Several scholars, civil society leaders gathered in Ibadan, Tuesday 14th December 2021 at the MasterCard Research Workshop at Carlton Exclusive Hotels Ibadan to discuss challenges grappling the development of Youths in Africa in a bid to find a lasting solution to it.
The event, sponsored by Partnership for African Social and Governance Research (PASGR) in collaboration with MasterCard Foundation had scholars, researchers, policymakers, leaders of civil societies, government functionaries, members of the traditional institution, and students in attendance.
In opening the session, Dr. Babatunde Ojebuyi who is the Nigeria research team head and lecturer at the University of Ibadan pointed that the workshop with the theme; “Young Women and Men’s Aspirations and Resilience: Prospects for Livelihoods, Employment, and Accountability before, during and beyond” is targeted to cross-culture, aggregate and obtain both organic, and informed-based views on the impact of Covid-19 on African youth and how they are responding to its accompanied economic turmoil. According to him, the workshop focuses on Nigerian youth, their resilience, and prospects for livelihood. It will also be used to identify and select stakeholders that will be critical for the project’s success he added.
Making his presentation on the topic; “how are Nigerian youth responding to the challenges of aspirations under Covid-19 regime”, one of the panelists who is a renowned public affairs analyst, and Director of CASO METROPOLITAN COLLEGE, Azeem Oladimeji Salako observed that despite the opening of business activities that clampdown for a long period stemming from the effort to slow down the spread of Covid-19, he said the grievous and pertinacious implication of Coronavirus remains a major concern. He noted that although governments are relaxing restrictions of movement and have also commenced the provision of the coronavirus vaccines, nonetheless the disease has originated a far-reaching economic, social, and political turmoil that seemed to be above what the most imaginative person can predict.
The political science scholar said it was good to know that MasterCard Foundation is concerned with knowing the implication of the Covid-19 regime on Nigerian youths, and how youth aspirations can be motivated and assisted going forward. He argued that “exiting the state” has become the major approach/response that youths have adopted reacting to their odious economic situation worsened by Covid-19.
He went on to clarify that exiting from the state does not share the same meaning with physical movement out of Nigeria’s border which he lamented has even been on pre-Covid-19 regime. The exiting from the state he explained implies giving up on the Nigerian state as an entity ready to motivate their aspirations or assist the accomplishments of their innovations. He argued that this development has contributed to both legal and illegal economic participation amongst Nigerian youth. He said on legal means, there is an increase in entrepreneurship/self-employment which are majorly in areas of digital and social investment, while the illegal means include a spate of cyber-crime, blood money, robberies, prostitution, and other illegal occupation.
Adding to this, Salako who is also a doctoral student at the University of Ibadan shared his experience as an entrepreneur in Post COVID-19 lockdown. He recounted that after staying at home idling for more than a year, the first challenge reopening the office was how to offset, and renew the rent that was neither in use nor productive. He noted that some persons like him were more unfortunate having landlords with no passion and compassion for youths’ aspirations, and worst still, they demonstrate total disarticulation and insensitivity to the harsh reality that confronts young people. Even at the peak of COVID-19, I was served notice to quit for not renewing my rent, ostensibly a few days after the expiration of the previous one. They can be that unreasonable. He said in cases like these, compounded with a politicized governance environment, responses from young people are most likely going to be violent, pervasive, with little or no resilience to cope legally.
The public affairs analyst disagreed with the opinion insinuating that the government in Nigeria has failed to provide opportunities to motivate and assist the aspirations of young people under the COVID-19 regime. Rather he said opportunities such as loans, grants, social interventions, etc. abound but the politicized governance environment has made access to it determined by political patronage, cronyism, party identification, and the quest for regime stability. The implication of this he argued culminates into providing opportunities to the jobless and not the unemployed. The evidence of joblessness is simply being without a legitimate occupation, and not necessarily because you want to be engaged, but the unemployed people are those who want a job but cannot get it. He added that the MasterCard foundation must be wary of this horrible reality so that when implementing the thirty million job agenda, it will be mindful of the level and extent to involve government if the government’s involvement is a must.
Other panelists added their views on the need for more decisive government policy, provision of an enabling environment, addressing legal encumbrances, taxations, defocusing agriculture, and supporting innovations in the expanding entertainment sector were among their recommendations.
Delivering the closing remarks, one of PASGR lead researchers Professor Ayobami Ojebode explained that the research became imperative because Mastercard Foundation seeks to provide employment opportunities for a significant number of African youths by 2030. Therefore the foundation contracted a respectable research organization to provide it with credible data to implement the youth employment project. The research organization which is PASGR had to get notable and credible coordinators for each of the African countries.
These credible coordinators for Nigeria were found at the Department of Communication and Language Arts, the UUniversitysity of Ibadan in the persons of Professor Ayobami Ojebode and Dr. Babatunde Ojebuyi, Nigeria Project Country Principal investigator, ably assisted by their Research Associates, Ms. Busola Oluwajulugbe and Aminu Oluwafunmilayo. The inception workshop held today hopes to foster discussion and information sharing among stakeholders to collaboratively design the research and enhance uptake of the evidence emanating from the research.
The event witnessed contributions and critiquing of the research methodology from both the panelists and members of the audience, ending with photography sessions, and sideline networking. Additionally, members of the ‘Utafiti Sera’ House (platform) were constituted for continuous engagement on Youth Aspirations and Resilience in Nigeria. The members include Prince Adetayo Adeknl and Mrs. Oluwatoyin Adeyemi both of whom were also panelists at this highly rated town-gown event.