Nigeria’s Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Mr Sunday Dare today in Abuja held a Tripartite meeting with his counterparts from Algeria and Egypt, on how to foster mutual benefits among their countries.
The meeting formed part of activities marking the 40th anniversary of the Association of National Olympic Committees in Africa (ANOCA) taking place in Abuja.
Speaking during the meeting, Dare said, “When I visited Egypt some three months ago, we had a joint meeting where we reviewed youth and sports development programmes of our countries and explored common areas we can leverage on.
“We have spent the past few weeks trying to see which areas can be best explored. We agreed that he would either come to Abuja or I would visit Cairo. Gladly, he has come to Abuja and we want to warmly welcome him.
“It is also so important to welcome the Minister of Youth and Sports Development from Algeria who was the Chairman of the Anti-Corruption War in Algeria, the equivalent of our EFCC Chairman before he became the Minister.
“The population of youth in Africa, Nigeria, Algeria, Egypt is growing in leaps and bounds. These youth need to be engaged either by giving them employment, or by keeping them busy through sports and competitions, providing them finance to start their own businesses or by simply ensuring that we give them the digital skills that they need.
“So, for youth development, there are four critical areas; Digital skills and digital literacy for the digital economy for the 24th century. How do we operate this aspect because we have that challenge and I am sure we will know whether it’s the same challenge.
“The youths are restless, if they are not engaged in productive activities, they go on riot, go into drug abuse and other vices. We see sports as a tool for unity and tool to keep the youth busy. We believe that when a youth goes to practice wrestling in the morning, does same in the evening all he wants to do is to eat dinner and sleep. But when he sits in the morning, 14 hours everyday doing nothing, he can be recruited for protest or recruited for any kind of vices. Sports can be used as a tool to promote peace and unity
“Thirdly, there is the need to empower our youth, give them the finance and the resources they need to become self-employed, to become entrepreneurs and wealth creators.
“Government can no longer employ all the youth. Government jobs are not available but the youth have problems with banks to access loans where the interest rate in this country is about 21-24% . In Nigeria, we were able to establish the youth investment fund at an interest rate of 5% single digit, the lowest and we think that would help to turn our youths to entrepreneurs.
“I think these are the key major areas. I can provide another example when it comes to sports. It is important that we have inter-country tournament and championship beyond what we do in Nigeria, Egypt, Algeria and Morocco. We can come together and organise a volleyball tournament, or an athletics championship. It’s miniature skills but it’s impactful.
“In athletics, some points could be gained and ranking improved. We can even organize football matches; we just did a Six-Nation football tournament which the FIFA and CAF Presidents came. It had six top women football countries in Africa participate and it was an exciting time where they also got points for participating.
“Also, we can look at youth exchange, our youths love to travel, sadly some of them travel illegally. We can have them make this travel legally and be more impactful. We will design a youth exchange programme between our countries.
“From Egypt and Algeria we may have 50 youths selected by Egyptian Ministry or the Algerian Ministry have a programme in Nigeria which they will fit into, whether it is a Sports event, digital skill or entrepreneurship skills program. We can even start with 10 youth for a month exchange program. That was the practice in the past but it stopped. But youths in Algeria, Egypt and Nigeria want the same thing.
“They want jobs, capital to start businesses, they want to build a career, they want government to support them and set them on the path of progress. I think these are the critical areas we can work on. We will mention the programs that we have, but the MOU will look at the four critical areas. We start to look at what programme does Egypt, Algeria or Nigeria have in sports that are alike and design such programs as a module for the youth of our country.
In his response, the Algerian Youth and Sports Minister, Abderezak Sebagag said, “I wish to thank the Minister of Youth and Sports Development from Nigeria and Egypt.
“Concerning the developmental policy that we want to engage our youth in our respective countries, especially the aspect of improving their digital skills, we have a volunteer program in Algeria.
The Egyptian Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Dr. Ashraf Sobhi also affirmed, “We as a Ministry, we will work as one country in an effort to develop youth and sports in Africa. With the scheme from the Hon. Youth and Sports Minister from Nigeria, we can seek how to work together.
“We should use our roles and positions as Ministers of Youth and Sports to promote our vision and development. If we work together, our development and plans can become reality”
“We look at the sports part of the youth activities, we look at sports as a leisure, as recreation, as competition and tournament. Actually we have to look at sports as a product to shield the youth from vices in their society. In Egypt, we have a full strategy merging youth and sports. Basically we use sports development to aid education till 2052.
“We are developing our premises, which means we are developing our facilities and sports facilities because without good facilities we can’t actualize our plans for the future”, he concluded.