Nigeria must prioritise investment in youths for national development – Adesina, AfDB president

...As AUN graduates 475 in double convocation

Nigeria has been urged to prioritise investment in the youth to achieve speedy and meaningful national development.

The advice was given in Yola, Adamawa State Saturday by Akinwumi Adesina, president, African Development Bank (AfDB).

Adesina, who was the keynote speaker at the 12th Commencement Ceremony (Classes of 2020 and 2021), American University of Nigeria (AUN), Yola, also disclosed that the bank was currently working on a $500million programme, Digital Nigeria, which he said was being “designed to help further transform Nigeria’s digital competitiveness and build on the incredible entrepreneurship of Nigeria’s youth.”

Read Also: ‘Building a New Nigeria: Imperatives for shared prosperity’

He further said that AfDB “is exploring the establishment of Youth Entrepreneurship Investment Banks — financial institutions for young people, run by first-rate young bankers and financial experts, to drive youth-wealth creation.”

Speaking on ‘Building a new Nigeria: Imperative for shared prosperity’, Adesina said that the future of Nigeria depends on what it does today with its dynamic youth population.

He suggested that “This demographic advantage must be turned into a first rate and well-trained work force, for Nigeria, for the region and for the world.”

He however, noted that 38.5 percent of Nigeria’s youth are unemployed.
“Lacking skills, economic opportunities, they are discouraged, angry and restless, as they look at a future that does not give them hope,” he said.

Read Also: AUN names Adesina, ADB president, as keynote speaker at 12th Commencement ceremony

“We should prioritise investments in the youth: in upskilling them for the jobs of the future, not the jobs of the past; by moving away from so called youth empowerment to youth investment; to opening up the social and political space to the youth to air their views and become a positive force for national development; and for ensuring that that we create youth-based wealth,” Adesina proffered.

According to the global banker, “From the East to the West, from the North to the South, there must be a sea change in economic, financial, and business opportunities for young Nigerians.

“The old must give way to the new. And there must be a corresponding generational transfer of power and wealth to the youth. The popular folk talk should no longer be ‘the young shall grow’, it should, rather, be: ‘the young have arrived’.

“The young shoots are springing up in Nigeria. Today, Lagos has its own Silicon Valley. Yabacon Valley has emerged as one of the leading tech hubs in Africa with between 400 and 700 active start-ups worth over $2 billion, second only to Cape Town,” he said

He also urged Nigerians to do away with the cloak of religion and ethnicism that has continued to hold the country down, and resolve to work for the good of Nigeria by allowing “our diversity to work to our advantage.”
Recalling the leap that has been made by other countries, leveraging their diversities, Akinwumi lamented that Nigeria’s diversity has unfortunately been a disadvantage, which he said should not be the case.

“Nigeria is blessed with incredibly rich diversity: of people, of cultures, of religions, of resources, oil, and gas, an amazing rich biodiversity, that should make us the envy of the world. We are blessed with abundantly diverse agro-ecologies, that should make also us land of bountiful harvests with capacity to feed Africa. Therefore, our diversity is not our problem,” he said.
He however, noted that when mismanaged, “diversity becomes divergence”, and that “rather than unite, we become splintered with each entity believing that, somehow, it is better without the other”.

Urging Nigerians to manage their diversity for collective good, Adesina said: “Take Singapore as a case in point. It is a very diverse, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-religious society, made up of Chinese, Malay, Indian and Eurasians. Singapore is a nation of diverse people and national origins.

“Yet, this nation was able to forge a unified identity that has powered its extraordinary economic progress and development.
Think of it: Chinese represent 74%, Malay, 13.4percent, Indian, 9.0percent, and others, 3.2percent.

“Think of their religious diversity: Buddhism ((33percent), Taoism and folk religion (10percent), Christianity (18percent), Catholicism (6.7percent), Protestants and non-Catholics (12percent), Not religious (18.5percent), Muslims (14percent), and Hinduism (5percent).

“There is religious harmony, not religious supremacy, or polarization. The people see themselves first as Singaporeans!”

The former Nigerian Agriculture minister, who deplored the level of poverty in the country, said: “For all the abundant wealth of natural resources, Nigeria’s poverty situation is unacceptable.

“Today, sadly, there are way too many poor people in Nigeria. The government is implementing bold social programmes to reduce the number of poor, through interventionist programmes, but the fact of the matter is poverty is not just about money.”

He pointed out that there is “poverty of health, and yet we know that health is wealth.”

The keynote speaker noted that the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has further revealed the weaknesses of Nigeria’s health care systems.

“From diagnostic and testing centers, access to vaccines, and hospital infrastructure, the health care systems were overwhelmed,” he said.

Akinwumi said it was not salutary that life expectancy in Nigeria was 60, whereas India is 70; UK 81; Norway 82 and Singapore 86. He further said it was not in the interest of Nigeria that about 56 percent of her medical doctors are working outside of Nigeria.

Earlier in her remarks, Margee Ensign, president of AUN, expressed gratitude to the graduates and their parents for believing in the institution.

Ensign also restated the commitment of the AUN, not just to train youths, but to give quality training that would enable them lead an independent life after the school environment.

It was a two-in-one commencement ceremony, as the event did not hold last year owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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