YouLead — Youth employment and entrepreneurship program underway in Nigeria
The YouLead project is designed to promote youth employment through job creation and entrepreneurship in the natural resources sectors — agriculture, forestry, aquaculture and ecotourism — as well as to support state government institutions in developing natural resource policies and programs. YouLead will support skills transferal and growth in the small business sector by matching experienced Nigerian and Canadian professionals with Nigerian youth.
Cross River State (CRS) is one of the richest natural resource states in Nigeria. However, CRS ecosystems are coming under increasing pressure from the communities that derive their livelihoods from the natural resource sector. The pressure on the ecosystem, and the need for green jobs, will only increase, given the large population of young people in the CRS. Young people constitute 1.11 million of the 3.45 million residents and an estimated 40-50 per cent are unemployed or under-employed.
Cuso International is working in close collaboration with several partners to implement the project, including the government of CRS and local administrative institutions. Implementing the project hand-in-hand with the state will create an enabling environment and help strengthen policies and programs to create a green economy and environmentally sustainable jobs. Cuso International will also develop partnerships with civil society organizations and private institutions to deliver business development services as well as bank and microfinance services. The Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) will also have a supporting role in the project, facilitating financial service for youth.
To date, the project has developed a strategic partnership with the National Youth Services Corps (NYSC). In Nigeria, all university graduates must volunteer for one year in another state through the NYSC program. Cuso International has selected 46 young volunteers from the NYSC program. Their role is to disseminate information and mobilize youth in all 18 Local Government areas of the YouLead project. They will also support the selection of the members of the YouLead Youth Advisory Committee (YAC). A competition to design the YouLead logo has also been launched among the youth of the state.
The YouLead project is part of the Government of Canada’s commitment to promoting sustainable economic growth in Nigeria to generate long-term, well-being for all Nigerians. The $15.25 million dollar program will last 5 years and is made possible by generous support from the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada.