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How to recover Post COVID-19, by PIND

Published by The Nation on Sun, 02 Aug 2020

Our ReporterExecutive Director of Foundation for Partnership Initiative in the Niger Delta (PIND), Dara Akala, has stated the Niger Delta region needs innovative approaches to skills development that will contribute to economic and growth post COVID-19 pandemic.Akala said unemployment is probably the most significant development challenge for government at national and sub-national levels, including the Niger Delta region as the world battles with the COVID-19 pandemic.He stated this during a virtual roundtable with the theme: Re-imagining youth skills development programme and job creation for positive impact in post-COVID-19 economy by the Foundation.He attributed lack of access to economic activities to unemployment in the Niger Delta, which according to him, is a driver of conflict and youth restiveness in the region.As a matter of fact, the region has recorded some of the highest rates of unemployment in the country and in 2018 for example, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Akwa Ibom State reported the highest rate of unemployment, the PIND Foundation Executive Director said.This stood at 37.7 per cent, followed by Rivers State with 36.4 per cent, Bayelsa 32.6 percent and Abia State 31.6 percent and so on and forth. And this was before the advent of COVID-19 pandemic.Quoting the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Akala said COVID-19 has been described as the most severe crisis since World War 11.He added with a 30.4 per cent economic shrink in Nigeria this year as projected by International Monetary Fund (IMF), the jobless rate already at an average of about 23 per cent is expected to climb even higher.The Niger Delta region would not be left out of this worsening unemployment situation, he said.Speaking on the intervention by PIND to address youth unemployment, he stated it came up with Niger Delta Youth Employment Pathway (NDYEP) in 2017.This project that we started in 2017 to address the issues of youth job readiness, work force development and jobs creation are being piloted in three states of Abia, Akwa Ibom and Rivers.We focus on few sectors that were pre-selected: ICT is one of them and renewables, construction, agriculture and other emerging growth sectors showing potential for youth employment, Akala explained.According to him: In the pilot phase, NDYEP has enrolled and delivered short-term technical, soft skills training and job/enterprise linkages to over 4,500 youth while over 1,300 youth who successfully completed the program have been supported to transition into internship placements, waged employment and entrepreneurship/self-employment.He explained that NDYEP is an innovative model designed not just to train but prepare youths living in the rural areas but also women and persons living with disability with market relevant skills for securing sustainable jobs.On the motives behind the roundtable, Akala disclosed that meeting was organized by PIND with support from Ford Foundation to share the key features and learning from the NDYEP model and seek collaboration for demand driven job creation programming with state governments in the Niger Delta towards addressing prevalent youths unemployment in the region.He said the Foundation sought to build knowledge and understanding on current approaches towards youth skills development and regional action to address post-COVID-19 youth unemployment dynamics.Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on job creation and youth employment, Afolabi Imuokhuede, stressed it takes a collective effort of all stakeholders within the region, government and others to tackle the challenges of addressing unemployment in Nigeria and the Niger Delta.Director General of the BRACED Commission, Joe Keshi, asked policymakers to step up and address the most important challenges like unemployment and the growth of the private sector especially as the world enters the fourth industrial revolution.
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