– OMODOT JACKSON
Every society is unique and dynamic. It continues to experience major changes in the worldview, concepts and practices, and the youth in it play a vital role in its growth, whether positive or negative. The potential of the youth population is considered a high priority in terms of actualizing any country’s shared goals and vision for economic growth and social prosperity, development and responsibility.
In a Population Numbers Estimate in the year 2020, nearly 60% of Africa’s population is younger than 25 years old. Consequently, these numbers show that more attention should be focused on the youth as it is them who determine the nation’s trajectory. It is however sad that a 2020 World Bank estimate shows, according to an article in the This Day Newspaper, that 1 million young people will attempt to enter the job market over the next decades with only less than half of them finding formal jobs. Judging from the recent happenings in Nigeria, one would agree with this estimation, as these statistics are starting to manifest in Nigeria and other African nations.
The young members in any society make up the generation that will reap the benefits or suffer the consequences of the current choices made in society, according to an online publication in 2018 by “wearerestless.org”. It is therefore important for young people to take a leading role in policy change and development as they have the power to make a real lasting effect on the world. However, one impediment to young people actualising their full potential is the fact that they do not have access to information or the right support to participate in decision making. They are neglected in the developmental processes that take place in their communities. More so, training sessions with an aim to equip young people in social accountability and awareness on civil rights are often unpopular in communities when compared to food handouts. One would surmise that without financial independence and basic needs to live a fulfilled and decent life, young people will not be in a position to take part in significant policy making, hence leaving their potentials locked.
There have been constant threats to the smooth running of schools in Nigeria, for one, especially in public tertiary institutions. Schools have been partially or completely closed, leaving an indelible mark on the process of learning. The incessant strike actions by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has continued to threaten the academic development of the youth, leaving a void that has charged civil societies and individuals to call on the federal government and the members of ASUU to work in a consolidated and responsive effort to curb the pandemic effects of the protracted strike and see that students in public universities have a safe return to school.
The potentials of the youth have been hampered across cultures and genders. There is a constant rise of reports of teenage pregnancies and HIV infections. This has really hampered the girl child, causing a rise for the need to decrease related risk behaviours amongst young women and girls by providing viable opportunities through capacity-building programmes that addresses personal, social, and economic empowerment. Sadly, this is widely neglected in society, causing a rise of vices in society. The male child, on the other hand, faces constant neglect and is left to fend for himself, causing a rise in moral decay and an exponential rise in crime rate and other social vices. In the quest to solve these problems, there is a need to believe in the importance of continuity in creating a balance in society for both male and female genders and imbibing good morals from critical development stages to adulthood.
Cross River State is one of the States in Nigeria with a plethora of talents and potentials among its youths. In a survey carried out by Accountability Lab Nigeria, in collaboration with Ford Foundation, 2021, it is revealed that lack of political will by elected representatives has remained one of the factors causing underdevelopment in some communities in Cross River State. This limits the prospects and potentials of the youth, leading to a decrying of the cases of impunity within the system, and the need to work towards building accountability and improving on the decision-making processes through citizen engagement and inclusion, especially the youths.
The youths need a change of mindset, in order to realise the potential of using their voice. Young people, with the right information, have the power to make sustainable development a reality if they take leading roles. The right to be heard, for young people, is indispensable, just and necessary. Youth engagement in development issues still does not match population statistics. They are neglected in the policy process, and this has caused a need to rise and get the youths more involved in policy making processes and decisions. Before considering the plethora of resources and untapped potentials in the youths of Cross River State and in extension, Nigeria, there are three key areas that must not be neglected and must be paid adequate attention to help the youths to unlock their potential for economic development:
i. the expansion of economic opportunities for the youths,
ii. inclusive social norms and practices, and;
iii. removing barriers to leadership.
