YOUTH CIVIC ENGAGEMENT: THE ENTREPRENEURSHIP PERSEPECTIVE.

Written by James Okere


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In 1998 a United Nations (UN) resolution proclaiming August 12th as International Youth Day was adopted during the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth. In 1999, UN General Assembly further endorsed the recommendation. On 12th August 2000, the first International Youth Day was celebrated. This celebration has continued every 12th August till date.

The declaration of International Youth Day and subsequent celebrations were to create an avenue for World Youth mobilization and sensitization by countries and her institutions to become better persons in the society including wealth in creation.

These sensitization spanning in areas including education, socio-economic, employment issues etc are supported by governments, civil society groups, organizations, individuals, communities at local level and at international levels.

The maxim, the youths as future leaders can only be achieved in an atmosphere where the youths have been inculcated with the right values of life; for which International Youths Day advocates for.

Each year’s International Youth Day goes with a particular theme. For this year 2015 the theme is “Youth Civic Engagement”. The Theme is practical and activity oriented and in this can sustainable human development for a better society be realized,

Youth Civic Engagement would create Youth Empowerment leading to self reliance, hence the entrepreneurship perspective. Youth Civic Engagement also connotes the various activities our youths are involved in to provide developmental values at all levels including communities. These activities that transform the society positively includes in the areas of political (governance, policy mobilization etc) and non-political (like community assignments, employment creation, talent discoveries etc). Such youths civic engagement equips them with work experiences, learning of new skills and leadership skills- like responsibility and accountability challenges. In such youth civic engagement the youth become “Change Agent” in the society.

Youth civic engagement goes beyond the theoretical realms. Youth Civic Engagement calls for youth skills acquisition and human capacity development, leading to growth in Entrepreneurship via youth creativity imbued with the vision and passion for accomplishments. Realising this, President Barack Obama of U.S.A in year 2014 introduced Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders; running programmes including Civic Leadership (which creates youth activism in community/grass root development).

When the Youths are engagement in skill or entrepreneurship, they are involved in contributing towards societal development for economic growth. This is where entrepreneurship involving the youths comes in.

ENTREPRENEURSHIP: Entrepreneurship is involvedin citizens wealth creation which leads to productivity and value growth for which the youth are part and parcel of. Therefore, youth participation in entrepreneurship of any nation contributes greatly to the growth of national economy. The youths in discuss span through the secondary and tertiary schools and the unemployed and underemployed youths; be they graduates or not.

We are aware the various social vices our youths are involved in. These social vices includes: cultism, armed robbery, kidnapping, drug abuse, etc.

However, if our youths are engaged in entrepreneurship it would go a long way to curb these social vices in which youth civic engagement anchores.

Presently, global economy is highly titling towards entrepreneurship and the earlier our youths are properly engaged the better for the country as the era where everybody including the youths look up to the national government to provide them with full employment opportunities are over. Today, the general discussions now centre on youth entrepreneurship development and how the youths can be involved is paramount.

The areas of entrepreneurship which youths can be engaged on includes but not limited to: poultry, fishing, basket making, beads making, hair dressing, carpentry, and tailoring. Others are fashion design, ICT, watch repairing, computer repairs, cloth weaving, fabric design etc.

Because of global trends and for personal development our youths are being prepared for entrepreneurship challenge including the modification of academic curriculum of our Tertiary Institution to include entrepreneurship studies. Event at secondary school levels, entrepreneurship studies have been introduced by management of some schools; a welcomed development.

Outside the introduction of entrepreneurship curriculum in our tertiary institutions, there are a number of other institutions supporting the noble cause: National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) Skills Acquisition and Entrepreneurial Development (SAED),Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Entrepreneurship Development Centres (EDC) and Industrial Training Fund (ITF)-Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA) Technical Skills Development Project.

In addition, there exist other organizations in Nigeria supporting youth entrepreneurship growth and they include- Integrated Youth Economic Empowerment Programme (IYEEP) www.iyeep.com.ng , Empower Nigeria Initiative www.empowernigeria.com , www.nigerialeadershipsummit.com, Youth Empowerment and ICT Foundation www.youthempowerment.org.ng

etc. Also Global System Mobile institutions like MTN, Glo, Etisalat, Airtel, some financial institutions and some other organizations in Nigeria are involved in youth’s skill development via their corporate social responsibility programmes.

Also at the global level there exist international entrepreneurship bodies supporting the youths amongst which are:

  1. Student In Free Enterprise (SIFE) www.sife.org :`Student In Free Enterprise (SIFE) established in 1978; is an international non-profit organization that brings together students, academic and business leaders who are committed to using the power of entrepreneurial action to improve the quality of life and standard of living for people in need. It is currently active in many countries of the world, and exists in various higher institutions with thousands of students across the world.
  1. Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE):www.nfte.comNational Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) founded in 1987 and based in USA. NFTE was founded by astute entrepreneur turned New York City Public School Teacher called Steve Marriott.
    1. Acton Foundation for Entrepreneurship Excellence (AFEE)- Action Foundation for Entrepreneurial Excellence in Texas, USA. This foundation was set up by some American billionaires with a view to teaching people or imparting knowledge to people on how they can be successful entrepreneur www.actonfoundation.org.

