Amidst the escalating urgency to combat climate change, Nigerian youth have been encouraged to seize the burgeoning opportunities in the sustainability sector, particularly in the realm of green energy transformations. These transformations are driving a surging demand for new talents and creating fresh career prospects.
Environmental experts conveyed this message during the 2023 International Youth Day forum, themed "Going Green: Abundant Prospects for the Youth," organized by the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) in a virtual setting in Lagos.
Leading this call to action was Mr. Azeez Abubakar, Founder and Executive Director of Sustainable Solutions for Green Growth. He emphasized that as climate change concerns have grown universal, they've simultaneously unlocked various avenues for young people to thrive. To capitalize on these opportunities, youth must cultivate a passion, acquire the requisite skills, and demonstrate the dedication needed to participate in this evolving transition.
According to data from the International Labour Organization (ILO), the shift towards sustainable energy sources and a green economy could generate an estimated 100 million jobs. However, it will necessitate the development of green skills encompassing technical know-how, expertise, and proficiencies required to effectively employ green technologies and processes in professional settings.
Abubakar underscored that the journey towards a green economy has opened up opportunities for young people to excel in the field of renewable energy. This sector is experiencing rapid growth, thanks to increased investments from countries worldwide, particularly the United Nations, which has begun providing funding support to developing nations to boost renewable energy infrastructure in Africa.
He stated, "Renewable energy sectors like wind and geothermal are expanding faster than the traditional job market. Nations are also enacting legislation to promote the use of renewable energy. Numerous prospects exist in clean energy, such as designing solar systems, developing programs and policies to monitor carbon emissions, designing environmentally friendly communities, and engaging in environmental conservation efforts."
Abubakar advised youths to invest in their self-development, seek training, stay updated by attending conferences to enhance their knowledge, engage in grassroots initiatives, and network with industry experts.
Simangele Msweli-Ratsoana, Senior Manager of Youth Programs at the African Wildlife Foundation, acknowledged the diverse opportunities within the green economy but noted that accessing them can be challenging. She recommended that youths join various networks and research groups to aid their growth in the sustainability sector.
She encouraged young people to participate in leadership training programs related to environmental governance and acquire skills that complement their careers, such as human resource management, logistics, and communication skills, in addition to traditional skills.
Mr. Abbas Agbaje, Managing Consultant at ImpactCrest Consulting, emphasized that green jobs align with the broader goals of environmental preservation, enhancing social well-being, and improving livelihoods. He urged youths to actively contribute by producing products and services that reduce carbon emissions and combat climate change. Examples include using paper bags instead of plastic ones, recycling waste and metals, manufacturing eco-friendly equipment, producing solar photovoltaic systems, procuring green equipment, and processing agricultural products for export.
Agbaje further highlighted the real estate sector, with an estimated housing deficit of 18 to 20 million units, as offering opportunities for young people to construct affordable, environmentally friendly housing that conserves water, energy, and resources.
In closing, Joshua Dazi, NCF Programme Officer, stressed that young people should leverage the global green economic transition by positioning themselves strategically to access funding and grants for green products and services. He cautioned that if proposed solutions or products for community issues do not align with end-users' preferences, the project may falter, hindering access to grants.