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Nigeria’s Youth Face Growing Challenges

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Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa. It has approximately 210 million population. Nigeria has the third-largest youth population in the world, after China and India, with more than 90 million of its youth population under the age of eighteen. While this is considered as a huge human resource, the youth also face unprecedented challenges including growing unemployment and insecurity resulting from ethnic conflicts.

As Nigeria is persistently engulfed with so many challenges and problems, it requires systematic well-defined approach in order to overcome them and make way for peaceful and promising future for the youth. Retaining well-trained professionals has been identified as one of the goals of the government. The current situation still makes the future bleak for majority of them. Some say there is hope on the horizon, only if economic policies generate needed employment, youth policies backed by adequate funds by Federal Government of Nigeria.

In September, Kester Kenn Klomegah met with the former candidate of the Social Democratic Party (2019) for House of Representatives and now the President of the Middle Belt Youth Council, Hon. Emmanuel Zopmal, for an interview during which he talked about current situation, the challenges and the way forward. Here are the interview excerpts:

Q: Why the youth are showing increasing signs of frustration these few years especially those in middle belt of the Federal Republic of Nigeria?

A: That is very interesting. I would say that frustration, in any way, is part of human life. It could come at any time. There are conditions that make someone to be under frustration. In this instance, harsh situation or condition one faces in life without sign of overcoming it. This makes a person frustrated. It usually comes with worry over certain particular situation.

In the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Middle Belt is a region that has been under immense pressure from politics and economy. Then the socio-cultural condition has also influenced our lives. The worse now is the high insecurity existing in the country. These factors are, indeed, contributing to the frustration perception we’re talking about here. You can imagine a society of people facing these forms of structural violence for these several years and there is no sign of overcoming these situations.

Q: In your objective assessment, what has contributed to the growing unemployment in the country, considered as the Giant of Africa?

A: Unemployment is an economic index. It can be relative in nature. People are employed in formal or informal economy. The extent to which people need to live an average life with an appreciable level of income that can provide for basic needs should be the major concern of unemployment index. Unemployment perception varies as well. For example, there are two categories, those in the public sector and those in private.

Growing unemployment index can be attributed to mismanagement of the economy. Economy of every country determines how the country is structured, administered and managed for the benefit of the broad majority of the population. Without this, a country will definitely face high unemployment rate.

Secondly, the system of education plays a role here, the most important aspects that contribute to unemployment perception index. Innovative education produces a high quality of graduates who can create jobs. The standard of education should not be conservative. Research and public policy on education help to get out of this problem often referred to as unemployment.

Frankly speaking, it is difficult to understand why Nigeria claims the Giant of Africa. Perhaps, this claim is only by its huge population. Besides that, Nigeria is not a Giant of Africa.

Q: What are your views about the policies of the Federal administration in addressing problems of the youth, especially young graduates?

A: If the government focuses on research and policy, it will help in addressing the problems of youth. Anyway, one cannot actually measure what are the real problems of the youth, especially young graduates. As earlier mentioned, programs such as innovative education will help graduates to overcome employment challenges. Of course, innovation comes through talent or through research. This development can bring changes in the status quo. People will have access to new ways of doing things that help their lives. 

Q: Does the current constitution adequately guarantee youth’s welfare? What are the pitfalls in the implementation of aspects of the Constitution that connect or relate with youth?

A: Unfortunately, I look at welfare as benevolence. It makes the younger generation too dependent and unproductive since government provides their welfare. Youth empowerment should simply be a question of policy not constitution. Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution only provided policy, the issue of youth is not mentioned. It talks only about welfare of the “citizens” in the country. In my candid view, capacity of education and skillset of the youth should be the welfare package of our government.

Q: As former candidate of the Social Democratic Party (2019) for House of Representatives, do you still press for youth issues?

A: In the African context, I am still among the youth. Youth is my major constituency. As a former presidential candidate of the National Youth Council of Nigeria (2015), I had my youth policy programs as the key manifesto. I will continue to press for youth’s political participation, contemporary educational standard, skillset, and empowerment.

Q: And now as the President of the Middle Belt Youth Council, what do you consider as the main challenges and the way forward for the youth in Federal Republic of Nigeria?

A: At the moment, the future of our youth must be secured by curbing the ravaging insecurity in the country. With the current rampant insecurity, we cannot move forward. Secondly, the attitude of growing nepotism by government officials in public offices, this culture is bad for our youth. It has to be checked in order not to transfer it to the youth. Government has to take the youth as its national priority. Deliberate policy programs in technological advancement will open up the new horizon for the youth. The youth have to be fully engaged in meaningful activities.

