By Kayode Matthew
LAGOS — In the face of current global economic downturn which has been taking its toll on Nigerians, Nigeria is on the threshold of reaping an enormous economic dividend where over 30 million of her citizens will be lifted out of poverty and an average Nigerian could be three times richer in the next 20 years.
According to a report commissioned by the British Council, youth will be the country’s most valuable resource in the 21st century and by 2030, it will be one of the few countries in the world with young
workers in plentiful supply.
The report which will be presented to the public in Abuja today has been compiled by an independent task force made up of prominent Nigerians, convened by the British Council as part of its work to provide opportunities for young people around the world, with the aim to spark debate about the needs of young people, and policies to harness their potential.
"The report which explores Nigeria’s future at a time of rapid demographic, social and economic change, however, cautioned that the country faces a demographic disaster if it fails to create opportunities for its young people.
The report entitled: “Next Generation Nigeria — Dividend or Disaster” said: “Nigeria stands on the threshold of what could be the greatest transformation in its history. Youth, not oil, will be the country’s most valuable resource in the 21st century. By 2030, it will be one of the few countries in the world with young workers in plentiful supply.”
The report stated that the benefits of this to Nigeria were clear as the average Nigerian could be three times richer by 2030 and over 30 million people will be lifted out of poverty if the country continues with recent economic growth, improves education and health standards, and creates jobs.
The report, however, added that the risks were as great as the opportunities.
According to the report, “if Nigeria fails to plan for its next generation, it faces serious problems as a result of growing numbers of young people frustrated by a lack of jobs and opportunities. If these young people are healthy, well educated, and find productive employment, they could boost the country’s economy and reinvigorate it culturally and politically. If not, they could be a force for instability and social unrest.
"Nigeria needs to create 25 million jobs over the next 10 years and move its focus away from oil, which contributes 40 per cent to national GDP, but only employs 0.15 per cent of the population”.
The task force includes Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Managing Director of the World Bank and former Nigerian finance and foreign minister; Frank Nweke, Lamido Ado Bayero, Donald Duke, Pat Utomi, Maryam Uwais— all serve in an independent capacity and not as representatives of any organisation.
The study was led by the Harvard School of Public Health and involved an academic team drawn from universities in Nigeria, USA and the UK.
As part of the research, young people across the country were asked for their views in a series of debates, and in an online questionnaire.
Chair of the British Council, Vernon Ellis, who will be visiting Nigeria for the first time since his appointment in March, will also be at the public presentation of the report.