Nigeria’s Youth Face Growing Challenges
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.
Republic of Ghana to host PanAfrican Mall
The capital city of Accra, Republic of Ghana, hosts the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). The AfCFTA spearheads the operations of the continental single market, a mega project of the African Union (AU). In a parallel development, a Pan-African Mall (PAM), set to become one of sub-Saharan Africa’s historic landmark mall for shopping.
The first of its kind, Pan African Mall is aimed at a more inclusive retail concept being introduced in Africa in furtherance of trade and socio-economic development and facilitation in alignment with the AfCFTA, considering it will accommodate businesses from several African countries and economic classes.
For shoppers, the experience will be all inclusive yet unique. PAM looks at “fostering multilateral socio-economic development and ties between African economies,” Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry of Ghana, Stephen Amoah, during the sod-cutting ceremony marking the start for construction of Pan-African Mall.
Minister of Trade and Industry of Nigeria, Otumba Adeniyi Adebayo, praised the investors for their commitment to the project and their dedication to the development of Africa.
In her speech, Chairman/CEO of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM), Abike Dabiri-Erewa said that they would provide mortgage financing for Nigerian business owners in Ghana, which should further be a boost.
The project is being spearheaded by Brains and Hammers Ltd (Ghana), in collaboration with Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation(NIDO), who are committed to the economic growth, job creation and empowerment of Africans. Brains and Hammers Ltd is a real estate and infrastructure construction, development and management company.
According to Mallam Bashir Patty, the Managing Director of Brains and Hammers Limited (Ghana), “the mall will have over 400 shops and over 300 workstations for those who can’t afford shops.”
The mall is functionally designed and will be replete with facilities and amenities, including but not limited to roof-top garden, 150 ground and basement parking spaces, banking halls, office spaces, restaurants, adequate supply of portable water, renewable energy supply and other environmentally sustainable features and elevators – a modern state of the art mall with eco-friendly facilities and environment.
As Chief Calistus Elozieuwa, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees for Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation – Ghana Chapter (NIDO), said: “This is a mall to be owned by Africans, not only Nigerians and Ghanaians because of the spirit of integration on the continent in terms of the area of trade.”
Andrew Achampong-Kyei, Managing Director of GLICO General Insurance also reiterated that they would offer guarantees to the investors and shop owners and had designed a special policy i.e the rent to own, which enables an investor make substantial regular rent payments towards owning the shop.
The mall is aimed at contributing to sustainability and youth employment, including women and the disabled. It is, however, expected that the shopping mall becomes accessible to its customers and favorite shopping destination to purchase various goods and services. There are plans to include foreign products from the most desired retailers to meet the needs of customers.
By managing every aspect, the mega mall offers its customers a simple, secure and convenient solution to shopping directly from many of the best brands in the world. The PAM welcomes all African traders to take advantage of the fully secured state of the art shops and the mall. The construction is planned over a period of two years.
South Africa Faces Deep-Seated Economic and Energy Crisis
South Africa, highly considered as an economic powerhouse, is in deep-seated crisis. Energy deficit has crippled industrial operations and supplies for domestic use has largely been reduced. Unemployment is rising and cost of living becomes unbearable across the country. Social discontent, as a result of the crisis, has engulfed every corner in South Africa.
Reports monitored here say South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa and his cabinet on May 7 held an extensive meeting with key business leaders as concern over the country’s energy crisis, logistic constraints and close ties with Russia grow. Attendees discussed collaborating to obtain inclusive growth, inspire confidence in the economy and create jobs, the Presidency said in an official Twitter post.
Five years after Ramaphosa ushered in a wave of business optimism that he’d revive the economy crippled by industrial-scale corruption under his predecessor, executives are running out of patience with the president, who is seeking reelection next year.
Economic stagnation stoked by record daily power cuts, rampant crime, disintegrating infrastructure and foreign policy missteps is leading investors to the exits. Yields on the benchmark 10-year generic government bond have risen 129 basis points this year to 12.1%, foreign buyers have been net sellers of the nation’s stocks and the rand has plunged 11%.
Executives including Daniel Mminele, Nedbank Group Ltd.’s chairman, and MTN Group Ltd.’s Chief Executive Officer Ralph Mupita have called for urgency in resolving domestic hindrances to economic growth and warned the country is at risk of becoming a so-called failed state. Others such as FirstRand Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Alan Pullinger have criticized the country’s relationship with Russia. The government’s indifference to the war in Ukraine and its friendship with Russia is “foolhardy in the extreme,” he said.
Early March, reports also warned that South Africa’s banking industry faces a “profound geopolitical risk” from the government’s close ties with Russia. South Africa has drawn criticism from some of its biggest trading partners, including the United States and the European Union, over military exercises it conducted with Russia and China. Those countries have also censured Ramaphosa’s administration over its abstention from United Nations resolutions condemning Russia’s war with Ukraine.