MD Africa Editor Kester Kenn Klomegah is an independent researcher and writer on African affairs in the EurAsian region and former Soviet republics. He wrote previously for African Press Agency, African Executive and Inter Press Service. Earlier, he had worked for The Moscow Times, a reputable English newspaper. Klomegah taught part-time at the Moscow Institute of Modern Journalism. He studied international journalism and mass communication, and later spent a year at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. He co-authored a book “AIDS/HIV and Men: Taking Risk or Taking Responsibility” published by the London-based Panos Institute. In 2004 and again in 2009, he won the Golden Word Prize for a series of analytical articles on Russia's economic cooperation with African countries.

Africa

SADC Counts on EU and US for Security Funding in Mozambique

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The 16-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) is counting funding from the United States and European Union (EU) to support its proposed military deployment (3,000 troops) in Cabo Delgado, northern Mozambique, according to Andre Thomashausen, professor emeritus of international law at the University of South Africa (UNISA).

Thomashausen said that Pretoria “is desperately seeking” ways to strengthen and rehabilitate its military operational capabilities through the intervention in northern Mozambique and “SADC wants this entire operation to be funded by support from the European Union and, to some extent, the United States. SADC is envisaging a role for the European Union of financial rather than logistical or human resources support.”

SADC technical assessment mission has proposed sending a military intervention force of 3,000 troops as part of its response to help fight the militant insurgency in Mozambique. In terms of military assets, the SADC assessment team proposes that 16 be sent to Mozambique, namely two patrol ships, a submarine, a maritime surveillance plane, six helicopters, two drones and four transport planes.

On April 28, Southern African ministers have agreed to deploy a regional force in Mozambique. But the Southern African leaders meeting that was scheduled for April 29 to assess the security situation and offer the final approval for deployment of SADC military force was postponed due to unavailability of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi.

Botswana is the current chair of the SADC division, which is tasked with promoting peace and security in the region. Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi is quarantined due to Covid-19. Ramaphosa was busy giving testimony to an inquiry into corruption under his predecessor Jacob Zuma.

Botswana and South Africa along with Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, are the current members of the SADC security organ troika. The three would have met Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi at the summit to decide whether to accept the proposed intervention plan.

The insurgency broke out in Mozambique’s northeast in 2017 and the rebels have stepped up attacks in the past years, with the latest March 24 heinous attack left more than 2,800 deaths, according to several reports, and about 714,000 people displaced, according to government sources.

The worsening security situation is a major setback for Mozambique. While it hopes to reap nearly US$100 billion in revenue over 25 years from LNG projects, the state failed its pledge to maintain and enforce security after several warnings. Now French energy group Total declared force majeure on its €20 billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) project following the insurgent attacks. The gas project located about six kilometers from the city that suffered the armed attack in March.

In an official release, the Paris based Total officials said considering the evolution of the security situation in the north of the Cabo Delgado province in Mozambique, Total confirms the withdrawal of all Mozambique LNG project personnel from the Afungi site. This situation leads Total, as operator of Mozambique LNG project, to declare force majeure. The suspension of work arising from the “Declaration of Force Majeure” will remain in force until the government restores security in a verifiable and sustainable manner.

Besides that, Mozambique is rocked with frequent kidnappings. In a recent interview with Lusa, the president of Confederation of Economic Associations of Mozambique (CTA), the largest employers’ association in the country, Agostinho Vuma, said that kidnappings targeting entrepreneurs and their relatives are a negative feature of the country’s business environment.

In addition, a report by ratings agency Standard & Poor Global also said militant attacks in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province still pose a “significant threat” to production facilities associated with one the biggest natural gas discoveries in the world.

S&P, which ranks Mozambique’s foreign debt at CCC+, seven rungs below investment grade, said it expected economic growth in the country to recover in 2021 on higher mining output, especially linked to liquefied natural gas (LNG) production.

But that rebound was subject to completion of the gas projects in the face of mounting security risks, as well as risks of droughts and flooding. Mozambique was battered by two massive cyclones in 2019, and another hit its shores in this year.

“If this project comes on stream as expected by 2024-2025, it will benefit Mozambique’s economic outlook, and support wealth levels that are currently very low by global comparison,” said S&P. But most benefits will materialize beyond our current forecast horizon as gas production will likely come on stream in 2025 given the delays experienced in 2021.”

The ratings firm project gross domestic product (GDP) to expand 2.5% in 2021 after last year’s 1.25% contraction. It however sees economic growth to average 5.5% from 2022 onwards.

