President Muhammadu Buhari has said that young people around the world have proven that they have the capability to drive the change process, contributing positively to the socio-economic development of their communities.
Declaring open the Commonwealth Youth and Students Summit in Abuja on Tuesday, the President said his administration has heavily invested on youth development, creating formidable platforms through which youths can hone their leadership skills.
President Buhari, who was represented by his Chief of Staff, Ibrahim Gambari, pledged that Nigeria as a member of the Commonwealth would continuously create an enabling environment for young people to blossom and reach their potential.
‘‘I am very optimistic that with the breed of young people gathered here, actionable policy-decisions that will further enhance development and productivity of the youth will be reached for the Heads of Government of the Commonwealth to implement to further better the lots of young people of the Commonwealth,’’ he said.
On initiatives to support the empowerment of young people, as the theme of the Summit is “Co-creating our common future leadership in the digital age in Africa,” the President said:
‘‘The digital Revolution is clearly upon us with the young ones leading the way in ICT, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, E-Commerce and the likes. Investments building a digital economy must proceed along with investment in the ideas, skills and enterprise of Our Youth.
‘‘In line with the key values of the Commonwealth, Nigeria over the years has invested heavily on youth development, created formidable and reliable platforms such as the Youth Parliament, National Youth Council of Nigeria, National Association of Nigerian Students, Nigeria Youth Congress, amongst others, through which our young people and students can hone their leadership skills and make relevant contribution to the decision-making process especially on issues that border on their development and welfare.
‘‘Nigeria is committed to the actualization of the core values of the Commonwealth and firmly believes in the power of the youth as the driving force, in making a difference in the socio-economic development of their societies.
‘‘It is therefore a welcome development that this Summit has brought together young people from various socio-cultural and political backgrounds to further strengthen youth engagement and their full involvement in decision-making on issues that concern them, particularly in the areas of education, job creation, entrepreneurship, and digital economy.’’
In his remarks, the Minister of Sports and Youth Development, Sunday Dare, urged African governments to increase the budget for youth development to about 30 per cent, while sustaining funding of youth-centric policies and programmes.
Affirming that African Youth have come of age and can no longer be ignored, the Minister recalled that this year has been designated the Commonwealth Year of Youth by leaders at the last CHOGM in Kigali, Rwanda.
He highlighted the exploits of the African youth in various spheres of endeavour – from technology, science, AI, robotics, E-commerce, digital marketing, creative arts to entertainment, saying:
‘‘From country to country, from continent to continent, the youth of Africa, wherever they find themselves, are making great impacts and standing up to be counted.’’
Dare told participants at the Summit that the future belongs to those that decide to have a positive attitude to life, understand that rigour must precede pleasure and embrace facts in a world of information.
‘‘To those who turn their skills into entrepreneurship, these are the youth that will navigate opportunities better and with an ocean, rather than drops, Africa will be truly unbeatable. The time for African criticality in our approach to youth development has come.
‘‘We must be Africancentric in the programmes and initiatives we design and implement,’’ he said.
Nigeria is currently the headquarters of the Commonwealth Youth Council (CYC) and 21 countries of the Commonwealth in the African Region are attending the four-day summit in Abuja.