“Our government’s left-leaning enthusiasm for China and Russia is being noticed by countries vehemently opposed” to the war in Ukraine, FirstRand Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Alan Pullinger said at an investor briefing in Johannesburg. The government’s indifference to the war and its friendship with Russia is “foolhardy in the extreme,” he said.
South Africa’s banking industry is dependent on access to international markets, global clearing and settlement, Pullinger said. The country risks consequences because of its stance on Russia, he said. “Our collective access is a privilege; it is not a right and it can be revoked with ease,” Pullinger said. “FirstRand does not share our government’s enthusiasm for Russia.”
With an estimated population of 58 million, South Africa is the southernmost country in Africa. It is bounded to the south by 2,798 kilometres of coastline that stretches along the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans; to the north by the neighbouring countries of Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe; and to the east and northeast by Mozambique and Eswatini.
Civil Society Engagement at the Core of US-African Relations in Multipolar World
United States has held its 8th annual civil society forum to review progress, examine challenges and renew interest in forging ways to strengthen relations with Africa. United States has the largest African diaspora which has close-knitted business, educational and cultural links with the African countries. This helps to support official efforts in promoting relations with Africa.
The conference was a hybrid event that brought together civil society organizations, business, and government leaders from across Africa and the United States virtually and in person. The purpose of the gathering was to advocate for a ten (10) year Enhancement/Extension of AGOA benefits from 2025 to 2035, support the African Union’s Agenda 2063, including the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Areas and an African Customs Union, and to come up with recommendations on the way forward.
Since its passage by Congress on May 18, 2000, and signing into law on October 2, 2000, by President Bill Clinton, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) has been the cornerstone of U.S. economic engagement with the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).
AGOA is a long-term commitment with broad bipartisan support. On June 25, 2015, Congress overwhelmingly approved the Trade Preferences Extension Act (TPEA) of 2015, and on June 29, 2015, President Barrack Obama signed TPEA into law. TPEA reauthorizes AGOA and the associated “third Country fabric “provision for ten years through 2025.
Congress passed, and the executive branch implemented three prior legislative enhancements of AGOA, with significant bipartisan support in 2002, 2004, and 2006.
The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to strengthening US-Africa trade and commercial relations and engaging Congress on the next steps for AGOA.
In December 2022, the African Union Ministers of Trade from the AGOA-eligible countries met in Washington, DC, at the request of Ambassador Katherine Tai, USTR, “to have a full and frank exchange of views on how to work together to improve the utilization rates under AGOA and ensure that the program can be an effective tool for development.”
At those high-level engagements, there was consensus that there is a need to extend AGOA beyond 2025. The recommendation has been tabled before the US Administration. During the meeting, Ambassador Tai, the African Ministers, and the Africa Group of Ambassadors also underscored the following:
• An extension of AGOA for at least ten years with the inclusion of ALL African countries
• The importance of Africa speaking with One Voice in all US-Africa trade and investment engagements; and,
• Enhanced commercial diplomacy between the US and Africa. There was also agreement that South Africa would host the next AGOA Forum in August/September this year.
United States Trade Representative (USTR) Ambassador Katherine Tai is committed to robust trade and economic collaboration with Sub-Saharan Africa. USTR Tai believes that Africa is the future. On-going discussions are taking place with African nations, including negotiations between Kenya and the U.S. regarding a strategic trade and investment partnership.
Stringent requirements from the various U.S. trade regulatory authorities and the limited industrialization capabilities in Africa are factors for the very low utilization of AGOA benefits. As a result, only a few product lines, such as fossil fuels, vehicles, clothing, textiles, and currently, Beef, are exported from Africa under AGOA.
Under-utilization has caused African exports to the U.S. under AGOA to decline from USD 78.01 billion in 2013 to USD 28.19 billion in 2022, resulting in a setback for Africa.
African countries are devising methods to improve export diversification, growth, and industrialization, including developing regional and continental value chains. These efforts present a tremendous opportunity for US companies to take advantage of the market provided by the African Continental Free Trade Area.
Succeeding in the African Continental Free Trade Area, a market with enormous growth potential, requires investing.
Each State participating in the African Continental Free trade agreement retains its national external tariffs. Exporting into this market will generate tariff charges.
Creating an African Customs Union will allow for a shared external tariff and pave the way for Africa to establish free trade agreements with trading partners.
American companies can enjoy duty-free exporting from their home bases, and Africa is in a better position to grow US-Africa trade with the African Customs Union in place.
A renewed U.S. policy on AGOA should prioritize investment in specific sectors, such as Trade, Financial Services, Health, Climate, Food Security, Tourism, and Logistics, including Gateway Initiatives and the Digital Economy.
Targeted U.S. investment conducted in partnership with businesses and institutions in each AGOA-eligible country, and per their respective utilization/transition plans, will catalyze American investment and technology, encourage innovation, instill U.S. values and best practices throughout Africa, create more jobs for youth on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, and fill in gaps in markets across the continent in preparation for the African Continental Free Trade Area and the African Customs Union.
