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Ford, MacArthur foundations launch $5 million fund to support youths in Nigeria

The Ford Foundation and MacArthur Foundation have announced the launch of the Nigeria Youth Futures Fund (NYFF), a new $5 million fund that will support and strengthen the youth leadership ecosystem in Nigeria.

In close partnership with LEAP Africa, who will be managing the fund, NYFF will build on momentum in the region inspired by the youth-led #EndSARS movement.

Young people under the age of 30 comprise more than 70 percent of Nigeria’s population, with projections that this figure will continue to grow over the next few decades.

Given the significant number of youth, researchers have suggested that the future progress of Nigeria is based upon the extent to which young people are educated, skilled, healthy, and active in civic and political processes, including their involvement in the formation of long-term development strategies.

“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,” said Dabesaki Mac-Ikemenjima, Program Officer in the Office of West Africa, Ford Foundation. “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.”

NYFF is a five-year collaborative fund seeded by $3 million 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.

“Today’s youth embody the hope and promise of a thriving Nigeria that will lead the African continent for generations to come,” said Kole Shettima, MacArthur Foundation On Nigeria program Co-Director and Director of the Nigeria office. “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.”

Building on the momentum gained from the youth-led #EndSARS protests against police brutality in 2020 and social movements over the last decade, NYFF will:
• Convene an Imaginative Futures Working Group of young people ages 35 and below at strategy efforts;
• Support hubs of innovation to advance the development of ideas including economic, civic, and social enterprises by and for young people;
• Create a fund that will provide small- to medium-sized action grants for young activists and anchor organizations at national and sub-national levels; and
• Enable young people to take advantage of social and economic opportunities provided by governments and international agencies through an online portal.

Leadership, Effectiveness, Accountability & Professionalism (LEAP) Africa, which will manage and operate the fund, is a youth-focused leadership development nonprofit with a mission to inspire, empower, and equip a new cadre of leaders with skills and tools for personal, organizational, and community transformation. Its youth interventions bridge gaps in effective leadership, education, employability, and entrepreneurship, and awaken civic participation in citizens to demand good governance and creatively address social issues across the continent.

“Young people hold a world of promise and it is strategically imperative that a country like Nigeria has leaders ensuring the delivery or actualization 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,” said Femi Taiwo, Executive
Director of LEAP Africa.

“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.”

“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,” said Sarah Egbo, Policy Support Lead, Gender Mobile Initiative. “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.

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