Visiting Nigeria from August 20-23, the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth Ahmad Alhendawi met with local youth organizations and government officials to discuss the UN’s program in the country and the development of a national youth policy.
One of the highlights of the visit saw the Envoy officially endorsing the #NotTooYoungToRun Campaign, a bill that seeks to reduce the age of qualification for the offices of the President, Governor, and House of Representatives from 40 to 30, 35 to 30, and 30 to 25 years old respectively. The bill also seeks to lower the age of candidacy for the Senate from 35 to 30, and that of the State Houses of Assembly from 30 to 25.
“This campaign is important considering not only the age of the continent but also the overwhelming youth demographic in Nigeria,” said Mr. Alhendawi speaking at an interactive session with youth and government representatives held at the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports in Abuja.
Young people meeting with the Envoy emphasized the need for further support in facilitating their participation in Nigeria’s public life, as well as tackling health issues, HIV/AIDS and youth unemployment.
Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and has one of the largest youth populations in the world. ILO estimates suggest that 43% of Nigerian youth aged 15-24 are either unemployed or underemployed.
In a poll shared with over one million Nigerian youth a few days before Alhendawi’s visit, nearly 70% of respondents said that employment and skills training are the issues that matter most to them, followed by education and HIV.
These and other issues were at the center of the Envoy’s engagements in the country. Throughout the visit, Mr. Alhendawi held a series of meetings at the Ministry of Youth and Sports, as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Assembly and the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA).
In his meeting with Vice President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, the Envoy praised ongoing cooperation between the UN and Nigeria and discussed the importance of developing a national youth policy in the country, pledging the UN’s support in in that regard. Alhendawi also announced that the next UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) in Nigeria will have a special focus on young people, making youth one of the framework’s key pillars.
“The framework will be developed in full consultation with young people,” Mr. Alhendawi said during the meeting, where he was joined by the UNAIDS Country Director, Dr. Bilali Camara, the UNFPA representative in the country, Ratdzai Ndhlovu, and the ILO representative in Nigeria, Dennis Zulu.
Meeting with the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Youth and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Alhendawi discussed how to further strengthen youth development in the country with a particular focus on increasing youth participation in public life. Alhendawi also visited and interacted with young people attending entrepreneurship trainings at the Abuja Enterprise Agency.
The visit of the Youth Envoty was coordinated by joint efforts of the UN agencies in the country and coordinated by UNAIDS Country Director, Dr. Bilali Camara.