by Chude Jideonwo
In March next year, I will finally turn 30. I can’t wait for that day to come
More importantly it will be 15 years since I started my work career, and all of that 15 years has been focused on the youth. At least 10 of it, specifically on youth development.
In many respects things have changed across the country: enterprise is in vogue, young people are able to express themseves and hold government more accountable, the civic and job spaces are slowly expanding.
In other ways however things remain the same: hopelessness, joblessness, faithlessness, despair. Our work has directly targeted these problems as they face young Nigerians and Africans.
We thank from the bottom of our hearts the sponsors and funders who have made today and this year possible. We thank the Tony Elumelu Foundation, the US government, Microsoft, First Bank, Access Bank, Etisalat, the Lagos State government, the Rivers State government, Nigeria Dialogue, and other partners.
Without you, none of our work would even be possible. Without you, we would not have been able to up skill and train thousands of young people, to support the businesses we have and to inspire the millions that we have directly and through the media. Without you, our impact would be limited.
Unfortunately, we have come to ask for more. Because plenty of works needs to be done.
Our work at The Future Project now focuses on two urgent imperatives: jobs and citizenship. With jobs, we are trying to connect career-minded young people directly with work, and we are trying to build businesses for those who want to be entrepreneurs and who want to create jobs.
Our experience working at the grassroots and with these historically disadvantaged blocs aged 16 – 35 have impressed upon us the urgency of the work we have ahead of us.
There are at least 64 million youths in Nigeria (under-35). Over 54 percent of that population is unemployed according to the National Bureau of Statistics. There are at least 10 million entrants to the labor force per year in Sub-Saharan Africa, which causes the jobs market to become even more and more congested. Over 200,000 young people come out of schools each year. Over 90 percent of them are unable to find jobs.
Because of this, we have launched 100,000 Jobs, which interns to connect 100,000 West African youth with jobs and job opportunities through internships over the next two years. Because of this we have launched our pilot programme #SurulereStartups, which will lead to business incubation and bootcamp sessions to support and grow youth-led businesses across 24 communities, first in Nigeria and then Africa in the same period.
Young people continue to feel powerless, and helpless with barriers to entry facing them everyday and hindering their capacity to grow and solve their own problems.
Because of that, the work that The Future Awards Africa is doing, spotlighting and supporting the likes of the Dustbin Estate Foundation, Slum2School, the Ayahay Foundation, the Beni American University, the FACE Africa clean water project, amongst other countless interventions and businesses becomes very crucial in inspiring young people to believe in themselves and to better their lives.
Because of that, we have launched the African Citizenship Schools, through which we will train over 200,000 youth aged 16 – 24 from 2015 – 2016 on how they can solve their own problems in their communities, raise funds, raise people, come together and make change happen.
To do these ambitious projects, which come from our past experiences and successes, we do need your help. We need your help because the problems are so huge and so urgent and the hands working needs to be as huge and urgent. The goals need to be big, and the impact needs to be deep.
Because we don’t build a hut where we need a village, we don’t want to find a lake, when we need an ocean. We need to fast, we need to move now and we need to change lives urgently.
Therefore, today’s call is for you to come and join us on this targeted mission and to help us achieve these clear goals. The Future Project is calling on you to donate to these projects that seek to practically empower young people with jobs and with the tools to solve their problems.
On your tables there is a form. If you want to help us get young people into jobs, if you want to help us build and grow their businesses, if yuou want to help us inspire those who have lost hope or who don’t know how to better their lives, or if you want to help us train youth to solve their problems, please commit now.
Not tomorrow, when you move on with the daily living and this is no longer priority. Not tomorrow, when the urgency of this moment might have lost its bite. But today, now. As a corporate, as a bank, as a telecoms company, as a small business, as a wealthy philanthropist, we want you to put your money where your mouth is – and hold us accountable for the contributions that you make.
As I turn 30 next year, things have gotten a bit brighter for me and it has been a long way from growing up in Ijesha, being unable to pay school fees in primary school or suffering with the multitude in the smell0infested halls of the University of Lagos. But there are so many more young people who haven’t found their way – we find them on the trees sitting doing nothing in the north, we find them on the roads just walking aimlessly when I visit my village in Obomkpa, we find them everyday, if you would just pay attention.
We are paying attention, and we ask you to join this in this journey – which, really, will never end.
We are committed to making a serious dent on this problem, and we hope you are too.
God keep us.
Chude Jideonwo is founder of The Future Awards Africa, a platform created with his partners. He delivered this speech on December 7, 2014 at the awards in Lagos. The Future Awards Africa has been called the ‘Nobel Prize for Young Africans’, and the ‘most important youth awards’ by Forbes. It is a set of prizes given annually to celebrate and accelerate innovation, creativity and enterprise amongst young Africans aged 18 – 31. It has produced over 150 winners and over 1500 nominees since its first edition in 2006. Jideonwo is also an award winning journalist and lawyer. You may follow him on Twitter @Chude.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.