AfDB President, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina
*Says restructuring should be economic, financial viability-driven
*As group asks him to join 2023 presidential race
By Chris Ochayi, ABUJA
The President of African Development Bank, AfDB, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, has lamented the high rate of joblessness among Nigerians, saying about 40 per cent of youths were unemployed.
Adesina, who disclosed this at a lecture in Lagos, said the youths were discouraged, angry and restless, as they look at a future that does not give them hope.
In the lecture, titled, “Nigeria – A Country of Many Nations: A Quest for National Integration”, Dr. Adesina , however, said all hope was not lost as youths have a vital role to play, if the country should arrive at its destined destination.
According to the latest Labour Force report of the National Bureau of Statistics, unemployment among young Nigerians (15- 34 years) is the highest in the country, with 21.72 million or 42.5 per cent of the 29.94 young Nigerians in the labour force unemployed, while the national unemployment rate stood at 33.3 per cent as at December 2020.
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“For the period under review, Q4, 2020, the unemployment rate among young people (15- 34years) was 42.5%, up from 34.9%, while the rate of underemployment for the same age group declined to 21.0% from 28.2% in Q2, 2020.
These rates were the highest when compared to other age groupings”, the NBS said in its “Labour Force Statistics, Unemployment And Under Employment – Q4 2020”.
Investment in Youths
Speaking further, Adesina said: “For Nigeria to be all that it can be, the youth of Nigeria must be all they can be.
“The future of Nigeria depends on what it does today with its dynamic youth population. This demographic advantage must be turned into a first-rate and well-trained workforce, for Nigeria, for the region, and for the world.
“We should prioritise investments in the youth: in up skilling 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 we create youth-based wealth.
“From the East to the West, from the North to the South, there must be a change in economic, financial, and business opportunities for young Nigerians.
“The old must give way to the young. 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, Nigeria’s youth are leading in the FinTech Industry. two companies – PayPal Interswitch are both valued at $1 billion.
“A third company, Flutterwave, more than tripled its valuation in less than a year to over $3 billion. What does this tell us? The future is here and young entrepreneurs are central to it.
“The African Development Bank approved $170 million in December of last year for Nigeria to support its programme to expand digital and creative industries, by unleashing the incredible entrepreneurship of Nigeria’s youth.
“The African Development 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.
“Nigerians deserve wealth, not poverty. There cannot and should not be a Nigeria for the rich, and another Nigeria for the poor.
“We must build one Nigeria, where every citizen has the right to a decent life. We must build a better nation. We must start building again, not splintering again.
“We must re-build trust, equity, and social justice, to propel strong cohesiveness as a nation. The tides are high, I know, and our boat rocks from time to time. Yet, I have hope, hope for a better Nigeria … a renewed nation. Hope for a nation that is helped and healed by God. A nation, where the sacrifices of Nigerians past and present shall not be in vain.
“I pray and long for a better Nigeria. For a nation, built not on the division of its past, or the foundations of ethnicity, but on a new foundation, the foundation of equity, fairness, justice, and unity, one Nigerian to the other.
“For a new Nigeria, where one from the North shall be at home in the East; where one from the East shall break bread with one in the North; one where the one in the West shall eat from the same plate with one in the North; and wash hands in the same basin as one in the East. “
He said for Nigeria to realize its dream, “The constituent states in Nigeria must be more financially autonomous through greater fiscal prudence. If states focus on unlocking the huge resources they have, based on areas of comparative advantage, they will rapidly expand wealth for their people.
“With their increased wealth they will be able to access capital markets to secure long-term financing to fast-track their growth and development.
“States that adopt this strategy would have less of a need for monthly trips to Abuja for grants. Instead, part of their federal revenue allocations can be saved as internal ‘state sovereign wealth funds’.
“This can then be used as guarantees against borrowings from capital markets. They would be free from needing to exclusively rely on the federal government.
“As a way out of the economic quagmire, much has been said about the need for restructuring. I know the discussions are often emotive. Restructuring should not be driven by political expediency, but by economic and financial viability – the necessary and sufficient conditions for political viability.
“Surgeries are tough. They are better done well, the first time. The resources found in each state or state groupings should belong to them. The constituent entities should pay federal taxes or royalties for those resources.
“The achievement of economically viable entities and the viability of the national entity requires constitutional changes to devolve more economic and fiscal powers to the states or regions.
“The stronger the states, or regions, the stronger the federated units. In the process, our union would be renewed. Our union would be stronger. Our union would be equitable. Our union would be fully participatory.’’
Adesina should join 2023 presidential race
Meanwhile, a youth group, under the aegis of Prudent Youth Association of Nigeria, PYAN, has called on Dr Akinwumi Adesina to join the race for 2023 presidential election.
The group said in a statement by its Public Relations Officer, Mr Haruna Awode, said that Adesina had outstanding qualities needed at this critical moment to address the myriad of problems confronting Nigeria as a nation.
The group, while justifying its call on Adesina to join the murky water of politics, argued that as a former Minister of Agriculture and the incumbent two-term President of AfDB, given his antecedents, Adesina could be trusted to successfully run the affairs of Nigeria.
The statement read: “At the moment, Nigeria does not just need people with political exposure to lead as president; the exalted office should be occupied by a young, vibrant, intellectual with experienced and focused mind.
“Academically, Adesina has a track records of brilliance. He was the first to graduate with a First Class Honours, bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Economics, from the Obafemi Awolowo University), Nigeria, in 1981.
“He holds a master’s degree and a PhD in Agricultural Economics (1988) from Purdue University, USA, where he won the Outstanding PhD thesis award for that year.
“He has demonstrated that his outstanding academic performance was not a fluke, as he has applied this in meeting the social and economic needs of humanity at both national and international stages.
The group said that as a former Minister of Agriculture and the incumbent president of AfDB, Adesina has not disappointed or failed the nation, especially the youths.
“The globally-renowned development economist, scholar and agricultural development expert, with more than 30 years of international experience has proven his worth at every given opportunity. It is on record that as the Minister of Agriculture in Nigeria from 2011-2015, Adesina reformed the agriculture sector.
“Within his four years as a minister, Adesina changed agriculture in Nigeria from that of subsistence to a viable business through private sector led investments, while he also expanded the country’s food production.
“Under his tenure, Nigeria ended 40 years of corruption in the fertilizer sector by developing and implementing an innovative electronic wallet system, which directly provides farmers with subsidized farm inputs at scale using their mobile phones.”
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