Africa has the world’s youngest and fastest-growing population. This is particularly evident in Nigeria, where nearly two-thirds of our 220 million people are under the age of 25. Nigeria’s future, both as a nation and a key player on the African continent, indisputably hinges on its youth. But high unemployment and underemployment rates hinder their progress. Empowering them is crucial for their active political and economic participation. To that end, Nigeria and Germany are intensifying their joint commitment in three essential areas: skills development, supporting young entrepreneurs and promoting political engagement.
What is the problem?
Nigeria’s burgeoning youth population stands at a crossroads. They signify both a beacon of hope and a source of concern. We see a demographic dividend waiting to be unlocked, and with it a generation that can actively drive economic growth as well as social progress in our country. This youth cohort is a reservoir of untapped energy, creativity and innovation. Recent elections have also shown what a significant voting bloc they form. Half of the 93.5 million eligible voters were below the age of 35.
At the same time, the World Bank reported an unemployment rate of 13.4 per cent in 2022. The National Bureau of Statistics even gave a much higher estimate – 53.4 per cent – for that same year. These are not just statistics. High youth unemployment is a harbinger of social disenchantment, unrest and the underutilisation of human capital, all of which can have severe consequences for the nation’s stability and prosperity. The second problem is underemployment, a situation in which workers only hold seasonal or short-term positions that do not allow for financial stability and predictability.
This leads to the disillusionment of individuals in our population, but it also has broader societal implications: High youth unemployment can contribute to rising crime rates, political instability and a host of other challenges that can impede the nation’s progress.
What we can do about it together
It is imperative that we empower Nigeria’s youth and strategically invest in their skills and labour market access. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO) concrete initiatives such as vocational training and job placement services can kick-start positive change in labour markets. Germany has a wealth of experience and expertise in these areas that it could bring to the table when looking for ways to increase cooperation with Nigeria. Some key areas where we could cooperate and share best practices are:
Obiageli “Oby” Ezekwesili is an economic and public policy expert, advisor, advocate and activist. She is a former vice president for the World Bank’s Africa region (2007–2012) and previously served as Nigerian Federal Minister of Solid Minerals (2005–2006) and Federal Minister of Education (2006–2007).
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