Speech by His Excellency, Yusuf Maitama Tuggar Ambassador of Nigeria to the Federal Republic of Germany at AYEA in Hamburg.
Please permit me to start by expressing my profound appreciation to TopAfric e.V., the organizers of the 8th African Youth Education Awards for finding me worthy to be the Guest Speaker on this auspicious occasion of the eighth anniversary of the African Youth Education. It gives me great joy to stand here today and deliver the speech on this very important theme: ‘’Education for Youth Empowerment and Nation Building’’.
I wish to point out from the onset that the need for quality education that would prepare and empower the youths for nation building and development is a desire being pursued by all nations of the world, the African continent inclusive. On a competitive level though, many would argue that African countries and the continent as a whole are lagging behind in the highly competitive world in providing qualitative education for its teeming youth. The Youths from other continents of the world, especially the Western world and recently China and other Asian countries have registered significant improvements in the education and capacity building of its youths. The same cannot be said of a larger number of the African countries, leaving a deficit that has to, of necessity be addressed if the African Youth is to be empowered educationally for the crucial development of the continent. It is in the light of this that I think the theme is rather too broad and would crave your indulgence to permit me to make a slight amendment to the topic to read: ‘’Education for African Youth Empowerment and Nation Building’’. I believe this will enable us to focus our attention on Africa in this very topical issue that you have aptly identified as the theme of your 8th Anniversary.
In preparing for this paper, I perused the website of TopAfric and the stated raison d’ etre for creating the Africa Youth Education Awards, and the set goals/objectives simply set the tone for our discussion this evening. Please permit me to amply quote the reason here: ‘’Young migrants of African origin in Germany have low educational levels. A relatively large proportion of these kids rarely achieve the A level -/Abitur qualification. Moreover a large proportion of them end up dropping out completely and this is quite disturbing.
Another major problem is the lack of incentives to motivate these kids to pursue higher academic goals. It must however be noted that motivation is crucial for success in the educational system. It has not been possible for the German school system to compensate for these deficiencies in schools where children of African descend attend.
African Youth Education Awards is here to fill in that motivational gap. It is a platform where we encourage the Kids to stay in school by awarding them and also introducing them to mentors who also educate them on why they should stay in school.’’
I will also quote here the set goals or objectives: ‘’The goal of the project is to raise the educational and professional achievements of the youths of African origin by empowerment approach.
This would also intensify the campaign and create awareness on the significance of education for the social and professional integration in Germany.
The goal of the project is therefore to motivate the kids in Germany to study hard, but also to expose them and their parents to role models in the society through a network system.’’
At this juncture ladies and gentlemen, let me make reference to some statistics. According to the 2012 African Economic Outlook report prepared by experts from the African Development Bank (AfDB), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), among others, it is estimated that 200 million Africans are between 15 and 24 years old. This number is expected to double by 2045. It is also estimated that with ten (10) million young graduates entering the workforce each year, Africa’s labour force will surpass both India’s and China’s by 2040, yet Africa only creates two million jobs a year.
You will agree with me that these statistics are staggering with attendant challenges but also, offer opportunities if well managed. African leaders have two options. The first is to address the challenge of unemployment due to low quality education with its attendant consequences such as the illegal migration of young Africans to Europe and other places. However, the second option will be to leverage on the opportunities that this huge number of graduates offer. And that is, the adoption of policies and strategies that provide these graduates with appropriate and up to date quality of education that would ultimately lead to continent-wide socio-economic development and transformation.
At this point, we will attempt to proffer a number of actions that could be taken by African leaders to prepare these large numbers of graduates to contribute to the growth and development of the continent.
There is the need to improve on the approach and curriculum of education that can produce innovators, critical thinkers and problem solvers who can articulate programmes and solutions that are tailor-made to Africa’s needs for economic transformation rather than the treadmill paradigm that churns out millions of graduates annually. This is even more so with the fast emerging new spheres of ‘’smart’’ knowledge of digitization and artificial intelligence;
In tandem to the above, the educational curriculum needs to be redefined in a way that prepares the African youth for entrepreneurial activities and gears them for self-employment.
While improvement in the African continent’s education systems as pointed out above is crucial, another vital component to resolve the challenge of youth unemployment is the creation of sustainable jobs. Africa needs to create more jobs. This will require the expansion of the continent’s manufacturing capacity that would lead to industrialization and the creation of jobs. Manufacturing is the largest employer and Africa has comparative advantage in agriculture and textiles, the largest employers of labour. Achieving this requires vision, strategic planning, and focused implementation;
Committed Implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)
Goal 4 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) prescribes for nations to, by the year 2030: ‘’Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.’’ The committed incorporation and sustained implementation of the SDGs and its targets by African governments into its national strategies, policies and processes will go a long way in kick-starting the drive for qualitative educational empowerment and nation building and development by the African youth by 2030. It is instructive to point out that the year 2030 is only slightly more than a decade from now and therefore denotes the need for verve and urgency by African leaders and governments.
Distinguish ladies and gentlemen, having taken a general view of just a few of the challenges and opportunities facing the African Youth in the pursuit of education to engender nation building and development, I would like to briefly commend the organizers - TopAfric e.V. for identifying the challenges of the Young migrants of African origin in Germany namely, low educational levels and lack of incentives to motivate them to pursue higher academic goals.
It is in the light of these identified challenges that the organisers of this very auspicious event of the Africa Youth Education have set laudable objectives/goals which would ultimately address the challenges of poor or low educational capabilities that hinder the academic and/or professional mobility of the African migrant in Germany. This presupposes that all Awardees this evening have contributed in one way or the other in redressing these challenges. I therefore, congratulate you all and implore you to remain steadfast in your efforts towards achieving these laudable objectives.
As I conclude, I must highlight that in as much as a lot of the calls for the improvement and updating of the education standards of the African youth for empowerment and nation building/development goes to the leaders and policy implementers, much is also desired from all citizenry of the African continent as the struggle is a collective one requiring the participation of all as exemplified by the organisers of this event. This will amongst other things, curb or minimize the illegal migration of young Africans out of the continent, which is partly the reason for this gathering today.
It is incumbent on all of us to let our youths back home to unequivocally understand that Europe is not desirous of poorly educated or unskilled aspirational migrants from low and middle income African countries that they do not consider to be dangerous. Interestingly, the European Union (EU) countries policies are geared towards clear distinctions between refugees eligible for asylum and aspirational migrants in search of better paying jobs and opportunities.
We need to bring jobs to the African youth back home instead of bringing African youths to jobs over here!
Once again, I thank you for the invitation and thank you for listening.