With the recent approval of National Youths Investment Fund of N75 billion by the Federal Executive Council, designed to finance youth-led innovations in three years, experts who spoke to Funmi Ogundare commended the government for setting up the fund, saying that more of such initiatives and programmes will be required to empower Nigerian youths and redirect them to opportunities for engagement and change
Youth unemployment in the country has been a growing concern. This problem has led to increased rate of violent crimes, kidnappings, restiveness and socially deliquent behaviour among them.
Data from the National Bureau of Statistics reveals that Nigeria’s unemployment rate as at the second quarter of 2020 was 27.1 per cent indicating that about 21.7 million Nigerians remain unemployed.
The country’s unemployment and underemployment rate representing 28.6 per cent, is a combined 55.7 per cent. The data also reveals the worst-hit are Nigerian youths with over 13.9 million currently unemployed.
In Q3 2018, the last time the report was released, there were about 13.1 million Nigerian youths unemployed. Youth between the ages 15 to 24, have about 6.8 million Nigerians out of jobs and another 7.1 million also unemployed.
With these scary statistics, rather than having the youths engage in various vices, the Federal Executive Council (FEC), during a virtual meeting held towards the end of July, approved the establishment of a N75 billion National Youth Investment Fund (NYIF) geared towards enabling the teeming population of Nigerian youths to be economically motivated for sustainability.
The Minister of Youth and Sports, Mr. Sunday Dare, who spoke on the initiative, said the youth bank was meant to support enterprise among the country’s youths between ages 18 and 35.
The fund is meant to create a special window for accessing credit facilities and financing on the part of youths that will help to fund their ideas, innovations and also support their enterprise.
According to a statement issued by his media office, Dare said the scheme would target 500,000 youths annually, adding that a minimum of N25 billion would be disbursed yearly and for the next three years.
For the remaining part of 2020, he indicated that an initial sum of N12.5 billion would be needed to commence NYIF.
According to him, “providing a less cumbersome access to credit and finance for the average Nigerian youth with an approved work plan or business idea will help lift thousands of youths out of poverty and birth a whole generation of entrepreneurs.”
Each fund approval will range from N250,000 to N50,000,000, with a spread across group applications, individual applications, working capital loans set at three years, with single digit interest rate of 5 per cent.
He said the fund is part of youth-focused programmes already put in place by the Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government as part of a national plan to combat youth unemployment and drive innovation, fuel entrepreneurship and support youth SMEs.
Already, Buhari has given directives to the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning alongside the Central Bank Governor to disburse the fund.
The minister said: “The disbursement of funds will be through various channels, including, microcredit organisations under the Central Bank of Nigeria supported by the Bank of Industry, Fintech organisations and venture capital organisations registered with the CBN.
Some stakeholders who have been monitoring the initiative, commended the government for setting up the NYIF in promoting innovative ideas among the youths, and called for more of such initiatives.
In his submission, a former Rector, Lagos State Polytechnic and President, ULDA, Oshodi Multipurpose Cooperative Society Limited, Chief Olawumi Gasper said the development of the implementation framework must take into cognizance the dynamic changes being witnessed globally, in the youth empowerment eco-system.
“These are changes defined by technological advances, digitisation and quality of technical skills, growing Small Business Owners (SBOs) from the youths, redirecting youths to areas of greater opportunities in the economy and enterprise education.”