Galvanising policies for youth empowerment 

Director, International Labour Organisation (ILO) Country Office, Abuja, covering Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, and Sierra Leone and Liaison Office for ECOWAS, Dennis Zulu.

It is often said that while there is an abundance of policies to tackle youth unemployment in Nigeria, the framework to make them produce the desired result is largely lacking.

Labour experts believe that there is an urgent need to fashion out appropriate action plan that is aimed at galvanising various opportunities youth can explore to escape unemployment and under-employment, that spells out responsibilities, timelines, monitoring and evaluation mechanism for implementation of policies. 

Speaking at a multi-stakeholder meeting on Nigerian Youth Employment Action Plan and the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for the youths in Nigeria, the Director, International Labour Organisation (ILO) Country Office, Abuja, covering Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, and Sierra Leone and Liaison Office for ECOWAS, Dennis Zulu, submitted that Nigeria has no choice than to take practical steps to halt the growing youth unemployment in the country.  

He explained: “We already see a lot of initiatives in Nigeria that are targeting this challenge. Indeed, Africa has no choice than to tackle this challenge. Youth need to be given jobs because that is the only way they can contribute to building the economy.

Youth of today are facing challenges because the economies of most African nations are not growing in a way that can create sufficient jobs and build budding entrepreneurship. 

“Bringing together available frameworks and policies into an action plan by Nigeria is a way to go.”

Zulu added that with technology offering a leeway out of youth unemployment, conscious steps must be taken to provide enabling environment for the private sector to thrive. 

“I think the role that the private sector plays is critical. Therefore, there must be an enabling environment for the private sector to grow and create jobs in the process.

In addition to that, the whole issue of addressing skills amongst youth because in some cases the jobs are available but the right skills are not there.

So, tackling unemployment requires looking at it from both the demand and supply sides. Supply side requires arming youth with appropriate skills to be able to get the jobs that are available in the labour market,” he stated. 

For Zulu, the absence of action plans to drive policy frameworks has been a major drawback in tackling unemployment generally in Nigeria. 

His words: “What we are doing today is an action plan. Usually, the problem is that there are policies often without action plan or policies without budgets.

What are doing today is discussing a national youth action plan, which clearly states what different actions need to be taken, what different strategies needed for the actions and specific responsible organisations. What is needed is not funding because funding is available locally.

So, now we have an action plan that is very clear about activities with timelines, responsible organisations so that at the end of the day, if things are not implemented according to the plan, we know who to hold responsible.”

On his part, the Executive Director, Mind the Gap, Tayo Olosunde insisted that so much more is going on with youth developing solutions to community challenges that is not known to the public. 

He said: “We know so much about what is not happening in Nigeria and forget to highlight what is happening. If we don’t talk about what is happening, we would not realise that more can still happen. As we speak, a lot of discerning youths against all odds are developing a lot of ideas, solutions to problems in their communities and are gaining recognition globally.

Firms from all over are coming to Nigeria to tap into the reservoir of ability of our youths to power their economy in the future and even now. Our organisation in partnership with Goggle, which has trained over 1,000 youths in all the states of the federation that are empowered and are gainfully employed. Nobody is talking about that.”

Olosunde submitted that rejigging the education curricula of Nigeria from purely theoretical outlook to entrepreneurial focussed one would be a daunting task not minding the achievements of Nigerian youth in ICT world. 

But he insisted that it is doable: “We can achieve that by developing technology. Technology is an enabler that is making very single person that is smart realise that mobile phones are becoming new universities.

People are doing programmes using their phones and getting certificates that are more recognise than certificates that are obtained in the traditional institutions of learning.

So, the discerning young ones are realising that this is the new infrastructure that the government should give them. Government should make the Internet cheap and available. Government can create education porter where resources are made available for the young people to access free of charge.

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