With an approximate population of 30 million, Mozambique is endowed with rich and extensive natural resources, but remains as one of the poorest and most underdeveloped countries in the world. It is one of the 16 countries, with collective responsibility to promote socio-economic and political and security cooperation, within the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

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Mozambique: Total Halts Gas Project, Parliamentary Opposition Parties Demand Accountability

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(image: Mitsui)

The French energy giant Total has finally announced suspension of its gas project and that will leave an unmeasurable impact on the economy of Mozambique.

The Mozambican government has largely failed with its security policy and ignored experts’ advice on security after several warning issued after militant bloody attacks bloody in 2017 by a group known locally as al-Shabab. Experts also attributed attacks to governance deficit and disparity in development in northern Mozambique.

Its scale raised doubts over the viability of the biggest single investment in Africa even before the latest raid. March’s attack on Palma took place just 10 kilometers (six miles) from the gas project’s nerve center, despite a government commitment to set up a 25-kilometre security radius around the site.

French energy giant Total has a massive multi-billion gas project in northern Mozambique, but has now declared a “force majeure” situation beyond its control, a legal concept meaning it can suspend fulfilling contractual obligations.

The declaration “will remain in effect until the Government of Mozambique has restored security and stability in the province… in a verifiable and sustainable manner,” the company said in its official release on April 26.

Meanwhile, the Mozambican parliamentary opposition parties have demanded “scrutiny” of the cost of war in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, accusing the government of “failure” and warning of the risk of the conflict being used for the “illicit enrichment of the elites.”

The requirement was made during the second and last day of questions to the government session in the Assembly of the Republic of Mozambique.

“The defense and security sector must be scrutinized, because elites in times of war use this sector for their illicit enrichment,” said Deputy Fernando Bismarque of the Democratic Movement of Mozambique (MDM), Mozambique’s third-largest parliamentary party.

Insisting on a reply to the question that the MDM had already posed about the costs of the fight against “terrorists” and the use of “mercenaries” in Cabo Delgado, Fernando Bismarque accused the government of making “a secret” of expenditure on the conflict in the north of the country.

“It is the Government’s role to render accounts to the Assembly of the Republic. It is not and should not be any state secret, because it is this House that approved the State Budget and we are within the scope of our constitutional and regimental powers to oversee government action,” the MDM deputy said.

Last week, the Confederation of Economic Associations of Mozambique (CTA) said Total had already suspended contracts with a series of businesses indirectly involved in the gas project.

The National Petroleum Institute (INP), a Mozambique government body that governs energy projects, similarly said that Total “may not fulfil contractual obligations and could suspend or cancel further contracts, depending how long the halt (to construction) lasts.”

The Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy, through the National Petroleum Institute (INP) gave an assurance in a statement that the Mozambican authorities are continuing to work towards the restoration of “normal security conditions” and ensuring that enterprise activities can resume “as soon as possible.”

The suspension of work arising from the “Declaration of Force Majeure” on Total’s LNG project in Mozambique will remain in force until the Government has restored security in the province in a verifiable and sustainable manner.

In the release, the Paris based Total officials said that considering the evolution of the security situation in the north of the Cabo Delgado province in Mozambique, Total confirms the withdrawal of all Mozambique LNG project personnel from the Afungi site. This situation leads Total, as operator of Mozambique LNG project, to declare force majeure.

That however, Total expresses its solidarity with the government and people of Mozambique and wishes that the actions carried out by the government of Mozambique and its regional and international partners will enable the restoration of security and stability in Cabo Delgado province in a sustained manner. Valued at €20 billion, it is the largest ongoing private investment in Africa.

About Total: Total is a broad energy company that produces and markets fuels, natural gas and electricity. Our 100,000 employees are committed to better energy that is more affordable, more reliable, cleaner and accessible to as many people as possible. Active in more than 130 countries, our ambition is to become the responsible energy major.

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NAM has a critical role to play: Interview with one of the most influential women in Africa

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Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, chair at the University of Mauritius, sworn in as the 6th President and the First Female President of the Republic of Mauritius (in 2015).

Forbes List noted her for the 100 ‘Most Powerful women in the world’ and 1st among the Top 100 Women in Africa (Forbes List 2017, 2019). The Foreign Policy’ Magazine listed her as one of the leading Global Thinkers.

What went through your mind when Mauritius majority political party asked you to run as President of the country? Especially given the fact that you had no prior political experience.

In the Republic of Mauritius, the post of Presidency is not a political post per se as the President has replaced the ‘Queen of England’ when the country adopted the status of Republic and thus becomes the Head of State. Executive power rests with the Prime Minister. When I was approached, I said to myself why not – if I can serve my country at the highest level. I am not the first scientist to serve in this position. Other commonwealth countries have done the same.

