BusinessDay

Nigeria’s young population offers boundless opportunities – experts

With 53.7 percent of Nigeria’s population aged 15 to 65, and a median age of 18, the country has one of the largest youth populations globally, which is an opportunity for harnessing its sustainable development and growth through the empowerment of its youth, experts have said.

The size and youthfulness of the population offer a boundless chance to expand Nigeria’s capacity as the economic hub of Africa and globally. However, the reality is not the case, as according to the executive secretary, National Board for Technical Education (NBTE), Idris Muhammad Bugaje, Nigeria has about 90 million unemployed youth and graduates.

With a 33.3 percent unemployment rate and 40.1 percent of the total population living in poverty, increasing the empowerment of youth and women in Nigeria is critical to economic development. Added to the inadequate physical infrastructure and rising inflation that appears insurmountable, Nigeria’s youth unemployment problem indicates a bleak future with millions of frustrated youths roaming the streets, fueling the ongoing insecurity in the country.

The United Nations (UN) founded International Youth Day (IYD) to bring youth issues to the attention of the international community and to celebrate the potential of youths as partners in today’s global society. Just like the first IYD was observed on August, 12th 2000, it has over the years, continued to raise awareness of the challenges faced by youth globally.

The IYD 2022 theme is ‘Intergenerational Solidarity: Creating a World for All Ages’ and formulated to achieve the objectives of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on the basis that the world needs to leverage the full potential of all generations, solidarity across generations is key for sustainable development.

While most can say the Nigerian youth situation appears gloomy, when considering that by 2050, the population will double, thus increasing the underdevelopment and poverty in the country with some corporates unable to fathom a solution to the menace, the Coca-Cola System appears to be averse to that thought as it sees potential for national economic development with the high youth population and is daily conceptualizing new ways to impact the youths towards contributing their quota to the development of the motherland.

The Coca-Cola System in Nigeria—comprising Coca-Cola Nigeria and the Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC) through several impactful projects that cater to youth economic empowerment, among others—has continued to lead the way as it concerns youth development in Nigeria.

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Coca-Cola and its partners have implemented several projects that have empowered millions of youth over the last ten years in Nigeria. Notable projects include Youth Empowered for Success! (YES! Nigeria) which is a social enterprise preparing and matching young people to entry-level jobs in the retail and hospitality sectors, Youth Empowered initiative, implemented by Nigeria Bottling Company has so far supported over 22,000 young people transition to meaningful employment, build life skills, business skills & long-lasting networks.

Other projects include “Project SIP and Equip”, which saw the upskilling and empowerment of over 80,000 youths and women across the country. The Youth ICT and Skill Acquisition Program (YISAP), a Coca-Cola Foundation-funded project, trained and equipped over 600 youth in Enugu, including 20 disabled-youth, with relevant entrepreneurship and vocational skills such as ICT, Photography, Photo and Video Editing, Digital Marketing, Graphics Design, Confectionaries, Barbing, Making of Household Essentials and other homemade consumables, Fascinators, Hats, and other small-scale enterprises that they can leverage as an alternative source of income.

Select participants received seed grants to start their businesses alongside mentorship and support with business branding, trademark and business registration. Beneficiaries were further equipped with business and financial management skills.

YISAP also enabled partnerships with institutions such as SME Agencies to provide market access, industry linkages, and access to finance for innovative ideas and startups for young entrepreneurs leveraging technology to scale their businesses.

In celebration of the 2022 International Youth Day, Coca-Cola, as part of its commitment to promoting environmental sustainability for a litter-free world, partnered with SWEEP Foundation to organize a Beach Race on August 13th, tagged “A Race against Ocean Plastic Pollution,” drawing stakeholders’ attention to the threat of plastic pollution on our water bodies, particularly the oceans. This saw an impressive turnout of youth and industry partners who came out in their numbers to support this worthy cause.

These projects remain targeted at building a new generation of sustainability change-makers to drive the required behavioral change to create a better-shared future. These efforts have and will continue to economically empower youth and women to ensure the bridging of the unemployment and poverty disparities in Nigerian society.

Through these initiatives, Coca-Cola continues to demonstrate its commitment to being the enabler for youths to actualize their ambitions and this is a testament to its practice of making a difference, one project at a time for the benefit of the communities that are home to its world-class beverages.

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