CORE VALUES: To properly situate youth civic engagement and entrepreneurship, the right values for youth entrepreneurship must be developed and employed. In addition to the above, the youth must be involved in talent discovery and development. Where youth talents are discovered and the right values employed accordingly, youth entrepreneurship development would be achieved. These right values include:

VISION: The power of vision is a driving force towards any success attested to by the people. A major distinction between one business organization from the other, one institution from the other is the power of vision. Visionary entrepreneurial leaders at whatever level are respected because of their level of accomplishments.

Nelson Ikechukwu Nwamara who hails from Umuode Village Aba, Abia State, Eastern Nigeria while as a student of Federal Polytechnic Oko Anambra State, Eastern Nigeria developed entrepreneurship spirit and became the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Zester Magazine. Zester magazine was an inspirational work that that serves the Staff and Students of Federal Polytechnic Oko. Nelson admitted that Chief Mike Awoyinfa column in Saturday Sun (newspaper publication in Nigeria) titled Press Clips which he regularly reads inspired him in life towards entrepreneurial spirit which he has developed.

COURAGE: This is a key factor in the pursuit of any enterprise. Youth who have identified a particular line of business must pursue same with great courage for success to be recorded.

MENTORSHIP: It is that process that is impacted in a person to enable brings him to a position to equal his abilities and talents as to improve one’s personality and influence society positively. The essence of mentorship is to enable the person being mentored to become a change agent in the society. Thus mentorship creates positive values in a person. It creates these values which enable one to succeed in life. These values include hard work, determination, patience, courage etc. Many successful entrepreneurs admitted that the mentorship they received shaped their success drives.

Peter Inung Oluwhu and Paul Inung Akem; as at year 2013 both brothers were undergraduates of Cross River University of Technology, Calabar. Peter was studying Civil Engineering, while Paul was studying Architecture. Both came from Obodu Local Government Area of Cross River State. Their parents were petty fashion designers, who use the power of inspiration to influence their children. These children took interest in fashion design, interior decorations and were busy with their talents while at the University. Their parents, who inspired them into fashion, also bought two sewing machines for them when they got admission and entered the University. With their talents, they were sewing while on campus and making their money. During holidays they were busy with their talents contributing towards economic growth.

EDUCATION: Education is key to knowledge development. The Holy Bible recorded that my people perish for lack of knowledge. Also the French author; Francis Beacon said “Reading makes a man, writing an exact person and conference a ready person”. One major way to advance and have motivation for entrepreneurship is for one to be involved in reading and research on how people succeeded in their chosen career.

Chief Poly Ike Emenike, the Chief Executive of NEROS, a pharmaceutical company based in Lagos, Western Nigeria      read   Napoleon Hill’s book “Think and Grow Rich”, when he was   22 (twenty-two) years    (1978), and confessed that the book influenced him into entrepreneurship to the extent that after about 34 (thirty-four)            years (in 2012), he was honoured by the Napoleon Foundation. Chief        Poly I. Emenike confessed that the book contributed   to 95% of what he is today.

INSPIRING SEMINARS: Inspiring conferences have also become great entrepreneurship advancement tool. The thoughts shared at such gathering shape the youth entrepreneurship contents, thereby impacting on the economy of the nation.

SUMMARY/CONCLUSION:

As the world celebrates Youth Civic Engagement this year, the Federal Ministry of Youth must remain proactive in line with global expectations concerning the affairs of youth development. In addition, institutions of the federal government like National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) Skills Acquisition and Entrepreneurial Development (SAED), Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Entrepreneurship Development Centres (EDC), and Industrial Training Fund (ITF)-Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA) Technical Skills Development Project must strive to advance their core values.

The State governments’ ministry of Youth and their relevant departments should be proactive to pursue and achieve a meaningful youth civic engagement programmes.

The federal, state and local governments should liaise and work out a defined youth development programmes that must be sustained; which must include youth mentorship and youth talent development programmes.

The introduction of entrepreneurial programmes in our higher institutions: aimed at youth engagement is a welcomed development. How is the youth programme sustained? What are the identified measures put in place by these tertiary schools to monitor these Students that have acquired entrepreneurship programmes? These are great posers, as we celebrate this year 2015 International Youth Day.

There must be a synergy between the federal ministry of youth, states ministries of youth, and all other institutions involved in youth civic engagement to work out a youth development and sustainable programmes towards positive contributions in the society.

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