Unemployment: A Ticking Time Bomb

11th August 2017

A ticking time bomb: If we are not serious about creating opportunity, our millions of unemployed youth will ground Africa.

From the UN to the USA, it is crystal clear that the world is in awe of Africa’s energetic, enterprising and creative youth. Our young people are ambitious, willing to forge their way forward, unentitled and unexpectant of handouts, bristling with optimism and energy. But we have largely failed them.

It was a busy day at Heirs Holdings, as my team and I hosted several stakeholders who share our desire to #DeliverHope and fix the unemployment challenge that threatens to turn our youth bulge or demographic dividend to disaster and doom.

My series of meetings today with the United Nations Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator, Edward Kallon; the United Nations Development Programme Country Director, Samuel Bwalya; and the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Stuart Symington, shared a common theme of youth empowerment. In a continent expected to double in population by 2050, with over 60% under 30 years old, it is crucial that we galvanize our youth and optimize their energy and optimism to build the Africa of the future.

How?
i) Invest in Energy – as I always say, we must POWER Africa out of poverty. It is only by making electricity affordable, accessible and reliable, that we can empower our youth to realize their greatest potentials.

 

ii) Value addition in agriculture – I say this often, but it must be emphasized: no other sector can stimulate the economy to the extent that agriculture can. Employing over 70% of our workforce and contributing 60% to the continent’s GDP, investing in agriculture is the most strategic decision we can make in Africa. We must modernize Agric and transform it from a subsistence level to a sustainable business.

 

iii) Entrepreneurship – there is a widely held misconception that development is strictly the responsibility of government. But the facts and figures from across the globe show that SMEs are the engines of the economy and the real drivers of job creation. We must democratize job creation by supporting small businesses to create employment and opportunity. The private sector must begin to own the development of our continent.

 

We must all rally to focus on these key issues to move the needle and create prosperity. As a newly decorated Global Goals Champion and SDG Ambassador, I am keen to work with like-minded partners to create economic hope. Our youth must see hope in tomorrow if we intend to keep them meaningfully engaged and out of mischief, causing tension and insecurity. There is an undeniable connection between security and economic development – poverty is the greatest threat to peace and security.

Speaking of security, human trafficking remains a critical issue that remains unaddressed: UNESCO ranks trafficking as the third most common crime in Nigeria. Our young ones deserve better. To discuss how private sector players can address this concern, the Director General of National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Julie Okah-Donli, formerly with the UBA Group as Head, Abuja and Northern Region, UBA Trustees, paid the Heirs Holdings and Tony Elumelu Foundation offices a courtesy visit.

Agencies like NAPTIP need good laws, sustained funding and support from local and global stakeholders, and I am happy that Ambassador Symington has committed to supporting Julie.

To my fellow Nigerians who are currently experiencing feelings of marginalization and disenfranchisement, I urge us all to embrace peace – from East to West, North to South, we should recognize that there is strength in diversity and our collective prosperity must outweigh our differences. Our national unity is our greatest asset.

These downcast discussions in the land are fuelled by a lack of economic hope. To unleash wealth creation and radically unlock access to capital for our SMEs, I urge our Senate to reform the Land Use Act amongst others. Its reform will be comparable to defusing a bomb and in its place, putting together an instrument for shared prosperity, empowering even the poorest amongst us. My philosophy of Africapitalism calls for shared destiny, after all, poverty anywhere is a threat to mankind everywhere.

I look forward to working with these stakeholders and other like-minded organizations to create pockets of success stories that inspire and encourage DFIs like the World Bank and IMF to support our efforts. We can build a model of success here in Africa.

Let us go from ‘woah’ to ‘WOW’.