At the Annual Eurocham Nigeria’s Stakeholders Conference in Lagos on January 19th 2023, themed “Youth, Education, Employment and Skills” participants sought ways to raise the country’s stock of human capital and enhance employability and economic growth; address the skills gap in the employment sector, leveraging Nigeria’s huge population of young people to drive economic prosperity.

The Conference was held under the high patronage of the European Union Ambassador to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Ms Samuela Isopi, had Nigeria’s former Minister of Education and ex-Vice President of the World Bank, Ms Obiageli Ezekwesili as a keynote speaker and also included a panel session on “Human Capital, a key factor of success for companies – how to recruit, train and retain talent to secure business growth in a challenging environment?”. Panelists included Ms Folashade Adefisayo, Lagos State Hon. Commissioner of Education, Ms Folawe Omikunle Chief Executive officer, Teach for Nigeria as well as Eurocham Nigeria member companies.

In his welcoming address, the president of Eurocham Nigeria, Mr Simon Melchior mentioned that “recognizing the importance for our member companies to recruit, train and retain in Nigeria highly qualified and committed staff, Eurocham Nigeria has created a Human Resources Working Group, which is tasked with coordinating our efforts and formulating our joint recommendations in this area. We are ready to play our part in supporting as much as we can both Federal and State Governments’ initiatives enhancing the employability and productivity of Nigerian young professionals.”

Ambassador Isopi said that “Youth, Education, Employability and Skills (YEES!) are also a top concern and top priority for the European Union, both internally and in its cooperation with partner countries”. Ambassador Isopi, who is also an Honorary Member of Eurocham Nigeria, described human capital as key to Nigeria’s development, and reaffirmed that the EU, its Members States and EU businesses recognised this in their engagements with the country.

Both the European Union and Eurocham Nigeria are playing leading roles in the Nigeria Jubilee Fellowship Programme (NJFP), a collaborative initiative between the Nigerian Government and key stakeholders to build a reservoir of innovative and employable skills in the country, by placing smart young graduates in paid 1-year internships in companies across the country. The programme targets 100,000 youths over a five-year period.

In her keynote address, Ms Obiageli Ezekwesili gave a thorough overview of the Nigerian primary, secondary and tertiary education system, underlined the importance to get literacy and numeracy right at the primary level but also highlighted the need to involve the organized private sector in curriculum reform, to ensure youth employability. Lagos State Honourable Commissioner of Education, Ms. Folashade Adefisayo shared Lagos State’s perspective and experience in ensuring school attendance across Lagos State and a significant increase in the WAEC success rate (from less than 40% to about 80%) over the past years. She also offered a concrete venue for collaboration between Lagos State and Eurocham Nigeria, which will be the task of the organization’s newly established Human Resources Working Group.

European companies continue to play a key role in Nigeria’s economy, providing qualified employment, creating local added value and contributing to the country’s economy in a positive, sustainable manner. All Eurocham member companies also have dedicated Trainee Programmes; participate actively in the NYSC scheme; and impact thousands of young Nigerians through their in-house human resources development programmes.

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