African leaders, gender equality and demographic dividend
By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi
Recently, MS Keiso Matashane-Marite, the Chief Section, Gender Equality, UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), says Africa is making progress on issues around gender equality and youth empowerment.
Matashane-Marite, going by media reports, said this when a team from UNECA paid a courtesy visit to the National Population Commission (NPC) in Abuja on Wednesday. She said the UN commission was in Nigeria to evaluate the country’s commitment to gender equality and youth empowerment for Demographic Dividend. According to her, Nigeria and other African countries are doing their best to include women and youths in the development agenda. She expressed the determination of the commission to help the country to achieve demographic dividend.
Of course MS Keiso Matashane-Marite may not be wrong as some public office holders in Africa and Nigeria have in the past seven years demonstrated deep commitment to the course.
Thinking of such leaders that assisted Africa as a continent and Nigeria as a country achieve this feat, the likes of Senator (DR) Ifeanyi Okowa, the Executive Governor of Delta state, pops up. Aside from the fact that his leadership process is among the few public office holders in the country that understands the true meaning of social, economic justice and social contracts with the governed, there are many examples of actions coming from the Governor Okowa’s led administration that supports this fact.
First, aside from this is the tenacity with which the Governor has approached human capital development in the state/youth empowerment in the past six to seven years, the Governor has indeed demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that skill development remains the only major parameter through which the youths in the state who voted for him can achieve competitive advantage edge over their peers in other states and in other parts of the world.
He has sustainably planned, organized and conducted skill development programmes for his subjects as a much better and effective way of adopting suitable corrective measures for controlling negative attitudes among youths in the state.
Very key example is the recent ceremony held in place at Unity Hall, Government House, Asaba Delta state where Senator (DR) Ifeanyi Okowa, the Executive Governor of Delta state, doled out cash awards to 181 beneficiaries in the Skills Training and Entrepreneurship Programme (STEP), Youth Agricultural Entrepreneurship Programme (YAGEP), as well as Girls Empowerment Skill Training (GEST).
Governor Okowa stressed at the event that; the successes of the beneficiaries were part of the vision of building a new Delta, where the youths would be able to change the shape of the state. Okowa posited that even though his administration had recorded significant successes in different sectors of the state, what the youths had achieved in the different skills acquisition programmes was of great value and importance to him. While advising the beneficiaries to be good ambassadors of the state, he urged them to always keep records of their business dealings so they would be able to adequately monitor their growth and progress.
He said; we also have a deliberate policy to tackle youth unemployment through skills training and entrepreneurship development programmes. I believe that the way out of the unemployment quagmire is to equip the youth with the technical know-how, vocational skills, values and resources to become self-employed, as distinct from one-off empowerment. This is what my administration has done by instituting various skills training and entrepreneurship development programmes, which include: – Skills- Training and Entrepreneurship Programme(STEP); – Youth Agricultural- Entrepreneurs Programme(YAGEP); – Graduate Employment Enhancement Programme(GEEP); – Rural Youth Skills- Acquisition Programme(RYSA); – Girls Entrepreneurship Skills Training (GEST); and – Women Entrepreneurship Skills Acquisition Programme (WESAP).
These programmes are trainee-centred and service-oriented. The sectors and activities covered include agriculture, agricultural value chain services, vocational skills-based microenterprises and cottage enterprises. Furthermore, the training and mentoring processes aim beyond raising entrepreneurs to producing leaders and managers that have high levels of personal responsibility and effectiveness. I am pleased to let you know that after six years of faithful implementation of these programmes, we have trained and given business support packages to several thousands of youths.
Following the success of these interventions and other efforts in promoting technical education, Delta State was ranked the Best State in Human Capital Development in the 2017States Peer Review by the National Competitiveness Council of Nigeria. Also in 2020, Delta was adjudged to be the Second Least Poor State, coming only after Lagos, Nigeria’s business hub, according to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
There is still something worth mentioning about the Governor and that is his understanding of poverty as a state or condition in which a person or community lacks the financial resources and essentials for a minimum standard of living. Like the United Nations (UN) which also defines poverty as a condition characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information, Poverty in the Governor’s estimation means a state of living where the income level from employment is so low that basic human needs cannot be met.
When the leader protects and empowers a girl child in all aspects of her identity, he automatically assists her, takes her own decisions as well as ensures the future against absenteeism of women from different socio-political and economical spheres of the country. And demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that Okowa is a believer in the words of the late former Secretary General of the United Nation (UN), Kofi Annan, that there is no tool for development more effective than empowerment of women, and no other policy is as likely to raise economic productivity, or to reduce infant and maternal mortality’.
He has reached out to life. He has touched the untouchable. He has dropped Delta State from a point where the roads are not ploughable to a point where there is massive construction of roads everywhere. He has touched the youths in Delta State through several programmes. He has made sure that programmes for the girl child have emanated in Delta State where the girl child is no longer dependent on her parents. Business opportunities have been provided for them. Sen. Dr. IfeanyiOkowa has made sure that there is peace in all those areas. Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa has done well.
Finally, while Africans and their leaders celebrate the above flashes of good comment from MS Keiso Matashane-Marite, the Chief Section, Gender Equality, UN Economic Commission, for Africa (UNECA), it has become overwhelmingly important for all to recognize that catalyzing the process of true/sustained development of the continent will necessitate African leaders borrowing body from Asian tigers in order to raise Africa’s industrial soul. They need to analyze and understand the essential ingredients of foresight in leadership and draw a lesson on how leadership decision making processes involve judgment about uncertain elements, and differ from the pure mathematical probability process. They should also find out why Asia, after grappling with the problems of unemployment in the region, came to the conclusion that the only way to survive was to industrialize.
Utomi, is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via;[email protected]/08032725374