Failure to develop youth capacity poses existential threat to West Africa, Buhari warns

President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday urged West African leaders to Chun out youth-friendly policies that would help to galvanise them (youth) for nation-building.
[FILES] Youths queuing to obtain their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs)
[FILES] Youths queuing to obtain their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs)

****Says Nigeria has provided an appropriate environment for youth to achieve their dreams

President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday urged West African leaders to Chun out youth-friendly policies that would help to galvanise them (youth) for nation-building.
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The president warned that failure to provide the required enabling environment for youth to acquire skills and develop their capacity would be an existential threat to the region.

Buhari made the call at the maiden conference of the Forum of African Research and Innovation (FARI) organised by the Federal Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation and ECOWAS Commission on Monday in Abuja.

Represented by his Chief of Staff, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, President Buhari,
said more than half of the population in West Africa is 50 years old and younger, hence the need to implement life-changing programmes for youths in the region.

The president said: “In the area of capacity building multitasking skills, It’s a known fact that a new generation of active and productive talents have been discovered to provide solutions to the numerous challenges confronting the region. Hence, the need to come up with innovative innovative ideas for the well-being of the people of our region.

“The time to move forward and accordingly is now and this can only be achieved through the pulling together of human capacity, infrastructures, and technical skills, among others, that should be available to you, thereby curbing the unemployment situation drastically. Speaking of the youth, more than half of our population in West Africa, are 50 years old and younger.
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“It would be an existential threat if we’re unable to channel their energies, and their creativity into acquiring skills that will be deployed in solving the challenges that confront us, not just in the present, but also in the future.”

Buhari disclosed that Nigeria has taken steps to ensure that its youthful population is given the appropriate environment to achieve their dreams of innovation.

Saying this was achieved through the passing of legislation (Nigerian startup bill) that governs and provides a level playing field, the president expressed readiness “to assent to this landmark piece of legislation as a critical building block for energising our innovation landscape.”

Buhari equally noted that the application of science, technology and innovation in all facets of life brings to the fore the prospects of the much-needed solution to the region’s challenges.

Specifically, according to the president, the West African region stands to gain a lot through the utilisation of STI to address the various diseases and catastrophes ravaging the people.

“One of such disease is malaria, which, if not effectively managed will continue to deplete the productive workforce in the region. We should also not forget in a hurry, how during the COVID-19 pandemic, many nations resorted to a form of nationalism regarding vaccine manufacturing and its distribution and its availability”, the president stated.

Continuing, he said: “It is my firm belief that we must take ownership as a collective and prevent such a situation from reoccurring. In line with the mandates of the federal plan of action, on STI for the ECOWAS region, there is a need for researchers to acquire modern and state-of-the-art equipment and materials, thereby strengthening the capacity of the region to serve as a catalyst for regional cooperation and regional integration through policy harmonization advocacy, trade liberalisation, trade facilitation in all sectors of the STI ecosystem.

“STI is recognised as the driver of Nigeria’s national development plan 2021 to 2025. The utilisation and promotion of innovative applications with other Socioeconomic development indicators will lead to the rapid industrialisation of the region.

“Provision of definitive functions for highly qualified professionals, thereby addressing as much as possible, the major challenges such as poverty eradication, food security, climate change, access to energy, access to the possibility of the eradication of endemic diseases, the management and preservation of the environment among others”.

Earlier, Minister of Science, Technology, and Innovation, Dr Adeleke Olurunmibe Mamora, who described the theme of the event “Towards the economic Transformation of West African Region Through Competitiveness in Research and Innovation” as apt, said the forum would assist in the process of industrialisation of the member states in the region.
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He noted that the region must not be left behind in leveraging science and technology for economic development.

The minister said: “The idea of having this forum was initiated in 2016 when ministers in charge of Science, Technology and Innovation met in Ghana where they deliberated on the need to have a form of research and Innovators on scientific and technical organisation aims at improving public understanding of STI on Socio-economic development of West Africa.

“Scientific and technological advancement continues to change the base of the human race as new discoveries and innovation gives our evolution a new face. Our region cannot and must not be left behind. We must leverage science technology and innovation to give our people a new lease on life.

“Member states of ECOWAS have keyed into the vision 2050 that focuses on the community of people, peaceful and prosperous region and work for inclusive and sustainable development for STI ”

Mamora described the forum as a strong and exciting project capable of stimulating innovation in the African scientific ecosystem towards supporting researchers and young innovative companies within the region.

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