Africa is the major consumption hub of the future. The general population is young and increasing, the African middle class is also growing and with it, demand for industrial goods is 1.5 times higher than the global average.
The issue of low utilization rates of AGOA benefits needs to be addressed. Studies show that nations with AGOA Country Strategies have higher utilization rates than nations without country strategies, and these countries use AGOA benefits to create good-paying jobs.
The utilization rate of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) and all U.S. preferential trade programs for Least Developed Countries (LDCs) has decreased. AGOA is the only U.S. preferential trade program with a positive utilization rate of about 1.6%.
The metric and measure of AGOA’s success should be contingent on RETURN ON INVESTMENT, not its short comings.
AGOA’s cost to U.S. taxpayers is nominal especially compared to U.S. investment in Development Aid to Africa.
AGOA’s non-oil imports have risen approximately 307% to $5.7 billion in 2022, while AGOA’s apparel imports have singularly increased by more than 280%.
AGOA has created hundreds of thousands of new direct jobs and millions of indirect jobs in Africa in the textile, agricultural, and automotive industries and more than 500,000 in the U.S.
The economic impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic and Putin’s Conflict in Ukraine poses a threat to US-Africa trade and investment, US-Africa strategic alliances, and gains made over the last two decades using the benefits of AGOA. AGOA has incentivized marketbased economies that safeguard private property rights, the rule of law, political pluralism, and the right to due process. It has also enhanced healthcare and education access while protecting globally acknowledged workers’ rights. All these achievements are now at risk.
AGOA remains a transformative success story. Despite AGOA’s challenges and areas of needed improvement, AGOA serves as “proof of concept” at a small financial cost to the U.S. taxpayer, which did not exist 20 years ago.
Africa is the major consumption hub of the future. The general population is young and increasing, the African middle class is also growing and with it, demand for industrial goods is 1.5 times higher than the global average
The region of Africa is too significant to ignore. Simply giving inspiring speeches and using diplomacy will not be enough for America to regain its economic and commercial leadership in Africa.
Members of Congress want to see AGOA benefits shared widely and used to create goodpaying jobs across Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA); members are open to discussions on ways to build on what is working, and deliberations by members and staff on the future of the legislation are ongoing as re-authorization is approaching in 2025.
There is interest on Capitol Hill to see how investment can be coupled with trade to address poverty reduction and advancement in targeted sectors, such as health care, critical minerals, and others.
Work in Progress Financing helps micro, small, and medium/smallholder farmers to increase productivity and create jobs.
Investing in a Special Purpose Investment Fund and taking advantage of tax incentives should be seen as an opportunity for the American public to support the growth of youth, effective governance, innovative ideas, strategic alliances, and the vast potential of African markets.
Congress never intended for AGOA to be permanent – it is a Trade Preference Agreement (TPA). And all TPAs must meet standards and requirements set by Congress.
Out-of-cycle reviews provide African nations with the opportunity for reinstatement once the sanctions have been addressed.
When AGOA is up for renewal, there is a decline in trade figures across the board, particularly in the apparel sector. Uncertainty regarding extending AGOA affects investment potential in AGOA-eligible countries. Extending AGOA for ten years will stimulate investment in AGOA-eligible countries.
AGOA needs to be extended as most people, especially women, and SMEs, are just beginning to learn about AGOA when the current legislation is about to expire.
Recommendations: During the event, delegates made the following recommendations:
1. The Biden-Harris Administration and the 118th Congress enhance and extend AGOA benefits for ten years from its current September 2025 sunset to September 30th, 2035, to support the African Union Agenda 2063 and the creation of an African Continental Free Trade Areas and African Customs Union – critical tools necessary to utilizing trade to strengthen U.S.-Africa strategic alliances.
2. Expand AGOA benefits to all 55-member states of the African Union from the current 49 Sub-Saharan African countries.
3. The U.S. must deliver on commitments made to Africa during the US-Africa Leaders’ Summit, including a $55 billion pledge to support the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the creation of a new Digital Transformation with Africa (DTA) initiative intended to invest more than $350 million in financing Africa’s digital transformation.
4. The AGOA CSO Network and private sector stakeholders, with the support of the 118th Congress, the Biden-Harris Administration, and the African Union Commission, to establish a $5 Billion Special Purpose Investment Fund (SPIF), with tax incentives to catalyze U.S. investment, technology, innovation, shared values, and best practices throughout Africa.
The 8th Annual AGOA CSO Network Spring Conference, under the theme ‘Extending AGOA to 2035’ was jointly coordinated by the AGOA Civil Society Organization (CSO) Network Secretariat and The Foundation for Democracy in Africa (FDA), in partnership with the Institute for African Studies, The Elliot School for International Affairs and George Washington University.
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