Gender equality is one of the principal Sustainable Development Goals. It is being debated globally at all levels. In Many African countries there is known to be gender inequality, is that an issue in Mauritius?

Gender equality or inequality is a global issue and that is why we name it on 8th March every year. Does the African continent have more gender inequality ? Good question !.. If we look at the political arena, Africa has some countries who are ahead in gender balancing in Parliament – South Africa, Rwanda etc.. 5 Ladies Presidents on the continent already..  In Mauritius since education became free in 1976, there has been an increase in the feminization of several key sectors including the judiciary, education, medical profession etc.. So I will say that work is still in progress in Mauritius and on the African continent.

What has been your experience regarding this issue during your career and your presidency?

Gender inequality has been pervasive throughout my career. The pecking order is in place and all the way up to the position of Head of State. Patriarchy is omnipresent but I was lucky when I was growing up and I had a cheerleader like my father who taught me that I was capable of doing anything. This boosted my self confidence and from then on, I could take many calculated risks in my life and my career. Risk taking is not taught in any business school, it is an innate feeling that must be inculcated in any young girl. Stereotyping destroys the self confidence in many girls and many are lost as they climb the professional ladder. Societal pressure does not help either. It is time to dao away with these prejudices if economies are to thrive. It has been said ad nauseum that educating a girl is not the right thing to do but the smart thing to do !..

In precolonial Africa there was mostly no (or very little) gender inequality which we may see today. Is it so with Mauritius?

A: I think in pre-colonial days, there were so many other challenges that women rights issues may have not been at the top of the agenda. Nonetheless, in Mauritius the right to vote for women came during the colonial days.

Studies show that women do not take opportunities as much as men do, how do you think nations should encourage young women to take a seat at the table? 

It is cliche to say that women do not seize opportunities. Women are denied opportunities at all levels and so much so that words like ‘quotas’ keep coming up in conversations. Since the CEDAW meeting in Beijing in 1995, many of the gains for women have been reversed only during the Covid era. We have seen so many women losing their jobs; those operating in the informal sector could not access the stimulus package that the government was offering because of the legal status of their business and also one cannot turn a blind eye to domestic violence !

Your Excellency, you are a very fascinating woman, being both religious and a scientist, Is there ever a contradiction in being a woman of god and a woman of science? 

A: There is no incongruity in being a woman in science and one who believes in the Majesty of the Creator. Science is a tool that helps us understand the wonders of the living world and its perfection. We are just cobblers when we say that we are protecting the planet. We are not protecting the planet. We are protecting our survival on this planet. In fact Nature does not need us. Again Covid has amply highlighted this when wild animals took over our cities when we were indoors.

Not only women in politics but also women in science are probably not prominent in Mauritius and perhaps in the sub-Saharan region. Are there any projects you are involved in or keen on?

There are still very few women in science and women in politics for our own good. This applies to Africa and to the whole world. We must empower our girls and our women in all walks of life if our economies are to thrive. An educated woman is one who will take the right decisions for her family, society, country and eventually the world. I am keen on sustainable development goals. They are all ‘systems’ and if we get them right, we will definitely ‘… leave no one behind’..

In a few nations in Europe we have seen it become a law that a certain number of women have to be in positions of power in corporations, in Africa, specifically the sub-Saharan region is that something that could happen in the foreseeable near future? 

Weneedlaws to be able to ensure more female representation as otherwise it will not happen.

Mauritius is a multicultural nation, with nationals from different ethnic and religious backgrounds. What has been key in preventing cultural fragmentation within the country?

In Mauritius, we are a population of immigrants and we all hailed from elsewhere. This has been a powerful reckoning. We are perhaps one of the few countries in the world where you can find a church,  a mosque and a temple within one square kilometer. Over the years, we have developed a way of living together which remains unique in the world. There is a tendency for cultural fragmentation especially at election time but fortunately the social fabric is strong enough to weather this down. At the level of the Presidency, I have always encouraged interfaith and intercultural dialogue. This helped whenever there was any sporadic intercommunal tension.

Transforming and improving the Tech and scientific field in Mauritius (and greater Africa) has been one of your priorities. But big parts of Africa are still dealing with instability in many areas. How would you see the realization of these innovative goals in the current unstable environment in which many African countries fall within?

Mauritius and the African continent are already straddling the 4th Industrial Revolution. Our region is going to have to run before crawling in the light of the potential and challenges that the sector will bring. There are huge potentials if we invest in the right ecosystems that will empower the youth. 4IR will transform how we do business and Africa is blessed with all the necessary material resources. We have to make sure that it works for its people.

