The Federal Government on Wednesday said the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AFCFTA) would create huge job opportunities for the youth.
Dr Jumoke Oduwole, Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Ease of Doing Business, gave the assurance at the first African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) Centre of Excellence for Unemployment and Skills Development, at the University of Lagos.
Oduwole was the guest speaker at the event.
The three-day event, which is also the first blended international conference, with participants attending both physically and virtually, would end on Friday.
The conference had the theme: “The Deepening Youth Unemployment Crisis in Africa Occasioned by the COVID-19 Pandemic: What Options Available for the Rescue?”
According to the guest speaker, the Federal Government is exploring every opportunity to ensure that jobs are created for the youth who are its biggest resources.
”We have the AFCFTA starting in January 2021. We have signed it, we have ratified it.
“It is a huge opportunity for Nigeria to create jobs by making sure that we support businesses to do a lot of progressive interventions and generate employment.
”It is an opportunity for Nigeria to spread across Africa; so we are very delighted,” she said.
She described Nigerian youths and entrepreneurs as the most dynamic.
“We are here for them. We are working toward making things more flexible, whether it is for starting a business or growing it.
” We are working toward a brighter future for our youths as we are mindful of them.
”They are our main priority and every intervention now is targeted at lifting them out of poverty,” she said.
According to her, the conference is a landmark since it talked about unemployment challenges in Africa.
”I have just presented on what African governments can do and are doing to address unemployment challenges in a coronavirus era.
”This administration has really been working to tackle unemployment through various programmes such as the N-Power and Anchor Borrower Programme.
”We have so many things we are working on and we will continue to work on the Ease of Doing Business because that is really the anchor.
”When you have an economy that is vibrant, then it is competitive. The Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council is a venture that I am privileged to lead.”
Oduwole said that disruptions by the COVID-19 pandemic were a major cause of unemployment across Africa.
She was, however, delighted that in spite of their fragile healthcare institutions, African countries had been able to address the pandemic.
”When you see what is happening elsewhere, you will give thanks to God, but it is a wake-up call; so we are putting a lot of investment into our healthcare facilities,” she said.
In an address of welcome, the Vice-Chancellor, University of Lagos, Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, said that emphasis must be laid on equipping the youth with diverse skills.
”We, in the University of Lagos, have concluded plans to partner with two local council developments, Igbogbo in Ikorodu and Lagos Island West, to train some of their youths.
”One of the key areas which the universities contribute to the development of the country, apart from teaching, learning and research, is community development.
“Our contribution to community development is to enter into collaborations.
”We are collaborating with some local governments and are going to use these two local governments as a pilot scheme.
“They will bring 20 or 30 of their youths depending on how many we can accommodate.
”The programme can run for three to six months.
“We will expose them to areas such as information technology and entrepreneurship depending on the programme they come up with.
”The participants are not going to pay, it is the local governments that will arrange for their coming here.
“Ours is to provide the facilities, the resource persons and others. We will also expose them to the fabrication laboratory,” Ogundipe said.
He said that the participants would be issued certificates at the end of the training.
Dr Sunday Adebisi, Director of the ARUA Centre of Excellence for Unemployment and Skills Development, said that countries were faced with increasing unemployment due to economic meltdown occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to him, an observation of researchers over the years is that little attention is paid to systemic research on tackling youth unemployment.
He said that for the reason, ARUA designated one of its centres to research into viable solutions that could bring an end to the ugly trend.
Adebisi said that the centre would focus on engendering strong collaboration among researchers and experts in Africa, stressing entrepreneurship and skills development as intervention tools.
Prof. Tony Bailetti of the Carleton University, Canada, said that there was an urgent need for Africa to set priorities that would enable combining the youth with domestic and foreign resources to create value.
He added that developing processes to activate youths to create value for many stakeholders and increase capabilities to operate globally, could be another major panacea for unemployment.