Kwara: Empowering Youths for Development and Peace Building
Today, the world marks the 2017 International Youth Day (IYD), and the theme for this year's celebration is, "Youth Building Peace". Clearly, the theme underscores the contributions of young people towards building peace in their respective communities.
However, for any society to achieve lasting peace and sustainable development, its youth must be empowered and provided opportunities to reach their potential and aspirations. In other words, empowering the youth is a prerequisite for building peace.
Thus, as a government that understands the importance of youths towards peace building and development, the Kwara State government under the leadership of Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed considers it a priority to invest in human capital development and empowerment programmes for youths in the State.
At the inception of his administration in 2011, Governor Ahmed launched the Kwara Bridge Empowerment Scheme (KWABES) as a platform to generate reliable data of unemployed youths in the State and engage them in productive ventures. At the launching of the scheme, Governor Ahmed explained that his government’s desire to avert youth restiveness as a result joblessness led to the establishment of the scheme.
Consequently, no fewer than 2000 unemployed youths in the State were engaged under the scheme within the first 100 days of his administration, and more than 1000 of them have transited to permanent positions in the State civil service. The scheme was, however, suspended in 2016 to allow for a review and overhaul.
As part of efforts to promote entrepreneurship, the State government in 2013 partnered the Kwara State University (KWASU) to train 150 selected youth on entrepreneurship development and they were equipped with the necessary tools to become successful entrepreneurs. They also had access to N50million loan facility to start or grow their businesses.
In the same year, the government introduced a standard vocational skill acquisition programme under which, 60 master trainers were accredited to train participating youths in 23 trades. This led to the establishment of the Quickwin programme and more than 1800 youths participated in the skill acquisition programme.
Furthermore, in his drive to encourage youth entrepreneurship through vocational training, Governor Ahmed established the International Vocational Training and Entrepreneurship College (IVTEC) at Ajase-Ipo in Irepodun local government area of the State. IVTEC is designed to create a generation of highly employable artisans and prosperous youth entrepreneurs through the provision of market relevant skills.
The College is expected to commence operations in September with training in five vocational courses including Automotive, Masonry and Carpentry, Electrical and Electronics, Welding, as well as Heating, Ventilation and Air-Conditioning.
In recognition of the need to address gaps in engineering education and entrepreneurship, and to further position Kwara State for technological leadership, Governor Ahmed constructed an N800m Engineering Complex for the Kwara State University (KWASU), Malete. He also expanded access by subsidizing tuition at the university and has equally flagged off of the construction of two new campuses for the institution in Osi and Ilesha Baruba.
It is noteworthy to mention that KWASU has become the first institution to be accredited and approved to award degree in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering by the National Universities Commission (NUC).
The State government is also building a Computer Village in Ilorin, the State capital, which is expected to directly employ about 600 youths when fully operational, apart from the hundreds of indirect jobs that will be created in the process on its construction. The Computer Village is among the platforms being established by the State government for skill acquisition and entrepreneurship necessary for productively engaging the youths.
Access to finance remains a critical challenge to the growth of Small and Medium scale Enterprises (SMEs) in Nigeria – many potential young entrepreneurs lack access to capital to develop their business ideas or flourish their existing businesses.To this end, Governor Ahmed in 2012 launched the Kwara Micro-credit Intervention scheme to provide financial support to small and medium scale business owners. Under the scheme, priority is given to young people and women. An initial sum of N250m was approved by the governor to kick start the scheme. Till date, the State government has injected a total of N1.28 billion into the Scheme, leading to a turnover of about N3b as of today.
Similarly, the Kwara State government has provided several empowerment opportunities for youths in Agriculture. In 2013, over 100 youth were deployed to the New Yidi Fish Farm and another 300 deployed to the Malete Integrated Youth Farm. Additionally, the government is prioritizing youths and women in its Estate Farm Initiative under the Off-takers Demand Driven Agriculture (ODDA) scheme. In fact, youth farmers have oversubscribed the 2500 hectares of land cleared by the State government for farming activities.
Equally, the World Bank is supporting the Kwara State government through the Public Workfare (PWF) component of its Youth Employment and Social Supports Operation (YESSO) to provide immediate labour intensive work opportunities for unskilled youths from poor households in the State. The initiative is not only targeted at enhancing the capacity of the participating unemployed young people, but also create and improve social and economic infrastructure in the communities, just as the beneficiaries will be paid monthly stipend.
The intervention programme has since commenced in six pilot local government areas of the State, which Asa, Ilorin West, Kaiama, Moro, Ifelodun and Isin. A total of 1,511 beneficiaries from 164 communities across these six local government areas are participating in the pilot phase of the intervention programme. The beneficiaries are to work within the immediate vicinity of their communities without having to expend part of their stipend on transportation.
Also, the Kwara State government has facilitated various capacity building trainings for youth in the State, among which are honey production training for youths in Patigi, entrepreneurship development training in collaboration with KWASU, training of graduate engineers on power generation, distribution and transmission at the National Power Training Institute (NAPTIN), etc.
In March, the Kwara State government in partnership with Google, trained over 1000 youths on digital skills and online opportunities. The government also organized a sensitization workshop on business conceptualization/planning and how to access both local foreign loans and grants, which was attended by over 600 young ambitious entrepreneurs in the State.
Certainly, these programmes have created more opportunities for the youth and expanded economic activities in the State. The empowerment programmes have impacted positively on youth development and equally contributed to the maintenance of peace and security in the State.