• Saturday, May 18, 2024
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BusinessDay

Nigeria failing to tap youthquake as peers gain

The Nigerian youth: Caught between apathy and ambition

Nigeria has one of the highest youth populations globally but has over the years failed to maximise the inherent benefits of this advantage compared to its peers.

According to experts, a teeming youth population mirrors a country’s futuristic economic development because younger people have more years left to work and tend to have higher purchasing powers as they settle down in life and their careers.

India, China, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Indonesia lead the pack when it comes to teeming youth population. India is ahead of others with a youth population of 616.2 million, China has 412.7 million, Nigeria – 134.1 million, while Pakistan and Indonesia have 132.3 million and 113.9 million respectively.

India saw a 47 percent drop in FDI inflows but remained among the top five global destinations for Greenfield projects.

The country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2023 was $3,74 trillion, and GDP per capita was $2,610, while its foreign direct investment inflow (FDI) in the first quarter of 2024 was $36.75. India invested $13.67 billion to develop its education.

Similarly, China invested $13,715.54 trillion in the same year to develop its education, with an FDI of $15.58 billion in 2024. Its GDP was $17.52 trillion.

Pakistan and Indonesia have an FDI of $1.1 billion and $47 billion respectively and invested $628 million and $2.12 billion in education respectively.

Nigeria with an FDI of $2 billion continues to underfund education. The country has a GDP of $574 billion, a GDP per capita of $1.69 million, and invested N1.79 trillion (about $1.28 billion) in education in 2023, a far cry from what is obtainable in developed countries.

Experts are concerned that Nigeria is failing to maximise the potential of its teeming youth population in its quest for economic development and human capacity empowerment.

They argue that young people in Nigeria are talented and are rising to find business solutions to the economic challenges. They maintain that the government can do this by investing in education thereby empowering the youth to create opportunities and economic prosperity for themselves effectively.

Omowale Ogunrinde, the founder/CEO of Dreams (VTE) Academy, said the country needs more investments to retrain teachers and develop new and relevant curricula that will put young Nigerians at par with their peers across the world.

Ogunrinde noted that the Nigerian educational sector was outdated, and required a huge investment for a rebirth not only in terms of infrastructure but also in curriculum development and teacher retraining.

According to Efriye Bribena, the chief executive officer at Tamief International Limited, in addition to a reform needed in the sector, Nigeria must begin to deliberately increase its annual budgetary allocation to education.

Bribena also canvassed for proper utilisation of the funds, because according to him, sometimes, these funds do not get to the end users due to corruption.

“It’s not just throwing money into education that will solve the problem. We need to reform the structures to correct the systemic corruption prevalent not just in the education sector but all over the country; so that funds injected into the sector will have the required result,” he said.

Ike Chilaka, a marine engineer and educationist, said the Federal Government needs to inject more funds into the sector to achieve the ideal literacy rate that will put the country at par with its peers like South Africa, Egypt and others.

Africa’s most populous nation has spent N4.51trillion on education from 2022 to 2024, but experts say that is too small to make the needed impact the sector urgently needs.

According to them, Nigeria needs at least N15 trillion annually over five years to bridge the gap.

“Injecting more funds to improve access to education is important, but more important is the need to ensure that funds are efficiently used,” Chilaka added.

Friday Erhabor, the director of media and strategies at Marklenez Limited, said for the youth to play a meaningful role, their capacity must be enhanced, harnessed, and properly mobilised.

“For this to happen, the government must be intentional about this through policy and proper channeling of resources for youth development,” he said.

“The youth population is the greatest asset of any nation. The youth, more than any other segment of the population, has the passion, energy, and power to shape a better future for any country.

“If you also look at the historical evolution of Nigeria right from the pre-colonial era, the youth have always been at the centre of every political and economic development of the country,” he added.

The experts argued that investing in the youth was crucial for the overall well-being and prosperity of Nigeria.

“Young individuals represent the future; by providing them with the necessary resources and support, the country is ensuring a brighter future for everyone,” they said.