By Chijioke Okoronkwo and Lizzy Okoji
Over the years, state and non-state actors in Nigeria have laid emphasis on skills development and acquisition as a veritable tool for youth empowerment and economic growth.
Further to this, governments at different levels and non-governmental organisations, among others, have initiated numerous skill development and acquisition programmes to supplement the efforts of tech-based institutions, skill acquisition and vocational centres.
Irrespective of this, none of the skills development efforts have creditably translated to hands-on realities vis-à-vis bridging the skill gap in the country.
Analysts say the problem could probably be attributed to lack of adequate financial backing, proper engagement and dearth of facilities.
To solve the challenge, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), under the aegis of the African Union Commission and the German Cooperation plans to trigger skills revolution in Nigeria.
At two-day stakeholders’ meeting in Abuja, Ms Estherine Fotabong, Director, NEPAD Continental, said NEPAD would invest 35 million euros in youth empowerment and skill development in Nigeria, Tunisia, Algeria, Cameroon and South Africa.
She listed some of the areas of focus as construction of facilities, rehabilitation and extension of facilities, purchase of workshop equipment and entrepreneurship/mentorship programmes.
Other areas include information communication technology-based approach to skill development and regional/continental skill competition.
The director said that skill development institutions, vocational institutions, technology-based institutions, apprenticeship training centres and non-governmental organisations, among others, were eligible to apply.
“They will not just be trained but equipped with managerial ability to coordinate their skills and businesses.
“Applicants will be guided and supported with information and material; projects will be selected by a NEPAD-led investment committee.
“Implementation agreement will be concluded between the applicant and NEPAD,’’ she said.
Fatabong explained that there would be three funding windows such as the intercontinental which attracted one million euros to 1.5 million euros; large investment projects which attracted three million euros, and innovation which attracted 200,000 euros to one million euros.
According to her, the deadline for application to the intercontinental window is May 30, while the deadline for application to the large investment window is the second half of the year.
Fatabong said that further details could be obtained at NEPAD’s: www.skillsinitiative-for-africa.com.
In her speech, Mrs Gloria Akobundu, the National Coordinator, NEPAD Nigeria, said that the programme would boost skill acquisition and address unemployment in the country.
She said the initiative had been officially inaugurated by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Babachir Lawal.
“This is a project commissioned by the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, Germany, to be implemented by the Deutsche Gesellshaft fur International Zusammenabeit and the KfW Bankengruppe.
“This initiative will cover the period 2017-2020 and it is aimed at supporting institutions and vocational training centres to strengthen the occupational prospects of young people, especially for women and youth.
“The project is meant for the grassroots people, we want to empower them, all we need to do is to prepare our youths and women for tomorrow,’’ she said.
Akobundu said that a NEPAD team would embark on an awareness tour to all states of the federation soon.
She said that the aim of the tour was to re-introduce NEPAD programmes in Nigeria and take its mandate to the door step of those at the grassroots.
Akobundu said the target of NEPAD in addition to vocational skills acquisitions for youths was to produce employable youths in the country.
The national coordinator implored the private sector to employ beneficiaries of its skills acquisition training.
According to her, NEPAD Nigeria is working towards producing a data base of youths who have passed through its skills training programmes to private companies and investors in Nigeria for job opportunities.
“We want to make our youths employable because the complaints by most private sectors and investors are that Nigerian Youths are not employable which is why they would rather import their own labour.
“We are targeting as much youths as we can to benefit from this programme and who would have access to starting funds and starter kits to become self-reliant,’’ Akobundu said.
Similarly, the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, said the ministry would collaborate with NEPAD to bridge the gap on access to technological innovations to promote the skills of Nigerian youth.
He said the depth of knowledge and the level of quality of technology input to natural resources would determine the capital gain drivable, employment generation potential as well as technology learning.
“The application of such knowledge in the production of goods and services within a virile national system of innovation would lead to industrial growth and sustainable economic development,’’ Onu said.
In the same vein, Malam Adamu Adamu, the Minister of Education said the ministry was committed to partnering with NEPAD on providing Technical and Vocational Education and Training.
“We are part of every intervention and activity that will lead in getting our young ones out of the streets and make them productive.
“The relationship between Federal Ministry of Education and NEPAD has been a very long standing one and this time around, we will consolidate on it,’’ he said.
Sharing similar sentiments, the Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Sen. Aisha Alhassan, said the empowerment programme of NEPAD was within the core mandates of the ministry.
She said the ministry was committed to empowerment of women, children and other vulnerable groups in the society.
“We have joined other countries of the world to adopt the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which focuses on reducing hunger, poverty, diseases and inequality.
“It is, therefore, pertinent to know that addressing issues of women, children and Persons Living with Disabilities and other vulnerable groups is key to achieving SDGs,’’ she said.
In a remark, Mrs Lola Olaopa, the representative of the Special Assistant to the President on SDGs, also commended NEPAD Nigeria for its empowerment programmes and interventions.
She pledged the partnership of the SDGs office with NEPAD in the implementation of the empowerment programmes.
To boost partnerships on developments, Mr Babachir Lawal, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, said NEPAD in collaboration with the Federal Government was targeting to electrify 80 per cent household in Nigeria by 2040.
He said the government hoped to achieve the improved electrification under the NEPAD’s Programme of Infrastructural Development in Africa.
According to him, the NEPAD Sustainable Energy for All Programme is one of the programmes of NEPAD Nigeria to facilitate the development and growth of the energy sector in Nigeria.
In a communiqué adopted at the end of the meeting, stakeholders advised NEPAD to focus on addressing skill gap by implementing agriculture projects in the country.
The stakeholders also urged NEPAD to use the initiative to address skill gaps in the area of agro-processing, poultry production and agriculture value chain in line with the current administration’s change agenda on economic diversification.
They advised NEPAD to address skill gap in vocational skills like welding and mechanics, among others, in the six geo-political zones.
They also suggested that the implementation of the initiative should be inclusive through a bottom-up approach to accommodate diversity.
All in all, stakeholders are of the view that the NEPAD skills initiative should be accorded immense importance if the Nigeria was to catch up with the rest of the skill-driven world.