The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has called for increased investment in health, education and entrepreneurship development to unleash the potential of youths in the country.
The Country Director, UNFPA Nigeria, Dr. Diene Keita, made the call in Lagos at the 25th Annual Teenage Festival of Life (TFL), organised by a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), Action Health Incorporated (AHI) with the theme: ‘Harnessing Demographic Dividend by Investing in the Potential of Young People.’
Keita, stated that investing in children in the areas of health, education, entrepreneurial skills development and good governance that would ensure that justice is free and fair, and opportunities are not one-sided.
The country director urged the federal government to formulate inclusive policies, increase investment in qualitative education and entrepreneurship skills and create an enabling environment that guarantees the future of youths and the nation.
She explained that increased investment in youths would enable them think and understand that they have a future.
Keita, who was represented by the Director, UNFPA Lagos Office, Dr. Omolaso Omosehin, said the United Nations had realised the need to do more for youths to enable them to take up their positions in the affairs of life.
According to her, “If we decide to invest properly in our children in the areas of health, education, entrepreneurial skills development and good governance that will ensure justice is free and fair, and opportunities are not one-sided.”
Then, youths would begin to think and know they have a future. It will also ensure we get the dividends that we want. Youth integration will help the country unlock its greatness and change the global narrative of Nigeria.”
Earlier in her remarks, the Executive Director of AHI, Mrs. Adenike Esiet, said the festival was aimed at shaping the life of youths to be pivotal to build the socio-economic landscape of the country to greatness through their ingenuity.
In her remarks, the Project Coordinator of TFL, Miss Funso Bukoye, said Nigeria has one of the most youthful and fastest growing population in Africa with 60 million young people between the ages of 10 and 24 accounting for 32 percent of the population.
She also noted that the increase in youth population has created the opportunity the country to reap a demographic dividend, adding that while the potential for Nigeria’s economic growth was significant, key barriers to achieving demographic dividend persisted.
According to Bukoye; “A demographic dividend is the economic growth that may result from changes to a country’s age structure, due to the shift from people living short lives and having short large families to living long lives and having small families.
“In the last 10 years, it has become evident that demographic dividend offers a strategic basis for focusing and prioritizing investment in youth in particular, in order to achieve sustainable development, inclusive economic and to build well-functioning country. Young people in Nigeria face unique challenges, including access to education, high rate of unemployment, lack of political representation and gender inequalities.
“It is only when a country capitalises on its resources and uses them effectively that its economy will benefit, otherwise a demographic dividend can turn into a demographic disaster.”
THISDAY gathered TFL is a forum that enables young people and relevant stakeholders to identify the plights of youths through artistic presentations with a view to enlisting them as critical stakeholders.
AHI is dedicated to promoting youths’ health and development to facilitate their successful transition to adulthood.