and fertility rates. Also, it has been established that there will continue to be a surge in the movement of people (young people especially) from the rural communities to urban areas. The population of Lagos and Kano will increase from 10.8million and 3.3million to 40million and 10million by 2040 respectively. This will put undue pressure on the systems in these major cities and this may explain why Lagos is deliberately advocating policies that would only allow a few people survive in the mega city. Whether we like it or not, we are sitting on time-bomb that may explode in no time.
As a country, for us to be able to tame this beast called idleness and unemployment among our young people with focus on undergraduates and recent graduates of tertiary institutions, we need to open up other metropolis in the country. Other states apart from Lagos and Kano will need to start engaging their young people in the right framework of activities to drive engagement and reduce movement to other states where they think opportunities exist. Science tells us that the world is 71% water and about 21% land. Meanwhile Nigeria is so blessed to the extent that out of her 925,ooosq. km area, 900,000sq. km is land (>95%) and a mere 13,000 sq.km is water. The truth is that opportunities abound everywhere across the country. The people living in Lagos are not better than people living in other states of the country, everything depends on what you are able to do with the skills you have. Changing that mindset is the starting point.
As bad as the situation might look, the good news is that there are solutions in sight. In one of the episodes of our radio program (#Politics360), we identified the roles that our political parties can play to get our young people engaged and prepare them for entrepreneurship, employment and leadership. Political parties can setup a structure that would enable secondary school prefects and undergraduate union leaders go through internships during their long vacation. This process will also teach them the values of the political system and solidify their interest in politics and nation building while keeping them engaged.
In my organisation for example, we have identified the two age brackets that ultimately need urgent attention and our initiatives have been designed towards this. We are engaging young people between age of 6-12 years and 18-35 years in volunteering activities in communities across the South West region of Nigeria as a starting point. The goal is to roll out nationally with the right engagement and supports. In three (3) years, we have engaged 3,400 pupils of public primary schools and 1200 undergraduates and recent graduates as community volunteers. What this provides for them is an avenue to build their leadership skills, network with other young people and build their net worth for the future. They are also provided with opportunities and platforms to contribute to the society, a virtue that is so rare in our current leadership system. A good number of them have gone to do other things such as leaders of student’s bodies in their respective schools and a sizable number are in corporate organisations as interns. Our next approach is to discover ways to incorporate political structural framework of leadership for those interested in the group.
I am also aware of other various platforms such as Ibadan Volunteers Club, GirHub Africa volunteers, Port Harcourt Volunteers hub etc. These are small units comprising young people coming together to form alliances to provide some pre-employment activities for themselves when the systems seem to have failed them. These initiatives are laudable and should be supported.
These individual efforts by various organisations and people are good and in the right directions but they are not sustainable in the long term. The governments at all levels need to provide the right framework in terms of consistent policy implementations, revamping youth incubation centers across the country and improved education system that encourages innovation and invention over seeking employment.
A discussion on our education system is a topic for another day.
Adetunji Adeniran is a civil engineer and social entrepreneur based in Lagos. He can be reached on social media via @adetunji1212