Youth Leadership in Nigeria: If Not Now, When; If Not Us, Whom?

One year on and we are beginning to reel from the after-effects of the COVID19  pandemic. With the economy slipping into a recession and a strict lockdown affecting business, millions of young people have lost jobs and become poorer. To help build back better, Nigeria Youth SDGs Network joined the United Nations in Nigeria to call for more youth leadership and decent jobs at the 2021 ECOSOC Youth Forum.

Abuja, Nigeria – On the sidelines of the 2021 United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth Forum, the Nigeria Youth SDGs Network partnered with the United Nations in Nigeria to host a virtual consultation with young people to discuss issues from job opportunities, entrepreneurship and economic empowerment within the context of COVID-19 and the successful implementation of the SDGs. The opening remarks were made by the International Labour Organization (ILO) Youth Employment and Migration Officer, Dino Corell who noted that ‘’the youth labour force in Africa is expected to grow significantly by over 25% in 2030 thus tackling the rising unemployment challenge will be critical both in addressing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and advancing the implementation of the SDGs.”

Ms Goodness Ogeyi Odey, Programs and Project Manager at Nigeria Youth SDGs Network gave the keynote address. Her address was centred on the decent work survey conducted by the Nigeria Youth SDGs Network between July and August 2020 and part of a broader outreach campaign to seek the views, insights and inputs of young Nigerians on decent work with a view to informing policy development and implementation and review of the Nigerian Youth Employment Action Plan (NIYEAP). She noted the survey received 212,000 responses from youth (ages 15 to 29).

According to her, One-third of the respondents said that success at work and contributions to the community was the most important goal of their lives. On what is most important to decent work among youth with at least a university first degree, forty-five percent said the need for work-life balance and professional growth. For youth with secondary school or no education, what was important was getting a job that had a written contract with a good salary that puts their rights into perspective. She concluded by acknowledging the project was made possible with partnership from the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports, ILO, UNICEF Nigeria and with funding from the United Nations Department of Economics and Social Affairs (UN DESA).

The webinar had a plenary session which had Joshua Alade from Nigeria Youth SDGs Network, Ekanem Itoro from UNAIDS, Patience Ogolo-Dickson from Advocacy for Women with Disabilities Initiative, Ikenna Ugwumba from AfriYAN and Nnamdi Richard from Mind the Gap. The panel highlighted the need to foster meaningful dialogue and partnerships between young people and other stakeholders.

In closing, the panel acknowledged that COVID-19 has affected our health system, forced more than 50 million youth out of school; many will never return, inflicted a heavy toll on young workers by either ending their employment or impairing their career prospects. It is crucial to have young people at the centre of all recovery effort as we recover from the pandemic and young Nigerians must be given an important role in building back better, fostering sustainable peace and a future where jobs and education are guaranteed; and no other time than now is the perfect time to include young people.