The United Nations Environment Ecosystem Based Adaptation for Food Security Assembly (UNEP-EBAFOSA) recently stated that the biggest problem of African countries, including Nigeria, is youth unemployment. The UN agency also revealed that Nigeria must create 11 million new jobs every year to solve the problem.
The regional coordinator of the UNEP-EBAFOSA, Dr. Richard Munang, disclosed this at the UNEP-EBAFOSA Nigeria policy harmonisation meeting for the implementation of the Economic Recovery Growth Plan (ERGP) and Climate Action in Abuja. The importance of the meeting, according to UNEP regional coordinator, is to help Nigeria implement its climate obligations in such a way that opportunities can be created for the youth. Munang also pointed out that Nigeria is even worsening the problem by importing tomato paste worth $360 million every year. Besides, Nigeria is reportedly losing N9 billion every year due to post-harvest losses. This is one challenge that African leaders must quickly resolve before the situation explodes. Also, the President of EBAFOSA-Nigeria, James Oyesola, reiterated that the youth should be engaged more now than ever before in view of the rising unemployment in the country. Available statistics show that the general unemployment figure in Africa is about 32 per cent with youth unemployment alone responsible for 60 per cent of it. In Nigeria, the 2018 NBS statistics point to 23.3 per cent unemployment figure with youth unemployment at over 40 per cent. Nigeria has about 98.3 million hectares of arable land of which 72.2 million hectares are cultivable. Regrettably, only 34.2 million hectares were cultivated. While over 53 million Nigerians remain undernourished, 65 per cent of Nigerians are food insecure.
We bemoan the rising youth unemployment in Africa, especially Nigeria, which has enough arable land for agriculture. At the same time, we commend the UN agency for bringing to the fore the rising unemployment problem on the continent and how it can be tackled through agriculture. Therefore, we call on Nigeria and other African countries to tap their agricultural potentials and create more jobs for the unemployed youths. We can go back to the era of groundnut pyramid, cocoa plantation, oil palm and rubber. We must also cut our appetite for foreign foods. Nigeria should stop the importation of tomato paste said to be costing the country a whopping $360 million yearly. It is also sad that the country loses N9 billion yearly due to post-harvest losses alone. The nexus between youth unemployment and the insurgency in the North East region of the country cannot be overemphasized.
Therefore, the government should rise to the challenge and create millions of jobs for the unemployed youths to stem the insecurity in the land. Government can only do this by diversifying the nation’s economy through agriculture and the development of the solid minerals sector. They should more investment in agriculture and the solid minerals to change the nation’s unemployment narrative. The continent is in dire need of resources to build her basic and critical infrastructure that can hasten its industrial development. It is sad that many countries in Africa lack basic infrastructure such as good roads, potable water, transportation and functional health and education systems.
African countries should exploit arts and culture as well as sports and tourism to create more jobs for the youths. These countries must invest in scientific and technological education. We say this because no continent or nation can develop without adequate knowledge of science and technology. For science to take root in Africa, African leaders must provide the enabling environment.
Therefore, there is need for these countries to pay attention to technical, vocational and entrepreneurial education with emphasis on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). We believe that this kind of education can equip the beneficiaries with the necessary tools to overcome unemployment and even be self-employed. Nigeria should establish more technical and vocational schools as a way of solving the rising unemployment among her youths.