Building youth capacity for development

workshopACCORDING to the white paper titled: African Youth Decade Plan of Action, there are at least one billion people in Africa, and 60% of them are under 35 years old. The number indicates that majority of Africa’s population is composed of young people. To be able to get on the same page, the African Union Charter categorised the term “youth” as those who are 15-35 years of age.

Moreover, they are the segment of the population that are no longer dependent on their parents and are encouraged to make decisions on their own. About 25 to 45 per cent of African youths are currently unemployed; this is due to lack of institutions to imbibe values, knowledge and training to them. Therefore, government focus should be on the establishment of institutions and structures to enhance youth capacity development because it is a roadmap for national development which will ultimately help alleviate poverty across the region.

Based on studies, the youths feel empowered if they are entrusted with tasks or if they are made to participate in projects that will help enhance different life skills like decision-making, leadership, etc. Also, if youths are engaged in programmes that are of interest to them in their local communities, youth capacity building can be achieved.

With a population of about 178.5 million, Nigerian youth account for over 43%, 25% of whom are either unemployed or underemployed and their educational skill levels are low. This is alarming since more than half of the population comprises mostly 35 and below in age. In an ideal scenario, it could be regarded as a good opportunity since younger people still have more years to live compared to the older ones. They contribute to the rise and performance of the market through tax payments and future career advancement. Unfortunately, about 86% of these youths did not even get quality tertiary education, making them unqualified for most of the available job vacancies across the country.

Previous administrations set up several youth empowerment programmes like YouWiN,YEAP, etc. None of these programmes can account for 200 jobs creation despite billions of naira spent for setting up the various programmes.

But the good news is, several organisations are now working together to establish programmes for the betterment of the youth.  Youth capacity development should be adopted by this current administration as a way of working towards the millennium development goals. This can become successful through the conduct of seminar/workshops that will aid the youths in career selection and also the establishment of youths empowerment programmes. The younger age group in the country signifies a strong and able potential work force that is yet to be harnessed. If this will go as planned, the unemployment rate in Nigeria will reduce drastically.

The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria empowers youth to practise their right of suffrage by stipulating the voting age bracket of eighteen (18) years and above. But the reality on ground is, despite youth active roles in democratic processes i.e. voting and campaigning, they are being ignored when it comes to participation in governance/political dispensation.

In Nigeria of today youth are rarely found in leadership positions in government. The political vacuums are being filled by the pre-independence generation: Born before 1960 and the early post-independence generation: Born 1961-1975. Base on this fact, how do we tackle the challenges facing young people in Nigeria if they cannot enjoy proper representation and participation in decision-making?

• Akinola is of the Youth Capacity Development Organisation.

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