Ford Foundation and MacArthur Foundation in close partnership with LEAP Africa, have announced the launch of the Nigeria Youth Futures Fund (NYFF), a new $5 million fund tailored to support and strengthen the youth leadership ecosystem in Nigeria.
NYFF is a five-year collaborative fund with $3 million seed capital from the Ford Foundation and $2 million from the MacArthur Foundation to facilitate young people’s leadership and civic engagement in Nigeria, with the goal of raising $15 million from additional partners and other foundations.
The fund would be managed by Leadership, Effectiveness, Accountability & Professionalism (LEAP) Africa, a youth-focused leadership development non-profit with a mission to inspire, empower, and equip a new cadre of leaders with skills and tools for personal, organisational, and community transformation.
NYFF would build on the momentum in the region inspired by the youth-led #EndSARS movement, a statement signed by the Senior Communications Coordinator, LEAP Africa, Bernard Ibelih, stated.
The statement noted that young people under the age of 30 comprise more than 70 per cent of Nigeria’s population, with projections that the figure would continue to grow over the next few decades.
It added that given the significant number of youths, researchers had suggested that the future progress of Nigeria was based upon the extent to which young people were educated, skilled, healthy, and active in civic and political processes, including their involvement in the formation of long-term development strategies.
Speaking on the development, the Programme Officer in the Office of West Africa, Ford Foundation, Dabesaki Mac-Ikemenjima, said, “We’re excited about this launch because over the last decade, several analyses have shown that there is likely to be a great return on investment in youth across the economic, social, political, and technological domains of Nigeria’s development.
“I believe that the fund is a critical part of efforts to empower youth, enhance their leadership capabilities, expand opportunities for them to be engaged in national development, and facilitate a proactive and constructive relationship between the youth and governments across Nigeria.”
Also commenting on the launch, the Co-Director and Director of the Nigeria Office, MacArthur Foundation on Nigeria Programme, Kole Shettima, stated, “Today’s youth embody the hope and promise of a thriving Nigeria that will lead the African continent for generations to come.
“There is no better time to invest in the civic engagement and participation of our young people, and the Nigeria Youth Futures Fund will sustain their work locally and amplify their voices in the halls of power.”
According to the statement, the NYFF, which would be building on the momentum gained from the youth-led #EndSARS protests against police brutality in 2020 and social movements over the last decade, will convene an Imaginative Futures Working Group of young people ages 35 and below at the national and state levels, to explore and discuss visions, challenges, and opportunities for Nigeria in 2025, 2030, and 2050 as part of official government vision strategy efforts.
NYFF would also support hubs of innovation to advance the development of ideas including economic, civic, and social enterprises by and for young people; and create a fund that would provide small to medium-sized action grants for young activists and anchor organisations at national and sub-national levels.
The fund would also enable young people to take advantage of social and economic opportunities provided by governments and international agencies through an online portal.
On his part, the Executive Director of LEAP Africa, Mr Femi Taiwo, stated that “Young people hold a world of promise and it is strategically imperative that a country like Nigeria has leaders ensuring the delivery or actualisation of this promise.
“Our role in youth development is creating platforms, opportunities, and room to ensure that young people and their agencies are well supported. Amidst the numerous challenges that the Nigeria youth ecosystem has faced—especially in the wake of the pandemic, we remain committed to advancing the inclusion of youth voice, abilities, and agency.
“We are leveraging our 19 years of experience working with Nigerian youth and our multi-sectoral convening power, to build a stronger and more resilient youth ecosystem that will decisively contribute to the long-term development plans of Nigeria.”
Also, Policy Support Lead, Gender Mobile Initiative, LEAP Africa, Sarah Egbo, also noted, “It is important for young people to realise they have a powerful voice. As a vibrant group, youth have the power to unite, harness their potentials, and stir positive change.
“The Nigeria Youth Futures Fund comes at an opportune time for young people because, in order to hone the skills and knowledge of young people for effective participation, decision-making, and co-creation of knowledge in diverse spaces, there is a need for nuanced capacity building sessions and interventions aimed at fortifying young leaders for sustainable development.”
To kick off the engagement of youth, NYFF will launch an online competition to encourage young people to design the logo for the new Nigeria Youth Futures Fund.