Today, I addressed new and returning Governors at the 2023 Governors’ Forum. I spoke on ‘Entrepreneurship, Youth Engagement and Wealth Creation”.
The dynamics of governance in our country calls for preparedness and this programme is laudable in laying the important groundwork. No one can underestimate the role of good governance in contributing to the development of Nigeria.
Our country has a population of about 220 million people – the largest in Africa. Each state in Nigeria has different dynamics, but there is one constant, the great majority are young people. Success will mean prioritizing the largest stakeholder Group in our States, our youth.
Nigeria’s destiny can only be achieved with public and private sectors working together for the common good. An entrepreneur has a stake in our country’s success. An entrepreneur carries others, family, employees, communities with him or her. An entrepreneur wants stability, power, education, respect and certainty in their environment. With this foundation, entrepreneurs can be the engines of our growth. This is why I champion entrepreneurship amongst our youth.
Every state in Nigeria can be a country and Governors must see themselves as the Presidents of their states, CEOs and lead mentors. Look at Singapore, a country with 6 million people, no oil, no abundance of natural resources, just human resources and purposeful leadership. Today, the per capita GDP stands at USD55,000, up from USD 500 in 1965 making the country one of the most developed countries in the world.
But how did they get there? It was not a mistake; it took deliberate actions by focused leadership – a combination of sound financial and economic policy coupled with a corruption free environment and technological advancement.
As a private sector leader with investments in key sectors of the Nigerian economy through Heirs Holdings Group, Transcorp Group and UBA Group, I see the challenges faced by our young. Together, our Group employs 40,000 people across Nigeria, and I can attest first hand to the wave of skilled young people leaving the country for ‘greener pastures’. The Japa syndrome.
We must tell ourselves the truth, the world today is so global that talent will always move to where conditions are most favourable. We cannot afford to waste our most precious resource, our young people. Through what we do at The Tony Elumelu Foundation, empowering young African, I understand first-hand, the importance of entrepreneurship in fostering youth engagement and poverty alleviation.
It is not rocket science. If we focus on the young people in our respective states, empower them, create an enabling environment for them to succeed, we will solve our problems in this country. It is lack of economic hope or opportunity that leads a young man to carry an AK47 and join a terrorist or bandit group.
My final advice to our Governors and Leaders was to pause and reflect as they commence this journey – to reflect on their legacy. How will history judge you? What greater legacy is there than your gift to the next generation – Give our youth economic hope, and they will transform our country.