By Jimoh Babatunde
*‘Nigeria’s youth must be turned into a first-rate, well-trained workforce’
The President of the African Development Bank, AfDB, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, has said that Nigeria’s diversity is not its problem, but rather how it’s managed for economic growth and development.
Adesina shared his thoughts on what it will take to rebuild Nigeria and put it on a path to greatness in a keynote address at the convocation ceremony of the American University of Nigeria in Yola, Adamawa State capital.
Citing Singapore as an example that has successfully managed ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity, Adesina said diversity is strength and not weakness.
According to the AfDB President, Nigeria’s future rests on what it does now with its vibrant youth population.
In the keynote titled “Building a New Nigeria: Imperatives for Shared Prosperity,” he said: “For Nigeria to be all that it can be, the youth of Nigeria must be all that they can be.”
He emphasised that Nigeria’s future development and growth hinged on transforming the country’s youth demographic advantage into a world-class and well-trained workforce for the country, region, and world.
He urged stakeholders to prioritise investments in the youth, and up skill them for future jobs, as well as shift from policies of “youth empowerment” to “youth investment”.
According to Adesina, this would also help open social and political spaces for youth to air their views, become a positive force for national development, and ensuring the creation of youth-based wealth.
“From the East to the West, from the North to the South, there must be a transformative change in economic, financial, and business opportunities for young Nigerians,” the Bank President told the large gathering.
“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.
Citing examples of entrepreneurial success among young Nigerians, he noted that “Andela, a global technology start-up based in Yabacon Valley, recently attracted $24 million in funding from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
The $200 million investment by Stripe (a Silicon Valley firm) in the local payments company Paystack, and $400 million into three Fintech companies in just one week in 2019 signals the huge potentials of Nigeria to attract global digital commerce and financial services.
“The African Development Bank is currently working on a $500 million programme, Digital Nigeria, which is designed to transform Nigeria’s digital competitiveness and build on the incredible entrepreneurship of Nigeria’s youth.
“The Bank is also 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,” he told participants.
“Nigeria is blessed with incredibly rich diversity: of people, of cultures, of religions, of mineral resources, oil, and gas, amazingly rich biodiversity, that should make us the envy of the world.
“We are blessed with abundantly diverse agro-ecologies, that should also make us a land of bountiful harvests with the capacity to feed Africa. Nigerians deserve wealth, not poverty,” he added.
Students from all around Nigeria, as well as international students from South Africa, Cote d’Ivoire, Rwanda, Cameroon, India, and Romania, make up the American University of Nigeria’s class of 2020 and class of 2021.
In his concluding remarks, Adesina urged the graduating class to make a difference in their sphere of influence, Nigeria and the world.
“I have a dream that we will arise, from our challenges, and build a more prosperous and united nation,” Akinwumi Adesina prophesied.