By Mike Kwanashie
With the deepening social and economic crisis in Nigeria, there is a need to rethink paradigms and strategies for addressing youth restiveness in the country. This requires a paradigm shift that focuses on identifying, cultivating and empowering community and youth entrepreneurs.
Nigeria has in the last few decades witnessed the intensification of upheavals and crises with a vast majority of the populace currently facing heightened sense of insecurity, increasing frustration and total disillusionment with the state of the nation.
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Despite numerous attempts by successive Nigerian governments to lay a foundation for sustainable growth, a striking characteristic of underdevelopment, which is growth without sustainable development, persists.
This is because in the past few decades, the political class has failed to create conditions for a harmonious state.
Despite the ideological shift to a market based, private sector-led paradigm introduced in the past, the government has maintained a dominant role in the economy.
Though the privatisation of public enterprises and slimming down of the role of the state has succeeded in diminishing the role of the state as a major employer of labour, it has among others issues, however, resulted in the diminished capacity for youth employment in the face of significant capital accumulation.
Worse still, the promotion of domestic and foreign investments, which is at the core of this shift, did not also result in the levels of labour absorption necessary to counter the growing rural – urban drift and population growth.
So, Nigeria can be said to be paying for the social consequences of this development with youth restiveness as one of the powering forces of social malcontent.
This calls for greater youth engagement in all facets of national life the success of which depends on how local communities respond to state level initiatives to address crucial development challenges.
This is where the idea of social entrepreneurship comes in.
Social entrepreneurship is an approach to addressing social problems, through creating the capacity of society, especially communities to solve problems such social and economic exclusion, unemployment, social and economic dislocation.
It aims to achieve change in social and cultural arrangements and promote fairness and social justice via participative structures and democratic processes but with the states best structured to drive the initiative.
A state like Nasarawa for instance, is in a good position not only to initiate this paradigm shift but can fast track its development through social entrepreneurship.
Nasarawa, like many other states in the country, is faced with several social and political challenges that have resulted in insecurity, intolerance, and clash of culture.
The proximity of Nasarawa State to the nation’s capital has resulted in rapid migration from across the nation.
Secondly, over 70 per cent of Nasarawa State’s population is below 40 years of age, implying that the state has a huge youth bulge.
For sustainable development, therefore, the state must promote peace and mutualism and encourage different groups to subscribe to a common good above parochial interest.
A well-articulated social entrepreneurship framework facilitates individuals and networks to implement innovative methods and creativity, taking advantage of incentives provided by the state to solve social problems.
Unlike the national strategy for entrepreneurial development, which is focused on profit-making, contextualising this within a social entrepreneurial framework enables entrepreneurs to see beyond profit to social cohesion and local problem solving.
The big challenge however is how to make it work. But a sure way of pulling it through is by combining a top-bottom and bottom-top approach towards its implementation.
This involves having the State Government provide the entrepreneurship ecosystem while the community-based entrepreneurs create the value by acting on information/knowledge, taking the risk and creating value.
The state must however be proactive and engaging, as well as ready to provide the educational support to communities to develop skills and capacity and also strengthen the educational system at the local level.
It is sustainable because it is need based, builds capacity, creates employment and the know-how for entrepreneurs especially the youths to create value and wealth.
As these efforts are sustained, the desired positive effects would begin to manifest.
The Youth will be less prone to be lured by national and transnational criminal elements and begin to shun social and criminal vices that will destroy their community, state, and nation at large as they now become co-owners in the community, state, and national project.
And most importantly they will now have hope in the system!
Kwanashie, a Professor of Economics, former Vice Chancellor of the Veritas University Abuja and former Special Adviser (Economic and Social Matters) in the office of the Vice-president contributed this piece from Abuja