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Demographic dividends: FG urges African countries to embrace industrialisation, youth empowerment

From: AIDOGHIE PAULINUS, New York

The Federal Government has called on African countries to, within their means, create wealth, industrialise their countries and empower youths of the continent.

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, made the call on Nigeria’s behalf during the side event on Harnessing Demographic Dividends for Economic Growth convened by  President of the Republic of Guinea and Chairperson of the African Union (AU), Alpha Conde, at the ongoing 72nd United Nations General Assembly, in New York, United States.

The call, if adhered to, would reduce irregular migration amongst youths of African descent who besiege Europe and other western countries daily for greener pastures.

Onyeama noted that the retardation and redundancy amongst African youths were governance issues that arose out of the inability of African countries to create real sustainable wealth, to industrialise and to transform their countries.

His words, “And that is why of course, you have irregular migration because the youths in most African countries just don’t have those prospects.

“So, it is a governance issue, it is a challenge for African governments to industrialize our countries and to create wealth,” Onyeama said.

On the participation of youths in governance in Nigeria, similar to what had hitherto obtained in the past, Onyeama noted that there were already plans to create room for the participation of youths at the governance level.

“You know that they are also trying to bring the age down for a number of things: representation in the National Assembly and that kind of thing.

“So, those are steps to further empower youths and make governance accessible to the youths.

“But also, I think a lot has to do with the building blocks for youth empowerment. And number one is really education. The youths need to have access to good education and capacity building to make them ready for those kind of jobs.

“And the second challenge is really job creation. And I think the point was made. It is not job for job’s sake, but sustainable jobs that are available for youths to grow and when you have that, education and good jobs, the youths are empowered and they are able to do everything. Of course, opening up the political space is very important and that is what we are trying to do,” Onyeama added.

Summarising Nigeria’s presentation after the event, Onyeama said the Federal Government was able to show to other African countries what Nigeria is doing in respect of the demographic dividends in Africa, and concretely also in Nigeria.

“We believe that yes, we have what they call youth bulge and most of our population is under the age of 35 and we have to turn it to be an advantage.

“So, first of all, we can’t just be growing the population recklessly. We have family planning and all the other things that we have to put in place. But most importantly, empowering the youths and empowering women; and we are doing that.

“Our intervention programmes and the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, education is also very important as is health. We’ve put a framework under the vice president for the promotion and empowerment of youths.

“Of course, it is one of the key goals of not only the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but also the African 2063 Agenda for Development.

“So, our participation there was to show that we are fully in sink with the activities and strategies that are being put in place at the continental level of the AU and also at the national level,” Onyeama said.

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