Friday, December 13, 2013

Giving back to the youth

It is generally agreed that unemployment, especially among youth, is one of the issues that fuels the fire of violence and insecurity in parts of Nigeria. The United States government in its partnership with the Nigerian government emphasizes a holistic approach to Nigeria’s security challenge that includes an economic recovery strategy to complement the military one.
As a partner and friend, the U.S. government also supports Nigeria’s efforts in engaging young people through various youth targeted activities. The theme of this year’s annual U.S. alumni leadership conference was Youth Empowerment for Peace, Education and Leadership. The focus was on discussing issues related to youth in northern Nigeria and the way forward.

The conference had over 80 U.S exchange alumni from academia, civil society, NGOs, public service and religious affiliations. They were selected based on their recognized active engagement and commitment to promoting the ideals of the State Department’s education and cultural exchange programs.

During the conference, alumni were able to identify some of the ways in which they could use the experiences acquired during their programs in the U.S. to empower at-risk youth. One way was to train youth from rural areas across the north in entrepreneurial skills, such as tailoring, carpentry, hairdressing, mechanized farming, and beadwork. Thereafter, youth would be supported with small funds to establish their own businesses, thus generating income that could be used to pay for school fees and provide a decent family life.

To this end, small grants were provided to nine alumni members to run empowerment programs in different parts of northern Nigeria. In addition, alumni who received grants last year made presentations on the success of their projects.

In his presentation, keynote speaker and an alumni himself, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah said “The world faces new challenges where knowledge, not age or strain of blue blood samples, determines who will lead, who has power and who has influence. The Mark Zuckerbergs of this world have power because knowledge is now the key to the future. This is the direction in which the young people must now look.”

He ended by urging alumni to draw from the example of the U.S. where dreams become realities and where determination can produce great results and a positive impact on their communities.

A presentation on the U.S. government’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) was also made. This program brings young African leaders to Washington D.C. to participate in educational, interactive and inspiring activities that will transform them into positive change agents in their communities and country.


  1. It was great to read about focus on northern nigeria as there is so much negative publicity about the north internally within Nigeria and internationally. I have been in Nigeria for 3 years now and an American and know it is not as bad as stated My husband is from the north and I've been to several states in the north and see a humbled people, need, and opportunity. I am interested in working with youth, women, and women owned businesses to develop, empower and enable . Please let me know how I can help Thank you for your interest in nigeria and the north. Gladys Agwai I can be reached at or +2348022220201

  2. Thank you for your comments Gladys and we will keep your request in mind for any future programs.