Africa can unleash its socio-economic development by unlocking the potentials of its youths, Chairman of United Bank for Africa and Heirs Holdings, Tony Elumelu, has said.
Elumelu who spoke at the Joshua Generation International Youth Conference at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka on Wednesday noted the risks societies run by not taking care of its youths.
Youth restiveness, he said, remains a ticking time-bomb in the continent, with countries in the region continuing to face issues bordering on extremism, banditry, robbery, senseless killings, kidnappings and political thuggery, among other vices.
The Founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation stated this while addressing several thousands of youths in the area who participated in the event organised by the Anglican Church at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State.
Africa, he said, was the world’s youngest continent, with almost 60 percent of its population under the age of 25.
“In Africa, youths of 35 years and under are estimated to constitute 70 percent of the population. However, the unemployment rate in Nigeria has now risen to about 30 percent in March 2021, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). Some states have as high as 56 percent of all their youth population as unemployed.
“In Africa, the situation is not much different: We have 65 percent of all Africans below the age of 35 and many of these people are not gainfully employed.
“The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdowns have exposed the vulnerabilities in our population structure. We now have, as a continent, the largest young generation in history – this youthful population is Africa’s hope. It is our pride and it is our potential. The urgency and need to unlock the potential of this generation is imperative for the security of our collective future,” he said.
To address this challenge, the Chairman of Heirs Holdings said there was need for a high sense of urgency, a dissatisfaction to what is happening presently as well as a commitment to improving things.
“We must accept that we face a crucial period in our history where youth issues must be the main and central issue of our time. Millions of our young people are entering the job market every year; and 20 million jobs are needed to be created annually to absorb new entrants in the labour market. Only about three million formal jobs are being created annually across Africa and this was even before the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic outbreak,” he added.
On the power of entrepreneurship, Elumelu said: “For me and my colleagues at UBA, at TEF and the across the Heir Holdings Group, we have come to believe that entrepreneurship -the power of entrepreneurship- is key to harnessing the potential of these young Africans
“By so doing, we secure our own future. This comes from our own experience, first as entrepreneurs ourselves. And secondly as people that have committed a lot of resources at TEF (capital, time, personnel) tin helping create a new generation of African entrepreneurs. We are helping to give economic hope and opportunities to young Africans. And we speak as people that do this in Africa, but in all 54 African countries, the TEF intervention cuts across all sectors and gender across the 54 African countries, because we believe that prosperity should be shared as much as possible across board and that poverty anywhere is a threat to us all everywhere.
“The enormous potential of our youth, we must prioritize our support for small-scale businesses. Corporate organisations do well in employing people but there is a limit on how much corporates can do in employing the huge numbers of our unemployed youths. Therefore, capacitising and supporting small businesses, empowering our young ones and their businesses, in our own view is the most powerful means to reduce unemployment on the continent,” he said.
Elumelu commended the Nigerian Government with regards its approach to taxes for micro, small and medium sized enterprises, saying, ‘I must commend the Federal Government for the good work in the area of tax waivers for Micro-businesses. Tax friendly policies that encourage our entrepreneurs are necessary and much more is required, but good work has been done and the government should be commended.’
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