How do you think Mauritius and many other African countries should strengthen the integrity of public institutions and government officials? 

There is no doubt that institutions matter. The legacy of all leaders must be strengthened when they leave office. It’s a culture that must be inculcated in our youngsters. Having said this, one must not forget that for every corruptor there is a corruptee !..

As a former president, academic, entrepreneur, and scientist, what is your priority now, and did the political experiences hape your new inhibitions? 

The political world provided me with a pedestal of substance to get my words out. My message will remain the same. We need 100% of our human capital, we need quality education, we need the best institutions, an ecosystem that will empower young people so that a better tomorrow is within reach.

What advice would you give young women today in the workforce?

Dream big but set yourself goals and know that there is nothing in this world that you cannot do.. Take risks and deliver on your promises to yourself… 

What are your thoughts on the current discussions of the Vienna Process?

Past Brexit, the EU Europe is perceived to becoming smaller and more fragile, while the non-EU Europe is growing more detached and disenfranchised. At this moment in time while the world is still in the grips of the unfolding crisis, there is a rallying call for more integration. On the medium to longer term, an integrated and united Europe will be necessary. The world will emerge as a multipolar world and a united Europe will help ensure peace, security and also the much needed multilateral system to tackle global issues. The Vienna Process seems indispensable for the future of Europe, and we in Africa will observe it as an interesting model to learn from.

Lastly, do we need an reinvigorated Non aligned movement today or it is movement of the past?

Some of the members of the NAM are presently among the G20 countries which produce over 80% of the Global GDP. I think that with two thirds of UN Member States, the Non-Aligned Movement has a critical role to play in forging global solidarity and help address global challenges. The NaM marked important past, but has certainly its bright future, too.

***

Ameenah Gurib-Fakim (GCSK, CSK, PhD, Dsc) has been the Managing Director of the Centre International de Développement Pharmaceutique (CIDP) Research and Innovation as well as Professor of Organic Chemistry with an endowed chair at the University of Mauritius. Since 2001, she has served successively as Dean of the Faculty of Science and Pro Vice Chancellor (2004- 2010). She has also worked at the Mauritius Research Council as Manager for Research (1995-1997).

Ms Gurib-Fakim earned a BSc in Chemistry from the University of Surrey (1983) and a PhD from the University of Exeter, UK (1987). During her academic journey, she has participated in several consultation meetings on environmental issues organized by international organizations. Between 2011-2013, she was elected and served as Chairperson of the International Council for Scientific Union – Regional Office for Africa, and served as an Independent Director on the Board of Barclays Bank of Mauritius Ltd between (2012-2015).

As a Founding Member of the Pan African Association of African Medicinal Plants, she co-authored the first ever African Herbal Pharmacopoeia. She has authored and co-edited 30 books, several book chapters and scientific articles in the field of biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. She has lectured extensively across the world; is a Member of the Editorial Boards of major journals, has served on Technical and national committees in various capacities. Elevated to the Order of the Commander of the Star and Key by the Government of Mauritius in 2008, she has been admitted to the Order of the Chevalier dans L’Ordre des Palmes Academiques by the Government of France in 2010 and is the recipient of 5 DSc (s).

Elected Fellow of several academies and societies, Ms Gurib-Fakim received several international prizes including the 2007 l’Oreal-UNESCO Prize for Women in Science, the African Union Commission Award for Women in Science, 2009.

On 05 June 2015, she was sworn in as the 6th President and the First Female President of the Republic of Mauritius and served in that capacity until March 2018.

She was elevated to the Order of GCSK by the Government of Mauritius, and received the Legion d’Honneur from the Government of France in 2016. In 2017, she received both the lifelong achievement award of the United States Pharmacopoeia-CePat Award and the American Botanical Council Norman Farnsworth Excellence in Botanical Research Award. In 2018, she received the Order of St George at the Semperopernball, Dresden, Germany. In 2019, she received the ‘Trailblazing award for political leadership’ by the World Women Leaders Council in Iceland. In 2020, she was elected Honorary President of the International and Engineering Institute and received their 2020 5th IETI Annual Scientific Award. She also received the IAS-COMSTECH Ibrahim Memorial Award from the WIAS in Jordan. In 2021, she received the Benazir Bhutto Lifetime Achievement Award.

In June 2016, she was in the Forbes List for the 100 ‘Most Powerful women in the world’ and 1st among the Top 100 Women in Africa Forbes List 2017, 2019. She is honoured as one of Foreign Policy’s 2015 Global Thinkers.

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