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MTN Foundation: Investing in Youth Development to Bridge Employment

The Executive Secretary, MTN Foundation, Odunayo Sanya says the Foundation is committed to youth development and building entrepreneurial skills, in order to bridge employment gaps in Nigeria. She stated this during a panel discussion at the 7th annual Project Management Institute (PMI) Africa conference held at Eko Hotels, Lagos.

The conference, which took place on Tuesday, September 13th, 2022, saw Odunayo  join other experts such as Executive Director, Anzisha Prize, Josh Adler; Social Impact Manager, Project Management Institute (PMI), Laura Davidson; Principal Corporate Services & Communications, Mount Kenya University Foundation, Peter Wander and Secretary General of Committee of Vice- Chancellors, Nigeria, Professor Yakubu Ochei, to speak on the theme, “Education and Entrepreneurship-Building a Bridge to Employment”.

Speaking about MTN Foundation’s investment in education and entrepreneurship, Odunayo said: “For us at MTN Foundation, we understand that education is a path. We believe innovation is formal education agnostic. We understand that  everyone may not go through the four walls of formal school. Young people think about the future, the gratification and the job they want to do. So, for us, this is critical. It became clear to us what we can do to make an impact. And that is youth development in Nigeria. 

In terms of education, we have what we call the MTN Foundation scholarship scheme, focused mainly on STEM. We also have scholarships for blind Nigerians. These are scholarships of excellence and it is amazing what these youth can do. We also work with our ecosystem partners to train and retrain youth, in areas of entrepreneurship. We do what we call the ICT & entrepreneurship training. Over time, we have given about 12, 000 scholarships. At the Foundation, these are some ways we marry education and entrepreneurship in communities where we operate,” she concluded.

A 2021 report by the World Bank shows youth unemployment in Nigeria at 19.6%. These statistics show the unemployment rate in Nigeria is among the highest in Africa. A similar report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) revealed that over one in five young people in Africa were not in employment, education, or training (NEET) in 2020, and the trend keeps deteriorating.

Speaking on the importance of this year’s theme, Managing Director, Sub-Saharan Africa, Project Management Institute (PMI), George Asamani said, “when we look at the journey of young people in Africa, there are certain challenges they come across. Education and entrepreneurship are two avenues they can make it. However, statistics show a wide disparity. So clearly, there is a gap between the students coming out of school and the jobs. But what we know is, there are lots of organisations working to address this, and that is why we are here.”

The PMI Africa conference is an annual conference where visionary project leaders, captains of industry, and senior government officials come together to scrutinise the trends and technologies transforming how public and private sector projects are delivered. The highly anticipated gathering brings leaders and businesses from across the continent under one roof for three days of discussion, knowledge sharing and retention of valuable skills.

Now in its seventh year, the 2022 edition is themed “Sustainable Growth for Social Good: Connecting Ideas, People and Projects”.  This year’s conference looks at strengthening the role of the project economy in supporting sustainable and inclusive growth in the region.

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