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Akala said the issue of unemployment is probably the most significant development challenge this time for government both at national and sub-national levels including the Niger Delta region as the world battles with the COVID-19 pandemic.
He stated this during a virtual roundtable Themed ‘Re-imagining Youth Skills Development Program and Job Creation for Positive Impact in Post-COVID-19 Economy’, organized by the Foundation.
“So addressing the issue of unemployment is probably the most significant development challenge this time for government both at national and sub-national levels including our region, the Niger Delta, we need innovative approaches to skills development that will contribute to economic and growth post COVID-19 pandemic,” Akala said.
He attributed lack of access to economic activities to the problem of unemployment in the Niger Delta, which according to him, is a driver of conflict and youth restiveness in the region.
“As a matter of fact, the region has recorded some of the highest rates of unemployment in the country and in 2018 for example, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Akwa Ibom State reported the highest rate of unemployment,” the PIND Foundation Executive Director said.
“This stood at 37.7 per cent, followed by Rivers State with 36.4 per cent, Bayelsa 32.6 percent and Abia State 31.6 percent and so on and forth. And this was before the advent of COVID-19 pandemic.”
Quoting the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Akala said COVID-19 has been described as the most severe crisis since World War 11.
He added that with a 30.4 per cent economic shrink in Nigeria this year as projected by International Monetary Fund (IMF), due to COVID-19, the country’s jobless rate already at an average of about 23 per cent is expected to climb even higher.
The Niger Delta region would not be left out of this worsening unemployment situation, he said.
Speaking on the intervention by the Foundation to address youth unemployment, he stated that PIND came up with Niger Delta Youth Employment Pathway (NDYEP) in 2017.
“This project that we started in 2017 to address the issues of youth job readiness, work force development and jobs creation are being piloted in three states of Abia, Akwa Ibom and Rivers.
we focus on few sectors that were pre-selected: ICT is one of them and renewables, construction, agriculture and other emerging growth sectors showing potential for youth employment,” Akala explained.
According to him, “In the pilot phase, NDYEP has enrolled and delivered short-term technical, soft skills training and job/enterprise linkages to over 4,500 youth while over 1,300 youth who successfully completed the program have been supported to transition into internship placements, waged employment and entrepreneurship/self-employment.”
He explained that NDYEP is an innovative model that is designed not just to train but prepare youths including the young people living in the rural areas, women and persons living with disability with market relevant skills for securing sustainable jobs.
On the motives behind the roundtable, Akala disclosed that meeting was organized by PIND with support from Ford Foundation to share the key features and learnings from the NDYEP model and seek collaboration for demand driven job creation programming with state governments in the Niger Delta towards addressing prevalent youths’ unemployment in the region.
He said the Foundation sought to build knowledge and understanding on current approaches towards youth skills development and regional action to address post-COVID-19 youth unemployment dynamics.
“We want to be more consensus around the need for more strengthened regional collaborative efforts between states towards the adoption of and or adaption of the NDYEP practices and ultimately concerted determination in tackling youth unemployment in the Niger Delta. We want to stimulate the buying of the motivated states in the region to adopt or adapt more demand led youth model to NDYEP,” he said.
“PIND is willing to work in partnership with State governments through provision of technical support, to enable them develop the right kind of youth policies and youth employment programs that replicate or run on similar principles as NDYEP,’’ Akala affirmed.
Speaking at the meeting, Afolabi Imuokhuede, Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Job Creation and Youth Employment, stressed that it takes a collective effort of all stakeholders within the region, government and others to tackle the challenges of addressing unemployment in Nigeria and the Niger Delta.
Joe Keshi, Director General of the BRACED Commission in his keynote address asked policymakers to step up and address the most important challenges like unemployment and the growth of the private sector especially as the world enters the fourth industrial revolution.
PIND Foundation is a Nigerian non-profit organization established in 2010 by Chevron Corporation to promote equitable economic development and peace in the Niger Delta through multi-stakeholder partnerships.