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"Don’t sit there and say it will not work – log on"
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"Don’t sit there and say it will not work – log on"

A new initiative in Nigeria supported by international partners is aiming to showcase the business acumen and skills of young people, writes Nnadozie Onyekuru, 23, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Borno State in the north-east.

In a recent article on this site, fellow Commonwealth Correspondent Alisha Lewis stated that “Young graduates entering the real world are facing a brutal reality check”. This has been especially true of graduates in my home country.

Even before the global recession, the jobs started eluding them in a manner that suggested that the value of their hard-earned certificates in the jobs market was akin to the value of a lottery ticket.

Over the years, the massive youth unemployment in Nigerian society has bred millions of idle but brilliant minds into a state of anger and frustration. Often times, this anger and frustration has found expression in behaviour such as drug abuse, hate crimes, religious violence and cyber fraud.

Successive governments have largely played to the gallery by creating disingenuous employment schemes, but a recent intervention by the nation’s leadership is buying genuine attention across the nation.

This month, however, the federal government launched YouWiN! – Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria. YouWiN! is a Business Plan Competition (BPC) for aspiring young entrepreneurs in Nigeria that would reward about 1,200 business proposals with grants ranging from a million naira to ten million naira (about 66,000USD).

According to Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Minister for Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, “The program will provide aspiring youth with a platform to showcase their business acumen, skills and aspirations to business leaders, investors and mentors in Nigeria.”

Great care has been taken to cloak the initiative with credibility. A timetable has been set for the process and the World Bank, DFID, Pan African University and Nigeria’s organised private sector are partners in the project. All the regions in the country would be visited and the supervisory minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala (a former World Bank managing director) is among the few government officials many people can risk their trust on.

Yet doubts continue to surface. Newspapers are awash with comments by dogged critics who have dismissed the initiative as another charade. Many young ones, tired of being swindled here and there over nonexistent opportunities, express their doubts on social networks like Facebook.

But they also meet more optimistic people, like my university friend who Google searches for special methods of writing business proposals and updates his followers with the results of his search. My friend is so engrossed with perfecting his entry to make his chances in the competition stronger.

For those who have time for doubts, just read one of his status updates: “Don’t sit there and say it will not work. Log on to www.youwin.com.ng. There is no harm in trying.”

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About me:

“I am a Nigerian student. I love books. I am young and restless with firm dreams that are only tempered by Christianity. I dream of a world where people, inspired by their common humanity, engage in a global wheel of ideas and do not use history as a tool for blame game but as a lesson for the future. In my spare time, I write stories, speeches and participate in activities that advance the respect of human dignity.”

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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