Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige,
Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige,

By Ndubuisi Francis and Udora Orizu in Abuja

The federal government and the African Development Bank (AfDB) have inaugurated a task team on youth employment and skills development.

The team is a think-tank saddled with the responsibility to convene a private sector roundtable engagement as an exchange platform designed for the identification and financing of eight priority projects for accelerated youth employment and skills development.

Speaking at the inauguration in Abuja Tuesday, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, who was represented by the Minister of State, Prof. Stephen Ocheni, said Nigeria has a population of about 200 million people, noting that the opportunities offered by the large population size are not being harnessed through gainful engagement of the productive age of between 15 to 54 years.

According to the minister, “Although the Nigerian youth have been described as enterprising and hardworking, yet a recent record of 18.8% unemployment rate reported for the country by NBS shows that there is a disconnect in the capacity to translate these attributes to gainful employment opportunities and thriving enterprises for wealth creation and sustainable development.

“The federal government, in its continued effort to respond to the unacceptable situation and reverse the trend, has therefore entered into partnership with the African Development Bank group to engage a broad spectrum of stakeholders in a round-table discussion on youth employment and skills development.
“The programme is planned to have a rich private sector participation due to the widely acknowledged higher potential for job creation by this sector.”

The minister revealed that work on the design and planning for the programme had since commenced, adding that the composition of the task team includes himself (Ngige) as the chairperson, a representative from the office of the vice-president, and a private sector representatives as co-chair.

Others are members such as the Federal Ministry of Finance, Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Ministry of Budget and National Planning as well as the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development.

Also involved are the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC), Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF), Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the World Bank, Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG), Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA), Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), GiZ and the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

Ngige urged all hands to be on deck in solving the problem of unemployment which has far-reaching implications on the nation’s socio-economic well-being which affects every sector of the economy.

In his remarks, a Senior Director in AfDB, Dr Greg Osubor, represented by the Regional Procurement Coordinator, AfDB, Abdulahi Baba Imoru, said Nigeria makes up about a quarter of the entire population of Africa, adding that the challenges of the Nigerian youth, if well addressed, could contribute immensely to solving the job problem of Africa.

“Nigeria had to realise the potential of its youths, create jobs for them and support them to create jobs for themselves, hence the critical importance of entrepreneurship and the role of private sector.

“The AfDB has prioritised youth employment as a major emphasis across all its 54 member states. In 2016, the AfDB adopted the Youths-for-ob in Africa strategy, with the goal of creating 25 million jobs and equipping 15 million youths in Africa with employable skills, in 10 years time, it’s going to create 25 million jobs. From 2016 to date, AfDB has invested over $400 million both in public and private sector to promote job creation in Nigeria.

“In partnering with the federal government of Nigeria for this public private roundtable on youth employment and skills development, we hope that with coordinated efforts, we can tackle youth employment crisis and assist Nigeria in the strengthening results of productive opportunities that they need so as to enable them better participate for economic development of the country and inclusive job creation,” Osubor said.

He implored the task team to ensure that the roundtable results in concrete and practical actions to help resolve youth unemployment in Nigeria.