On the expansion of economic opportunities for the youths, youth unemployment rate has remained above 40 percent over the past three decades – reaching as high as 60 percent with the COVID-19 pandemic. With a lack of opportunities and a mismatch between skills gained through education and skills demanded by employers, as many as 45 percent of the youths have considered emigrating from Nigeria to other countries with better economic opportunities. The private sector and government need to work together to increase employment opportunities and address barriers to employment for the youths. There, also, has to be training for youths in skills to prepare them to meet the economy’s demands, and provide access to resources to establish and expand businesses. Designing and producing products, selling services, paying taxes, making consumer choices, critiquing marketing, and saving money are some of the ways young people affect the economy. Through education, action and empowerment, youth engagement in economics can lead to social transformation and engagement in a range of ways. In an article published in 2015 by “Freechild Institute for Youth Engagement”, economic literacy is the start; economic engagement, critical thinking, and reimagining the economy expand from there, forms the base for youth engagement in economics.
On inclusive social norms and practices, supportive households, communities, and organizations are essential for the youth to realize their potential. In cooperation with the government and the private sector, there has to be interest and encouragement for the adoption of positive social attitudes and values that enable meaningful economic, political, social, and civic engagement through youth initiatives, advocacy, training, and social media discussions.
On the issue of removing barriers to leadership, enabling the youth to participate in, and occupy meaningful leadership roles in society and the economy, is essential to the growth of any nation. There should be market-driven initiatives, such as on-the-job training to help provide the youth with the skills needed to participate in the economy and prepare them to manage their own lives. Civic and political engagement programmes must involve the youths in decision-making and create pathways for participation in public life. There should be interest and engagement in programmes that will strengthen the regulatory and institutional frameworks that underpin youth’s ability to assume leadership roles within their families, communities, and workplaces, which will in turn provide them with the needed ideas and experience in leadership and self-development. Efforts must be made to ensure that these expositions are not gender based, but carries both male and female genders along, as this will help to create a balance in society.
There are limitless opportunities and possibilities for the youths in Cross River State, in terms of business, investment opportunities, agribusiness investment, healthcare, energy, Gas-To-Liquid Investment, mining, investment in tourism, oil and gas exploration, entertainment, haulage business, infrastructural development, real estate, fintech, and a religious consciousness that guides the activities of the people in the state, making it secure and peaceful for investment, tourism and commerce. These opportunities are mostly untapped and should be made a reserve for the youths, as they have the manpower, vigour and the capacity to spearhead the affairs of the resources in the state. To attain a better reach of some of the major pointers to the endless opportunities and resources in the state, and how the youths can unlock their potentials through these resources, it would be pertinent to consider these resources in the light of the extent to which they have been explored and proffer possible solutions to the challenges facing the full exploration of these resources.
Cross River State is very peaceful and offers less fears of theft and attacks on investments facilitated by individuals across the state. One cannot entirely rule out criminality in a state occupied by people of different ideologies and beliefs about life, but the applause is there for Cross River State for their ability to establish and enforce policies that have helped to curb crime rate. This element of peace has helped to unlock the potentials of the youth living in the state, in terms of business development and investment.
There should be investment and interest piqued in the development of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with continued and increased investment in facilitating soft grounds for budding entrepreneurs. These SMEs should then go on to provide technical, hybrid, functional, instructional and sentinel services to the people, training others in the process, solving human needs and broadening the horizons of businesses within the state.
There are endless investment opportunities in Cross River State for the youths that can help to unlock their potentials for economic development. For one, Cross River State is blessed with a lot of natural resources in both aquatic and terrestrial habitats. These plethora of natural resources and the fact that most of the average people living in the state can afford their daily needs offer an ambience that businesses and investments need to thrive with intentional liberal economic policies which make way for veritable market for these potential young investors with a readily available and trained personnels whom they can partner with to effectively and efficiently manage the resources weighed into such an investment and generate huge profit.
