NIGERIA is Africa’s most populous country and is a place of both great wealth and extreme poverty. Nigeria is located in West Africa and shares borders with Benin, Chad, Cameroon, and Niger, with its southern coast on the Gulf of Guinea in the Atlantic Ocean. Within its borders there are over 250 ethnic groups, incredible biodiversity, and a varied landscape that ranges from tropical rainforest, to coastal plains, to savannah.
Nigeria is an oil-rich country which is well known for its past challenges with military rule, corruption, political instability, and overdependence on the oil sector. Today the country still struggles to reform its oil-based economy and stabilize its democracy. The presidential elections in 2007 were Nigeria’s first civilian-to-civilian transfer of power in history and it is currently experiencing its longest period of civilian rule since its independence. The tragic reality of Nigeria is that while its economy is exponentially expanding, so is the rift between the rich and the poor.
Approximately 70% of Nigeria’s population lives in poverty. This is an unbelievable fact, given that Nigeria’s is the second largest economy on the African continent, after South Africa, and the largest economy in the West Africa region. In February 2011 Citigroup stated that Nigeria will get the highest average GDP growth in the world between 2010 and 2050. Nigeria is Africa’s largest producer of oil and in 2010 surpassed Iran as OPEC’s second-highest exporter. Nigeria is the largest trading partner in sub-Saharan Africa for the United States and supplies 20% of its oil.
The paradox created by Nigeria’s economy is that despite its wealth in oil and its booming economy, there is persistent and abject poverty. In 2010 about 92% of the population lived on less than $2 a day, according to the Global Monitoring Report of UNESCO. Agriculture accounts for 70% of the labor force, yet due to challenges in that sector ranging from the environment to infrastructure, there are still extensive food shortages and poverty in the rural areas.
Unemployment is a rampant problem in Nigeria and a contributing factor to the stagnant poverty levels. This is especially true for the youth population of Nigeria. It is estimated that 70% of Nigeria’s population is under 30 years of age. Youth unemployment in Nigeria is caused by several factors, a few of which are urban migration, high population growth rate, and youth’s lack of employable skills. The National Bureau of Statistics has put the unemployment rate of those aged 15-24 at 41%. Onno Ruhl, the World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, said in March 2011 that 46% would be a more accurate youth unemployment rate.
During a meeting between the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in 2009 the Director of the National Planning Commission of Nigeria, Ayodele Omotoso, said that “youth unemployment in Nigeria is 60 to 70 percent, and the labor market can only absorb 10 percent of new job entrants.” Omotoso went on to say that “we’re also looking at ways to increase youth employment in all sectors…tourism, ICT, transport, and utilities. The key lesson is that youth unemployment is a multi-dimensional problem that needs to be addressed on a macro basis.”
AFRILINK IN NIGERIA
AFRILINK works to expand the ability of college-educated youth to overcome unemployment challenges, take control of their financial security, and contribute to their local economy. AFRILINK will foster the entrepreneurial skills of Nigeria’s youth through Y OUTH BUSINESS CLUBS and mentorships, creating new opportunities for them to start businesses and generate employment opportunities for others in their community.
AFRILINK will establish a board of directors to be based in Nigeria. This approach will allow the Nigeria program to be modified to the specific needs of the target community. AFRILINK acknowledges the importance of local ownership of the development process and maintains that all decisions should be made locally within the community. The board in Nigeria will work in partnership with the US-based board of directors.