Repositioning Nigerian Youth as National Assets Roundtable Strategic Session

“…The United Nations is doing a considerable amount to invest in youth. We are acquiring knowledge and best practices about the issues affecting young people today. And we are making greater efforts to engage youth in our negotiating and decision-making processes. Still, I do not think we have gone nearly far enough…”
Secretary-General UNDP
Remarks to General Assembly High-Level Meeting on Youth, 2011

Nigeria’s robust youth environment and increasing youth population makes her one of the most youthful populations in the world. The National Youth Policy defines youth as all young persons of ages 18 – 35. With over 60% of the population, Nigeria’s burgeoning youth population provides a huge social, economic and political capital required to drive socio-political and economic development.

Nigeria’s greatest asset lies in its youthful demography, yet, there have been little or no gains towards furthering the youth agenda and harnessing the energy, resilience and commitment of Nigeria’s youth. Youth are the engine room of every nation.

The similitude of the importance of youth to nation building could be likened to a car engine, without which, vehicles can’t move, so also without youth, a nation cannot thrive.

The role of the youth in nation building is too relevant to be jettisoned – they serve as the back-bone of a society. They can make or mar a nation based on what is programmed in them. They are a feedback system because if they are well equipped and garnished with the best available resources, they give a positive outcome, but, if otherwise, negative outcome should be expected. Youth constitute not only a formidable demographic force, but also make up the next generation of parents, workers and leaders. Their wellbeing, therefore, has implications not only for their own lives, but also for the societies they will build and maintain.

The role of Nigerian youth cannot be underestimated in nation building. Nigerian youths from time immemorial have been contributing their quota towards national development. The likes of Sir Tafawa Balewa, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Herbert Macaulay fought tooth and nail in their youthful days to deliver the political independence we all enjoy today as a nation. They can be a creative force, a dynamic source of innovations, and they have undoubtedly, throughout history, participated, contributed, and even catalyzed important changes in political systems, power-sharing dynamics and economic opportunities.

Participation is a fundamental right. It is one of the guiding principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that has been reiterated in many other Conventions and Declarations.

Through active participation, youth are empowered to play a vital role in their own development as well as in that of their communities, and the nation at large.

Currently, there’s an alarming increase in the indulgence of Nigerian youth in social vices, such as political thuggery, kidnapping, armed robbery, militancy and terrorism, amongst others. There’s a dire need to develop more effective programs that can impact positively on youth; empower and reposition them as national assets, rather than national liabilities.

Since inception and over a decade of work in Nigeria, AfriGrowth Foundation has pursued a positive approach to youth development that applies holistic strategies to the complex set of youth needs. This approach recognizes that we need to ensure that the youth develop the skills, values, and attitudes they need to succeed today, not just tomorrow. The approach also recognizes that young people are not problems to be solved, but problem solvers themselves. This paradigm emphasizes that youth are assets to the nation and active agents of change who can contribute their energy, idealism, and insights to a nation’s growth and progress. They are not merely passive recipients of programs and support. Other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Nigeria have also initiated and executed laudable youth-focused programs aimed enhancing their capacity and empowering them to participate fully in nation building, via several sectors of endeavor. These NGOs have equally been most instrumental in creating and fostering structures and mechanism, which advance youth participation in nation building. Several programs and initiatives have been designed and executed, aimed at empowering youth economically, socially, morally and politically. Even though these laudable programs and initiatives promote youth participation; the overall impact is yet to be felt in Nigeria. Hence the need to redefine and develop new strategies on how to effectively engage youth in current and subsequent programs.

AfriGrowth Foundation, which is in the front line of instituting a course of reflection and focus for renewed action centered on adding values to the lives of Nigerian youth is laying incentives to organize a roundtable strategic session, premised on the discourse of effective youth participation in nation building. This event will involve selected NGOs that have youth-focused programs.

Project Introduction

AfriGrowth Foundation is organizing a roundtable strategic session, anchored on repositioning Nigerian youth as national assets. This laudable program will feature roundtable discussions and strategic sessions involving 12 non-governmental organizations that focus on youth development.  The event is intended to provide a space for candid discussions on how to effectively promote youth participation and engagement in nation building, in the vanguard of repositioning them as national assets.

This roundtable will explore ways in which youth-focused NGOs can develop and implement more impactful programs that will create better platforms for Nigerian youth to participate fully in uplifting the status of the nation, socially, morally, economically and politically. The roundtable will be a practical interactive session, in which participant will share their experiences, which are premised on past and current youth-focused programs in order to identify ways to better their methods of youth involvement and engagement from conception to implementation phases of programs.

The roundtable will equally create an opportunity for youth focused NGOs to converge on a neutral platform to efficiently tackle persistent challenges faced by youth and strengthen the links between preventing youth problems and promoting youth preparation and development for effective participation. A core area of discussion will be on the incorporation of value orientation in all youth-focused programs. Based on shared experiences and knowledge-base, the roundtable will assist participants identify, facilitate and broker credible partnerships; offer new lenses for looking at old challenge and support on facilitating ideas into action and vehicles to reflect on lessons learned.

Propose of the Roundtable

This proposed roundtable will intensely highlight key issues relating to effective youth participation in nation building, identify their attributes and place these issues within a framework to stimulate discussion. The discussions will center on six thematic topics.

1. Nigerian youth and emerging challenges for positive contribution to nation building.

2. Youth Mentorship: Guiding youth on how to create the necessary conditions for the successful development of themselves, their peers, families, communities and the nation at large.

3. Accentuate the role of the youth in promoting and upholding civic values, identity and cultural specificities in the vanguard of building the Nigerian project.

4. Nigerian youth and social media: Using the social media as a viable digital space for youth to effectively engage in the discourse and debate of national issues.

5. Authentic and testes methods for youth engagement in project conception, planning and implementation.

6. Reawakening the Nigerian/African Value System: Incorporation of value reorientation in youth-focused programs and initiatives.

Structure of the Roundtable

The roundtable will be a 1-day event. Participants will make short presentations on the assigned topics at the beginning of each session to introduce and stimulate the discussion.  

This will be followed a question and answer session and discussion. 

The core objectives of the roundtable are to:

1. Review, share and exchange views, ideas, knowledge and experiences regarding engagement of youth in past and current programs.

2. Highlight the factors that promote or inhibit youth participation in nation building.

3. Develop progressive strategies on how to effectively reposition youth as national assets.

4. Discuss the incorporation and integration of core African values and value reorientation in youth-focused programs.

5. Chart new ways and methods for participation of youth in program conception, planning and implementation.

Project Outcomes

The roundtable will seek to achieve three primary outcomes:

1. Identify the issues and responses to challenges: The roundtable will attempt to map out the primary issues that promote of inhibit effective youth participation, examining both positive and negative effects and identify possible responses to challenges identified.

2. Value reorientation: The roundtable will examine the best ways on how to integrate value reorientation in youth-focused programs and initiatives.

3. Avenues for cooperation – The roundtable will explore possible avenues for future cooperation between and among participating non-governmental organizations.