Youth empowerment as supporter for national economic rebirth

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The NBS economic data, underemployment rate fell from 28.6 percent to 22.8 percent while Nigeria’s national unemployment rate rose to 33.3 percent in the fourth (Q4), 2020 from 27.1 percent in the second quarter (Q2) of the same year.

Summing up these two parameters together to a – 56.1 percentage points, however paints a picture of the country’s misery index in the year under review which also leaves no one in doubt that that statistic is clearly a recipe for social disharmony across the country.

This is because youths have a reservoir of latent energy that can be misused in the event of failure of the family or government to harness such assets.

This picture becomes particularly clearer with NBS’s explanation that Nigeria’s youth population eligible to work was about 40 million, with only 14.7 million fully employed, and an estimated 11.2 million having no identifiable means of income.

But Federal Government’s acknowledgment of the need to open up more employment channels to absorb the huge capacities of jobless youth, some stakeholders have relentlessly urged government and its agencies to do more than what is s already in the public domain to gainfully engage more young men and women to avert a hard -to -fill leadership vacuum in key sectors of the economy over the next few years.

For instance, having launched the Youth Entrepreneurship Development Programme Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in 2016, to enhance the engagement of resourceful Nigerian youths for maximum economic development, many have argued that it is time for needs impact assessment to ascertain how to improve on the delivery.

The YEDP aims to fix the challenges of insufficient and costly capital and fund from conventional lenders that have often hobbled youth entrepreneurs and startups efforts to fund their own businesses.

According to the CBN guidelines, the YEDP scheme offers credit of up to N3 million to eligible youth or N10 million for groups of three to five youths, at an interest rate of less than 10 per cent per annum. The tenor broadly depends on project complexity and cash flow, but is between one year for working capital loan and three years for projects funding.

The collateral requirements include academic and NYSC certificates, third party guarantees and other movable assets.

The bulk of YEDP target beneficiaries include members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), non-NYSC (but not more than five years post-NYSC), those who possess a verifiable tertiary institution certificate, and artisans with First School Leaving Certificate or a technical certificate or accredited proficiency certificate from the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE), whichever is applicable. Beneficiaries can be encouraged to migrate to other CBN interventions to obtain more funding if they utilise the YEDP facility properly.

CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, said at the flag off of the programme that it was aimed at harnessing the energies and capacities of Nigeria’s teeming youth to propel them into the much-needed economic recovery.

Emefiele, who decried the alarming unemployment figures from the National Bureau of Statistics, warned the situation could not be allowed to degenerate further, given the bright ideas and big dreams of the youth.

He stressed that the YEDP would provide timely and affordable credit to assist youths in implementing their business ideas, thereby providing the mechanism of stimulating growth, reducing unemployment as well as addressing youth restiveness.

In line with this mandate the apex bank also in July of last year, collaborated with the Federal Government to introduce the Nigeria Youth Investment Fund (NYIF). The Federal Executive Council (FEC) had last July, approved the disbursement of the fund for the period of 2020 – 2023.

The fund is targeted at investment in the innovative ideas, skills and talents of Nigerian youths between the ages of 18-35 years, and to institutionally provide them with a special window for accessing much funding for business management skills and other inputs critical for sustainable enterprise development.

The framework among other imperatives stated that NYIF targets to financially empower Nigeria youth to generate at least 500,000 jobs between 2020 and 2023, with informal business enterprises and formal business enterprises eligible to apply for the loan.

Furthermore, beneficiaries of other government loan schemes that remain unpaid are also not eligible to participate in the 5year -tenored loan scheme given out at a maximum interest rate of 5 percent per annum.

The CBN had outlined in the NYIF framework, the businesses and activities that are legally allowed to be eligible to participate in the scheme. These include technology/innovation, agriculture and its related value chain, green economy and the renewable energy sector. Others are manufacturing, hospitality/tourism, construction, logistics and supply chain, healthcare value chain, the creative sector, trading and services, as well as others that would be certified by the CBN from time to time.

The administration of the N75 billion NYIF is mainly the responsibility of Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, whose boss, Sunday Dare, said the scheme basically underscored the importance placed on youths by the Buhari administration.

Another targeted intervention is the Accelerated Agriculture Development Scheme (AADS).

This comes as the Bankers’ Committee and the CBN recently commenced renovation work on the National Theatre in Iganmu, Lagos, in line with its efforts to support young entrepreneurs in the country.

In February, FEC had approved a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the CBN and the Ministry of Information and Culture for the project.

Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the project showed the commitment of all parties involved towards giving the facility a facelift. According to him, when completed, the National Theatre would be the number one event centre in Africa. He said there would also be the development of clusters to support the creative industry.

The project is being funded through the Creative Industry Funds Initiative (CIFI) of the Bankers’ Committee. The CBN and other members of the Bankers’ Committee had set up the Creative Industries and Financing Initiative through which banks set aside, on an annual basis, five percent of their profit after tax (PAT).

Emefiele, who is also the Chairman of the Bankers’ Committee, explained that the idea behind the project, christened ‘Lagos Creative and Entertainment Centre,’ was to restore the glory of the iconic building by aligning most of the fabric, equipment and facilities in the building with the aesthetics of the 21st century and secondly to develop an ecosystem of creative hubs on the adjoining 44-hectare parcel of land.

The new facility would complement and enhance the National Arts Theatre, he said.

Emefiele stated that the 44-hectare site adjourning the National Theatre would be developed and utilised for the development of purpose-built creative hubs for the music, film, fashion and information technology.

Reacting to the series of government interventions targeting young Nigerians, the Director General of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Mr Muda Yusuf, believes there are a number of things that still needed to be done to further empower youths of the country, including investing in Human Capital Development.

“When you train people in disciplines that are not compartible with what the economy needs, then you inadvertently will be compounding the problem of unemployment, because some schools particularly universities are still running curriculums that have been there for over 30 years and yet the demands of the economy have changed, the taste of consumers have changed.  We need a dynamic and not a static curriculum, as the economic landscape is changing.” He said.

The LCCI boss observed that in parts of the Nigerian society today, some people give birth to children and send them to the streets and with time these children later become criminals and terrorists menacing the community because of wrong orientation and inappropriate upbringing stressing that such a trend needs to stop.

He argued that through investment in people, Nigeria can turn its population to human capital, failing which it becomes a liability or a burden to the society rather than being an asset.

According to him, vocational training is vital as skills still need to be developed even when they  have graduated from school they can be retrained.

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The government needs to create environment for opportunities to develop skill either in computer, fashion, designing, entertainment, event planning and so on, for those who are already graduates because they will pick up fast.

He further emphasized on the need to impact entrepreneurship knowledge in pupils  while in school on how they can create their own jobs , discover their passion and talents and convert them to self employment opportunities, noting that Entrepreneurship training, which is part of what government has been doing is vital, and should be stepped up in view the size of the unemployment in the society.

The digital economy is an area the youths are vibrant in. The capital outlay  is not that huge , so they can be trained in digital skills to create business on their own in the digital space..For that to happen , govt has to invest a lot more in broad band connectivity, so that it will be easy for anybody to connect cheaply, so data cost will crash.

Investing in infrastructure that enables ICT adoption (such as broadband internet and electricity) are crucial.

He said “Enabling environment for investors at all levels to create the jobs is very important.

If we have all the disciplines and the economy is not doing well there is no way you can get employment . This involves the macro economic environment like the inflationary…., exchange rate, regulatory institutions , state of infrastructure, our roads.

Insecurity makes it difficult for jobs to be created because investors will leave making it so easy for idle hands to be recruited by militants.

But an enabling environment for Youths with potential and talents  would easily make them become good entrepreneurs.

“Government has been doing a lot in terms of funding   but a bulk of what we have is credits, we need to do more in the area of venture capital, where people can invest in youths, not lending them money but  invest in them , where the youths can take equity for their business, without being under any pressure about servicing the loan.

Also speaking, president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, urged the government to endeavour to create policies that attract private sector investment to boost businesses that create jobs.

He also encouraged the government and its agencies to design liberal credit systems to support young entrepreneurs especially those interested in music, acting, entertainment and ICT among others. Ohuabunwa also enjoined the Federal Government to develop programmes that will absorb youths in productive work- Operation like Green Revolution or Operation Agricultural Revolution or Operation Clean-Up Nigeria, stressing that such policies can help reduce the unemployment scourge in the country.

In his contribution on how the various youth empowerment initiatives can be harnessed for greater national benefits, the Managing Director, Highcap securities, David Adonri, argues that there are no quick fixes on unemployment matters as it follows a programme.

“It starts with the objective of what needs to be addressed or done in the Nigerian economy. Hence, it starts with jobs and after which the objective of addressing what needs to be done over a period of time, then it is now time for strategies to sustain it by training people to acquire the necessary skills so that as they leave the training centres they enter into those jobs.

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