Some of the natural resources in abundance in the state that the youths could invest in to unlock their potentials and boost economic productivity include, but are not limited to;
Oil palm is a major export commodity to other parts of the world, and in large quantities. By-products from oil palm industries are used for the production of feeds for livestock, domestic brooms, brushes, foot-mats, as well as timber for the construction of houses. Oil palm is one of the major industrial crops found in the 18 Local Government Areas in the state. The end-products of oil palm are many and when properly harnessed will aid the growth of the mainstream industries which can extract and refine the oil from the manufacturing industries, who will in turn produce vegetable oil, soaps, margarine, glycerine, candles, detergents, polish, etc. There should be awareness among the youths to pay attention to the enormous potential end-products that can be generated from oil palm, and provisions should be made by the government to have some of these end-products from oil palm processed here. This will not only create employment for the youths, it will also empower them with the knowledge to research and expand on the products that can be got from oil palm.
Oil and Gas
The oil and gas sector is key to Nigeria’s economy and is a very viable sector open to both local and international investors who are interested in the down and upstream sectors exploration and exploitation, gas development, conversion and crude oil marketing.
Cross River State is an oil rich Niger-Delta State. It is one of the major petroleum producing states in the country. There are enormous opportunities in the oil and gas sector that can help to unlock the potentials of the youths in Cross River State. There are untapped opportunities for the youths available in seismic data acquisition, processing and geotechnical engineering, oil field service companies, gas-power industries, marginal fields, etc, if properly explored and given adequate attention.
The agricultural sector offers investment opportunities for the youths in both local and international proportions for both production and consumption, with an abundance of raw materials that can be used to produce a variety of goods. Agriculture proves to be a low-risk investment that keeps pace with inflation and increases in value over the long-term. If given adequate attention and the needed investment by the government through the youths, there will be increased exploits in technological advancement, and a renewed interest in the economic potentials of the agricultural sector, away from the dependence on oil.
Agriculture should be given a place of pride, not just in Cross River State, but in Nigeria as a whole. There is a vast vegetation across the 18 local government areas in the state. Food crops like cassava, yam, cocoyam, maize, rice, cowpea, melon, plantain, vegetables, banana, pineapples, African peas, etc, are found in commercial quantities across all the local government areas in the state.
Cash crops like oil palm, coconut, rubber, raffia palm, melina, kolanut, etc, are found across the state and are cultivated in large quantities by a large percentage of the population. The economic potentials of growing these crops must be looked into, with the youths at the forefront of piloting the affairs of the agricultural sector in the state.
Tourism is another area of investment that could enhance the growth of the economy and have a direct impact on the youths, hence, helping them to unlock their potential. There are beautiful places in Cross River State for showcasing the natural Nigeria. If tourism is given more attention, it will help to unlock the potentials of the youths in the state, which will in turn play a major role in boosting the economic growth of the state.
Cross River State has grown to become one of the most active entertainment hubs in the country. There are a lot of intriguing and entertaining outfits within the state for the youths to explore and use to unlock their hidden potentials.
In conclusion, barring the difficulties within the Nigerian system, in terms of the prospects it offers the youths living in the country, there are potentials in the youths that can be unlocked for the growth of the nation. The plethora of potentials available through the resources available in Cross River State, for example, when properly harnessed, will not only cause the state to accumulate wealth; it will unlock limitless and achievable opportunities for the youth, and cause the state to rise above her contemporaries, boosting production in the process and causing economic development.
2022, World Bank Poverty Report.
May 2022, Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS) Inflation Report.
Presidential enabling business environment. State House. Retrieved October 4, 2022, from https://statehouse.gov.ng/policy/councils-committees/presidential-enabling-business-environment-council/
Reimagining the nations’ future by unlocking the potential of our youth. This Day. Retrieved October 3, 2022, from https://www.thisdaylive.com/index.php/2021/08/12/reimagining-the-nations-future-by-unlocking-the-potential-of-our-youth/
Young people untapped potential. We Are Restless. Retrieved October 3, 2022, from https://wearerestless.org/2018/10/30/young-people-untapped-potential/
Youth and economics. Free Child. Retrieved October 4, 2022, from https://freechild.org/2015/12/28/youth-and-economics/
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