Maximising N50bn youth employment fund

It’s with unparalleled delight that a cross section of Nigerians, especially the youth population, learned about and commended President Goodluck Jonathan Administration’s recent launch of N50billion fund for job creation under the scheme codenamed: “Youth Enterprise With Innovation In Nigeria” (YouWin). YouWin is actually a business plan competition aimed at job creation, by encouraging and supporting entrepreneurial youth in Nigeria to develop and execute business ideas towards wealth creation.

Arguably the first ever Federal Government’s direct youth empowerment and employment intervention programme in the recorded history of the country, the project portends one of the benchmark, enduring legacies of the current Nigerian Government, if devotedly executed.

According to President Jonathan on the occasion of the launch, the YouWin programme fundamentally, is designed to deal with youth unemployment, create rewarding opportunities for the target group in order to, in turn, empower them to “create between 80,000 and 110,000 sustainable good jobs over the next four years.”

To underscore the fact that he actually meant business by encouraging the youth to participate in the envisaged socio-economic transformation of the country this time around, Mr. President reminded his audience thus: “In the course of the campaign for the April 2011 elections, I identified unemployment as one of our biggest challenges that we must address to unlock our vast potential.

“My concern is, let’s identify those that have potential so that we can empower them… that was why when we created the budget for this year we set aside a N50billion fund for job creation. Today, we have come up with this programme to see how we can help the young people who have the creative ability and turning such creative ability into money,” Jonathan further posited.

Without mincing one’s words, the current Administration’s timely intervention in improving the lot and lives of the Nigerian youth couldn’t have come at a better time than now, which if conscientiously implemented, at least will assist the nation in re-ordering the most of the youth’s largely misapplied creative energies, aptitudes and potential towards the much-expected development of their fatherland.

More so, before this latest official intervention, and sequel to decades of maladministration, unmitigated corruption and apparent breakdown in the value system, resulting in unprecedented social dislocation and enveloping aura of hopelessness among the generality of Nigerians, the nation’s young populace, the supposed leaders of tomorrow, incessantly, have continued to get their own butt of the disarray plaguing all spheres of Nigeria’s national life for decades now.

With few or virtually no role models to mould their future life after, let alone value-based, responsible leadership in almost all areas of human endeavour, most of the nation’s youth have been traumatised, abused, confused, jobless, and rendered helpless by the increasingly excruciating socio-economic situation, without any definite direction and palliative remedies promising a possible glorious future for them.

More shocking and embarrassing in recent times are progressively absurd cases of a new crop of graduate or educated male and female armed bandits on the prowl, who are getting involved and caught in sophisticated but perilous armed robberies, destructive cult groups and mindless prostitution among the underage girls and female undergraduates in the nation’s higher institutions of learning.

Sadly, the far-reaching consequences of these anti-social behaviours among a sizeable number of the Nigerian youths have been quite devastating and telling on both their parents/guardians, societal fabric and the entire nation over the years.

Now, with the latest launch of the N50billion youth employment fund, and expected readiness on the part of scores of prepared Nigerian youth with business ideas, or those already “struggling” to take their small and medium-scale enterprises to the next level, a paradigm shift and possibly “breath of fresh air” seem to be in store for them, as the implementation fully comes on stream.

While acknowledging and emphasising the gravity of the volatile unemployment situation in Nigeria in recent times, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Minister for Finance and Coordinator for the Economy, has declared: “You know that unemployment is a big problem in Nigeria. We thought it was not all about talking but getting things done. It was a challenge for us trying to come up with some ideas; we are trying to do something that’s been done in other parts of the world. We want to empower our youth to start thinking of how to create jobs, not how to get jobs.”

Thus, in order to get the best of the inherent benefits of the youth employment and empowerment project, prospective and practising young Nigerian entrepreneurs should take to heart Dr. Okonjo-Iweala’s declaration, that the scheme is “not all about winning but focuses on empowering those with good business ideas to put them into use, while those without good ideas would undergo training to grow their businesses.”

In other words, the project implementation proper is not going to be a mere jamboree but a serious affair for serious-minded youth, keen to make worthy contributions to the socio-economic, educational and political transformation of their fatherland in the near future.

This potentially advantageous youth empowerment programme, therefore, throws a great challenge at the energetic, promising and hard working Nigerian youth, whether uneducated, fairly educated and well-educated, to put on their thinking caps and come up with useful, convincing and practical ideas that will enable them to benefit from this comparatively huge Fund, create wealth, and consequently add value to the lives of fellow Nigerians.

Just as the Federal Government, through its relevant Ministries of Labour, Youth Development, Finance, Communications Technology and Interior as well agencies and commissions among others, alone cannot entirely empower the millions of Nigerian youth seeking rewarding opportunities to make a difference in the nation’s economy, certainly, for the programme to record marked success in the end, it sure requires the support of the National Assembly, 36 state governors, Organised Private Sector, credible enterprise development non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other key stakeholders to collaborate with the Federal Government so as to make the impact of the project felt down to the grassroots.

The current Administration, in order to ensure effective coordination of the execution of the programme slated to commence 2012, will do well to appoint credible, experienced and enterprising youth programme implementation managers to administer the N50billion Fund to the beneficiaries. Such individuals, groups or institutions so appointed must realise that the Fund is fundamentally meant for youth empowerment, employment generation and wealth creation: it is not a fund to be mismanaged or deployed haphazardly. The Nigerian youth, indeed, are impatiently awaiting the full execution of the project soon.

Written by
Gbenga Kayode
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