By Obioma C. Appolos
Against the much expressed fear that Nigeria’s skyrocketing youth population would be a detriment to the progress of the country, the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone Country Director, Dennis Zulu, has said that the reverse is rather the case.
He added that with the enthusiasm he saw in many Nigerian youths, the country will become a powerful nation in all ramifications if the youths are equipped with the required skills needed for the future of world of work, and enabling environment that would channel the skills to positive production facilitated.
Mr Zulu, went on to say rather than being pessimistic about what he termed ‘Nigeria’s greatest asset’, government at all levels and Nigerians in their different strata should see the country’s growing youth population as an advantage to becoming a reckoning powerful nation in the world.
He then tasked government and giant business owners to get busy with structural planning which its focal point should be training and retraining the youths in the required skills that would usher in growth in every sector of the economy, investment in developmental projects and provision of basic amenities such as electricity that would fast track the desired development and of course, impactful economic growth.
Zulu in an exclusive interview with THE LABOUR, enjoined Nigeria government to take facilitation of business-thriving environment seriously ; as part of its conviction that a drastic action needed taken in order to prevent the country from falling into precarious state, and also as a commitment towards achieving desired goals.
“Government exists to provide an enabling environment, to facilitate a business-thriving environment for people to grow. That is one area Nigeria government need to do more, that is what the government and should be seriously doing.
“People talk about the growing number of young Nigerians in the country, yes it might be a challenge but it is also an opportunity and Nigeria’s greatest asset.
“There are some countries in the world that are facing human resource challenges, they don’t have sufficient men and women to do the work and their population is shrinking.
“If you have a growing youth population what does that mean, it means a growth in demand for certain things that young people need. If you are a business man that is a great opportunity to provide those needs because you have a growing consumer base and when you have an increased aggregate demand for goods and services propelled by a growing youth population, it means that it also propels the economy to grow.
“So if an economy is growing, obviously it is a cyclic of things. It is an ecosystem being established, it is an increase in demand, it is that companies are set up to meet the demand and these companies need employees to work for them and employees will generate income and that income will need goods and services. To cut the long story short about the future of work, we need to prepare, we know what the drivers are, we know what the issues will be, the question is are we preparing sufficiently and are we doing the right thing?”
Furthermore, Zulu praised what he called business oriented and surviving spirit enthusiasm that average Nigeria youth possesses. He then task government to seriously key into that spirit and do more to helping the youth. He also stressed the need to redirect some skills that youths have already acquired but are using on a negative direction , such as for “Yahoo Yahoo”.
“In Nigeria you say hustle. That itself shows the uniqueness that young Nigerians will not sit back and wait for government to make a difference for their lives. I see young Nigerians carrying sewing machines on their shoulder looking for business but in other countries the young person will sit with his sewing machine at the house waiting for customers to come and they won’t come.
“The drive that a young Nigerian has to carry a sewing machine or the stuffs used to fix shoes and walks around looking for business, tells you that there is something distinctively different. You speak to these people and you are amazed by the sort of ambition that they have. They say one day I would be able to drive a car or I will be able to afford housing that is the drive you need.
“Now, how has does government nurture that enthusiasm that is already there, the entrepreneurial spirit that is already there, the drive that is already there in the young Nigerian, by providing an enabling environment for them to be able to grow, there is need to facilitate and it is only when they facilitated that hopefully the opportunities will grow.
“On the “yahoo yahoo” issue, I was in Enugu a week ago speaking to the trade unions and I talked about “yahoo yahoo”. I spoke again about it in another meeting, I said look, let’s nurture that talent, let’s use that skill towards something productive for the country”.