ABUJA, August 3, 2010—About 30 young people gathered at the World Bank country office in Abuja on July 14 to share their views on Nigeria’s development and the role youth can play in it.
The gathering was part of the first, quarterly World Bank Nigeria Youth Forum.
“It is really important for us as practitioners of development to think of factoring youth into the development process,” said Onno Ruhl, Country Director for the World Bank in Nigeria.
Addressing the youth, Ruhl said the Bank has been trying to determine how best to engage young people, but has yet find the best strategy.
“We don’t know how you think. We don’t know what you want and we don’t know how you want it. Only you can tell us those things,” Ruhl said.
The Youth Forum is aimed at mainstreaming youth in policy formulation and design of projects, as well as in creating voice and social accountability. Its creation is a direct outcome of the recently-held Africa Action Plan (AAP) Consultations, discussions to engage Nigerians and others in how the World Bank should renew its strategy for Africa.
“This has really opened my eyes to see governance from a different perspective,” said Charles Musa, a participant in the Forum and recent graduate of the University of Abuja. “I am better educated,” Musa said.
Another participant, Ola Omosebi, expressed his appreciation for the opportunity to speak with others about development issues and to learn from the Bank’s wealth of knowledge and experience. Omosebi said he hoped the Forum would arm youth with new ideas and thinking about development issues.
The first meeting of the Forum focused on Youth and Governance. At the end of the meeting, youth leaders presented World Bank representatives with the following action plan:
1. Capacity Building: There is a need to increase the capacity of the Forum members in order to equip them with the requisite knowledge to be able to respond to issues around governance within the nation.
2. Information and Dissemination of World Bank Projects and Programs Focused on Youth and Governance: The World Bank should do more to ensure direct access by youth at all levels to adequate information to enable them to hold governments at all levels accountable by using specific youth-inclined communication platforms such as social media, print and electronic media, radio, and community-based information sharing, etc.
3. Strengthen Youth Involvement in World Bank Projects: The World Bank should strengthen youth involvement in its projects and programs through:
- Information sharing at all levels, by increasing support to activities that increase the dissemination of information through the radio, Internet and other media
- The World Bank should work with the youth forum to organize an annual conference for youth on good governance, among other things to foster learning and development
- The World Bank should influence state governments to increase capacity building for youth, especially in rural communities
- Infuse youth in the Bank’s approach to Climate Change projects in Nigeria
About half of Nigeria’s population is below the age of 30. This youth population is often seen as part of the development and economic problem rather than as an asset or solution, Ruhl said. Through the Forum, the World Bank hopes to bring out the key role youth can play as stakeholders in development and as key players in ensuring good governance.