Nigeria’s Greatest Asset
A FEW weeks ago, I wrote on Youth Demography and the Test of Leadership, stressing the importance of youth development. It is a fact that the exuberant and restless nature of youths requires that they are adequately occupied; otherwise they will give in to criminal tendencies.
This, in the main, is what has informed the attraction to ISIS, Boko Haram, robberies, kidnapping, dangerous and illegal migrations, etc.
According to statistics from the World Bank, 32 (including Nigeria) of the 48 poorest countries in the world are in Sub-saharan Africa. Unemployment figures are deplorable.
Basic infrastructures are grossly inadequate. And so countless youths are frustrated. The truth is, there is no greater priority for leaders, particularly in the developing world, than creating a system that will adequately engage the youths and provide an opportunity for them to contribute their quota to nation-building. This will require, amongst other things, creating a conducive environment that allows the creativity of young people to thrive.
The Asian Tigers are a good example. This group, comprising of five East Asian countries – Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong-Kong – began a series of economic reforms between the early 1960s and 1990s that has become known as the East Asian Miracle. Deploying a series of well-articulated policies, which were followed through with discipline, these countries created jobs for their growing youth population and lifted many out of poverty. Part of what they did, which should be instructive for many African countries today, particularly Nigeria, was their heavy investment in building infrastructure – power, roads, rails, airports, fiber optics, etc. This attracted private investment and increased the influx of multinationals, which in turn translated into massive opportunities for millions of young people.
The truth is, youth-focused visionary leadership will make education a priority, just like the case of Singapore, where strong incentives were given to the young to pursue tertiary education with emphasis on technologically sophisticated disciplines. This did not only empower the youths, but provided a ready labour force for investment in the technological sector, which became a major attraction to foreign investment. One other problem in the developing world is the gross neglect of the agricultural sector where more has been said than done. Here, China’s ability to engage its massive youth population in the sector provides a good example.
In today’s China, more and more talented young people who live in urban cities are moving to the rural areas to take up farming. In 2011, the country’s Ministry of Agriculture issued new supporting policies, which offered loans that they ensured got to the end users, and tax benefits for youths willing to engage in farming.
This was supported by training and mentorship programmes on practical, mechanised farming skills and farm management specifically targeted at young people.
That young people are the key to Nigeria’s greatness will always be an understatement, but unfortunately developing this sector is one area where our past leaders have failed woefully. With an ever-swelling population of youths, an asset more reliable than oil, a technology cluster like the Co Creation Hub in Yaba, established by young people themselves and supported by people-sensitive leadership will always be an incentive to youths and governments to do more.
While the developed world is concerned about its dwindling youth population we are blessed with a growing population of them. This is our opportunity. The time to give it attention is now.
Nigeria Has A Great Future!