By Ojukwu Nzubechukwu Ojukwu
Skill and capacity-building programmes make the youths employable and also make the possibility of creating more jobs a reality. Getting the youths productively engaged sharpens their skills and makes innovations and inventiveness also possible.
In this piece I shall try to make a distilled presentation about the imperatives of youth empowerment and development programme. But before going down to the need for Youth Empowerment in the 21st Century, it is of utmost importance to properly understand what youth empowerment is all about.
Essentially, youth empowerment can be defined as a process whereby the youths gain the ability and authority to make informed decisions and implement change in their own lives and the lives of other people. It is a means of encouraging youths to do great things for themselves and also to make great impact in their society. The youth can be seen as the segment of the population between the children (minors) and the old people. In other words, it is usually the most populous, active, creative, mobile and dynamic. It is the working population. By its nature, the youth segment is sensitive and strategic. They are energetic, adventurous and creative and therefore are usually the catalyst for change in the society. In the traditional society, they stand for material as well as physical security for the community. Youth empowerment and development programme is an acknowledgement of the fact that the youth population is an invaluable national asset that must be maximized. Thus, to harness the advantage of the youth population, the youth must be properly guarded in terms of, training, mentoring, building structures, developing programmes as well as creating enabling environment for them to fully develop their potentials for the benefit of the nation and this is the whole essence of youth empowerment programme.
According to the global organization (UN) reports, Nigerian youth migrants in Europe and America are three times more than migrants from other West African countries. This report also added that the migration rate of the youth was 32 per cent in 1999, compared to less than 15 percent for the non-youth population. It was estimated that by the end of 2012, over 50 percent of the youths in Nigeria will be residing in foreign countries where job opportunities are easier to come by. This is excluding the massive migration rate of Nigerians to Canada and other foreign countries since 2017, if not more.
Without doubt, the importance of youth empowerment and development programmes cannot be over-emphasized. First, it will lead to wealth creation and poverty eradication and drastic reduction in dependency burden. Youth empowerment will curb the rate of poverty in the land to a large level. When a youth is equipped with essential skills, he or she can utilize his skills productively and economically. This in turn will add to increase in employability and to the GDP of the nation. Apart from increase in national productivity, youth empowerment will reduce unemployment rate currently put at over 25% nationally. Skill and capacity-building programmes make the youths employable and also make the possibility of creating more jobs a reality. Getting the youths productively engaged sharpens their skills and makes innovations and inventiveness also possible.
In the socio-political sphere, youth empowerment will lead to crime reduction and improved national security. When the youths are actively engaged in productive ventures, they are less likely to get involved in crime and anti-social behavior. Psychologist and sociologists have it that most social vices such as drug addiction, prostitution, kidnapping, robbery, hooliganism, advanced free fraud among others are usually the result of frustrations associated with joblessness.
So, the positive collateral effect in the polity will be in the reduction of the incidences of youth restiveness. In effect, youth empowerment programme may be the antidote to peace and good governance for when the youths are empowered; they empower the masses, thereby paving the way for a better future. Empowering the youth is a motivating factor and a tool to stimulate their patriotism and love for the state. To build a better tomorrow therefore, we need to nurture the youths of today.
Again, it is important to note that the youth development programme is in reality a dual process of involving the youth and the government. While it is the responsibility of the government to initiate and implement practical youth empowerment programme, the onus of self-development is still on the benefiting youths. As youths, you are at the center of absolute strength. The youth is expected to be forward-looking, think big, hope for the best and envision a better tomorrow, by making continuous efforts to turn his dreams into reality.
Although, the purpose of this piece in not on the strategies for youth empowerment in view of the limited space, but, it is pertinent to point out that the major keys for youth empowerment is education and skill development. The strategies for youth empowerment will be treated later. The 21st century is not in the distant future. We are in the 21st century. We are living in the interconnected world where knowledge reigns. The youth must leverage on the knowledge and connected economy of this era. Anyone who fails to update himself and adapt to the dynamics of the contemporary world may be a misfit. Youth empowerment is of good importance to both nations and the empowered. Outside the government creating youth empowering programs, the youths should see it as a duty to personally develop themselves, because at the end of the day the best thing you can bring to any environment is YOU. Sharpen the saw; read books, not just for exam but for pleasure and knowledge. Read biographies and learn from the experiences of great achievers. Take up classes or courses that involve personal development. Get a Life Coach. The time to reinstate your dreams and goals, and make it 100% achievable is right now! Consult deep and wide. Learn a skill. Network and synergies properly and be professionally affiliated. Be positive in your attitude and futuristic in your thinking. Great achievers are usually self-motivated. Know yourself – your strength, weaknesses, passion, values and skills and harness your potentials.
Hon. Ojukwu N. Ojukwu (JP) is an economist, a business man and a politician,