The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on Saturday called for increased investments in health, education and entrepreneurship development to unleash the potential of youths in the country.
Dr Diene Keita, the Country Director, UNFPA Nigeria, made the call at the 25th Annual Teenage Festival of Life (TFL), organised by an NGO, Action Health Incorporated (AHI), in Lagos.
TFL is a forum that enables young people and relevant stakeholders to identify the plights of youths through artistic presentations with a view to enlisting them as critical stakeholders.
Theme of the festival was: “Harnessing Demographic Dividend by Investing in the Potential of Young People”.
AHI is dedicated to promoting youths’ health and development to facilitate their successful transition to adulthood.
Keita, represented by Dr Omolaso Omosehin, the Director, UNFPA Lagos Office, said that the United Nations had realised the need to do more for youths to enable them to take up their positions in the affairs of life.
“If we decide to invest properly in our children in the areas of health, education, entrepreneurial skills development and good governance that will ensure justice is free and fair, and opportunities are not one-sided.
“Then, youths would begin to think and know they have a future; it will also ensure we get the dividends that we want,” she said.
According to her, youth integration will help the country unlock its greatness and change the global narrative of Nigeria.
The country director urged the Federal Government to formulate inclusive policies, increase investment in qualitative education and entrepreneurship skills and create an enabling environment that guarantees the future of youths and the nation.
Also, Mrs Adenike Esiet, the Executive Director of AHI, said that the festival was to shape the life of youths to be pivotal to build the socio-economic landscape of the country to greatness through their ingenuity.
In her remarks, Miss Funso Bukoye, the Project Coordinator of TFL, said that while the potential for Nigeria’s economic growth was significant, key barriers to achieving demographic dividend persisted.
According to her, Nigeria has one of the most youthful and fastest growing populations in Africa, with 60 million people between ages 10 and 24 accounting for 32 per cent of its population.
“Young people in Nigeria face unique challenges, including access to education, high rate of unemployment, lack of political representation and gender inequalities.
“It is only when a country capitalises on its resources and uses them effectively that its economy will benefit, otherwise a demographic dividend can turn into a demographic disaster,” Bukoye said.
She said it had become evident that demographic dividends offer strategic basis for focusing.
Bukoye said it also prioritising investments in youths to achieve sustainable development, inclusive economic growth and build a well-functioning country.