Official Announcement Of The UNDP Nigeria Jubilee Fellows Programme On 02/06/2021

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I think everyone agrees that one of the biggest structural challenges facing us as a country is unemployment, especially youth unemployment, and it is easy for even the best of our efforts to be no more than a drop in the ocean when you consider that every year, about two million young people join the Nigerian labour force.  This is the equivalent of the entire population of some countries here in Africa and elsewhere.


We absolutely must create good-paying jobs and employment opportunities for our young people, for those already in the labour market today and the ones who will join tomorrow.  This is a task that is complicated by numerous employability issues including the mismatch between skills and the good jobs available.  The most obvious examples are new skill sets required in commerce, industry, services and the professions especially those brought about by the digital economy.


Along the same lines, job losses on account of digitization require reskilling for relevant opportunities.  I was reading about 3-D or Additive Manufacturing as an example, threatens low-cost manufacturing jobs which in years gone by solved the unemployment problem in developed and emerging economies. But today with 3-D manufacturing, they are no longer available. But as John Hart a professor at MIT said “We are still learning what 3D printing can do today.” The convergence of digital design, the Internet, and low-cost automation is certain to open up new vistas. All that it will do in the future is something we don’t know yet.” One thing we know is that whatever those challenges may be, clearly there are fresh opportunities.


The Covid 19 pandemic has added urgency to the situation as it may have irreversibly altered the way we work, learn, and play. But all of these are new opportunities and young people in Nigeria, in particular, see those opportunities and time and time again, as I talk to young people, it is very evident that as far as they are concerned, these are challenges to be met. Frankly, I haven’t come across one young person who doesn’t have some ideas. The question is, how do we fund these ideas and advanced them? Young people are just incredibly creative.


The other day, I was talking to a group of young Nigerians who are involved in digital currency, bitcoin and how practically everyone is involved in the whole blockchain experience one way or the other. There is no question at all about the enthusiasm, energy and creativity of our young people, and their ability to try out anything and dare even what would seem to be difficult.


The Nigeria Jubilee Fellows Programme, for which we are here today, is important especially as it fits into some of the efforts we are making as a government, some of the initiatives of the administration to comprehensively address youth unemployment.


This is a massive challenge as it has been pointed out already but our ongoing efforts include the N-Power Scheme, which recruits young graduates and places them in agricultural, health and education intervention schemes in local communities around the country. N-Power also has a non-graduate scheme focused on technical skills and IT education. The President has approved the expansion of the N-Power programme from 500,000 beneficiaries to one million beneficiaries.


We have also established a N75 billion youth fund in the Ministry of Youth and Sports to provide credit and support for young entrepreneurs and professionals. I think it is in phases of N25billion every year and that has already kicked off. Mr. Lamin Barrow (AFDB’s Ag. Senior Director) also just spoke of the $500 million AFDB Technology and Innovation Fund.


Also, under our Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP), designed to protect existing jobs, create new ones, and promote local production. Our agricultural, housing and solar power programmes already employ and will employ tens of thousands of people to ensure food security, and deliver affordable homes and new power connections. I am particularly excited about the solar connections, the renewable energy initiatives under the scheme. Several companies run by many young people have applied for this scheme and some of them are already receiving the credit they require to be able to participate in this programme.


The Nigeria Jubilee Fellows Programme is in very good company; a new and bold addition to an existing suite of large-scale, big-impact programmes that will rewrite the narrative as it relates to jobs, skills and employment in Nigeria.

As we have heard, the Nigeria Jubilee Fellows Programme will create internship opportunities for young Nigerians who have recently concluded the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme. These fully paid internships will last for 12 months and will be in reputable private and public sector organizations across the country. The idea will be for the participants to gain relevant career and life skills that will enable them to transition seamlessly into professional, business or public sector careers, while also earning a living along the way.


It is our belief that this programme will bridge the gap between the skills and capabilities of recent graduates, and the real-time human resource demands of the labour market; connecting the graduates with opportunities to earn as they learn, and to gain the required experience. At the end of each cohort, the fellows should have gained the required experience and skills they can either use immediately or build on subsequently.


The programme is named in honour of the 60th anniversary of Nigeria’s independence and the plan is to start with 20,000 Fellows in this first year of the programme. This is 20,000 fresh opportunities that will be paid for by this internship programme. We are looking forward to the President formally launching the programme very shortly.


I would like to especially appreciate the UNDP, Mohammed Yahya and the European Union in particular Ketil Karlsen, (Mo and Ketil) for their personal commitment in helping to make the Jubilee Fellows Programme a reality, putting their people to work on this initiative and providing the funding along with the Federal Government for the design and take-off.


The quality of implementation will be the key to the success of the Jubilee Fellows Programme. We are resolute in our determination to make the needed difference and to rebuild the confidence of our young people in the ability of their government to rise to the occasion and guarantee a future that is better and more prosperous than the past.


On this note let me once again thank everyone who has been involved in the planning, design and implementation of the Jubilee Fellows Programme. As we prepare for the formal launch of the programme by Mr. President, I urge private sector leaders who are present here and captains of industry, development partners and the diplomatic community, to support this programme aimed at equipping young Nigerians with skills and experience required for the workplace of the 21st century.


I thank you all very much for participating in this and we certainly look forward to the early reports of the great successes that we expect from this programme.


Thank you very much.