The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) was established in Nigeria in 1973 with the aim of promoting national unity and cohesion through the engagement of young people in community service across the country. However, with the challenges facing the youth today, the current model of the NYSC has been criticised for not providing the skills and opportunities needed to address the pressing issues of unemployment and lack of opportunities. In response, a new model for the NYSC that focuses on entrepreneurship and innovation is proposed, providing a path for young people to create their own opportunities and contribute to the growth of the Nigerian economy.
The NYSC was introduced as a response to the challenges of national unity and cohesion in Nigeria at the end of the civil war. With its diverse ethnic and cultural composition, Nigeria has long struggled to achieve unity and harmony among its people. The NYSC was seen as a way of promoting national integration by posting young people, who are the future leaders, to different regions or states outside where they originated from, so that they learn different cultures and forge friendships. While the programme has had some success in this regard, it is no longer enough to address the challenges facing Nigerians today, especially the younger generation.
The current challenge facing the youth of today and which threatens the peace and unity of the country is lack of opportunities and jobs. In your election campaign, Mr President-elect, you promised to create more opportunities for the youth, and the proposed new model for the NYSC aligns with this vision. By providing young people with the skills and resources they need to start their own businesses and create new jobs, you can help to address some of the root causes of insecurity and lack of unity and provide a path to economic empowerment.
Under the proposed model, participants would spend two months in a camp learning entrepreneurial skills, including how to write a business plan, marketing, and financial management, in addition to military training. At the end of the training, participants would be required to write a successful business plan and would be offered a seed grant of up to N1 million to develop their ideas into a viable business. This would provide a much-needed boost to Nigeria’s economy by encouraging the creation of new businesses and jobs.
The scheme should incentivise forming of partnerships rather than single applications. Incentivising them to form partnerships can be an effective way to increase the chances of success and encourage collaboration and pooling of resources. This can lead to more innovative ideas and better outcomes for all parties involved. This can easily be achieved by increasing funds for partners compared to single applicants.
However, to avoid misuse of the new scheme, the system should be developed so that any person who benefits from it and gets a job in a formal setting within say two years, will have to repay the grant given to them with interest. This will ensure that the funds are used for their intended purpose and that the programme remains sustainable.
In addition to the entrepreneurial training, participants would still be required to carry out community service, but in a more targeted and effective way. Participants should be encouraged to use their new skills and knowledge to make a real impact in their communities. For example, they could develop and implement community development projects, mentor local entrepreneurs, or provide business consulting services to local small businesses.
To make this new model of the NYSC a reality, there will need to be significant investment in training facilities and resources, as well as a commitment from the government and private sector to support the programme. However, it is believed that the potential benefits of this new model are too great to ignore. By placing a greater emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation we will create a new generation of young Nigerians who are equipped to meet the challenges of the modern economy and who can help to drive the country’s growth and development. And because they will have a stake in Nigeria plc, they will be the champions of unity rather than allowing themselves to be used as cannon fodder for divisions and bloodshed.
The cost of delivering this intervention could be partly covered by using the funds already spent on running the scheme per cohort and their upkeep, including their allowances which can generate up to N0.7 million, allowing for the proposed upward review of the participants’ allowance. The remaining funds could be provided by diverting a small proportion of the money that would be untied by the impending removal of petroleum product subsidies.
The proposed new model for the NYSC is a bold and innovative approach to empowering Nigeria’s youth and addressing the challenges of unemployment and lack of opportunities. It aligns with your vision, Mr President-elect, and represents a significant step towards building a brighter future for all Nigerians. It will do a lot of good for the country if the government and policymakers support this new model.
Dr Hassan, an engineering consultant and a director of OpportuniesNG, wrote from Warrington UK