The Chairman of the United Bank for Africa (UBA), Mr. Tony Elumelu, has stressed the need to unlock the potential of youths in Africa to catalyse the socio-economic development of the continent.
According to Elumelu, youth restiveness remains a ticking time-bomb in the continent. He noted that countries in the region would continue to face issues around extremism, banditry, robbery, senseless killing, kidnapping and political thuggery, among others.
The Founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation said this in an address he delivered to 21,000 youths at the Joshua Generation International Youth Conference organised by the Anglican Church at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State, yesterday.
He pointed out that Africa was the world’s youngest continent, saying that almost 60 per cent of the country’s population is under the age of 25.
In Africa, youths of 35 years and under are estimated to constitute 70 per cent of the population of the country, he said.
“However, the jobless rate in Nigeria has now risen to about 30 per cent in March 2021. Some states have as high as 56 per cent of all their youth population as unemployed. In Africa, the situation is not much different: We have 65 per cent 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.”
To the Chairman of Heirs Holdings, to address this challenge, there is 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.
While speaking on the power of entrepreneurship, Elumelu said: “For me and my colleagues at UBA, at TEF and the across the HH 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 prioritise 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 in his remarks commended the Nigerian Government with regards its approach to taxes for micro, small and medium sized enterprises stating, ‘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.’