By Omidiji Olamilekan Qayum
The general belief is that a rising population of youth should stimulate economic and national development. While this may be true, it is, however, not automatic. If the youth growing population is not harnessed correctly, it could present major challenges to the nation. Hence, the development can only be a reality when the youths are empowered.
A report by the United Nations revealed over 1.2 billion people within age 15 to 24 in the world; Africa has 226 million people aged 15 to 24, which is about 20% of the entire African population and one-fifth of the world population of youths. Still, Africa’s youth population is projected to increase to 42% by 2030. This implies that the continent’s youthful population avails labour-power and opportunity for economic development and innovation.
In Nigeria, like many other African countries, the youths’ potentials are being taken advantage of by the government. Most leaders have a common act of underestimating the youths’ ability to improve the nation’s economic development. This does not serve the nation well due to its resultant effect, where only a little attention is given to youth empowerment. This constitutes one of the factors that keep the country’s development at bay.
If youths’ growing population is not equipped and taken to advantage, sustainable development in Nigeria may be difficult to achieve. At the same time, the potential becomes a demographic disaster rather than a dividend.
Economic demographers have forecasted that many African countries, including Nigeria, will witness a surge in youth population by 2050, with Nigeria being in the lead position. With this projection, increasing economic development should also be foreseen as it is believed that young people are more productive and efficient. However, there are two sides to every coin; a growing youth population could be a problem if not well harnessed.
To harness the youth potentials towards national development, some factors have to be considered. These factors include:
Nigeria’s political history will be incomplete without mentioning youths’ roles in achieving the nation’s independence. Despite the laudable roles, Nigerian youths’ inclusion in Nigerian politics has received less than commensurate consideration in recent time. Instead, the nation’s politics is rapidly becoming an exclusively preserved avenue for older politicians, manifested in the regular recycling of public officials.
Hence, Nigerian youths should be given more opportunities to take part in the decision-making process of the country actively. The youths should be involved in the input and output process of the country to leverage their creativity, innovations etc., to achieve national development.
Education is the bedrock of any societal and sustainable development. Therefore, the quality of education given to the young generation should be improved. The government should endeavour to invest in youths education through adequate funding and maintenance of educational facilities. With a formal education given to young adults, they are no doubt equipped to provide long term productivity that helps to achieve sustainable development.
The government should intensify efforts in launching effective youth intervention and empowerment programmes as this would provide jobs for the growing population of youths and at the same time reduce the poverty level in the nation, which overall, help to achieve national development. Beyond gratifying political loyalists, the government should endeavour to sustain existing entrepreneurship programmes for the benefit of all and sundry, not for their cronies alone.
Agriculture is gradually being seen as a mere practice of poor rural dwellers, while it is a practice with the potential to create employment and achieve economic growth. Hence, the Nigerian government should channel more attention to agriculture to empower young people and improve its economy. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, Nigeria present has a 33.3% unemployment rate where youths constituted a more significant number of the percentage. Therefore, the government has to create mechanised farming opportunities to encourage farming and increase income among the young generation.
Therefore, It is only with youth empowerment through various interventions, empowerments, education, and political participation that the youths bulge will be harnessed for national development; else, it turns into a disaster.