Here are some numbers: according to the Nigerian National Bureau of Statistics, young people between the ages of 15 and 35 make up 43% of the country’s total population. That’s a whopping 72 million people.

For these young people, the official unemployment rate stands at 54%, and there are more than 20 million unemployed young people between the ages of 20 and 35. At the normal rate of population growth, there will be more than 650,000 young people entering the labour market this year alone. Furthermore, for young people who may be interested in tertiary education, the country only has a capacity for less than 800,000 students in its public and private institutions.

These numbers only begin to illustrate the dire need for skills acquisition and training for Nigeria’s young people. The story is much the same across Africa: with an exploding youth population, low tertiary capacity and high youth unemployment rates it is becoming imperative to find innovative solutions.  While it is much celebrated that five of the world’s highest-growing GDPs are those of African countries, more attention should be paid to ensuring inclusive economic growth, in order to fulfil the true potential of “Africa rising”.

For many African nations, even if current GDP rates were maintained, there would not be enough jobs for the young people who critically need them. One way of bridging this looming gap is through programmes that equip young people with technical and entrepreneurial skills.

Nigerians could be called entrepreneurial by nature: a recent Gallup poll showed that 67% of Nigerians have thought about starting a business, while 45% say they will start a business within the next 12 months. Harnessing this entrepreneurial spirit could significantly reduce the rate of unemployment. However, it is not enough just to encourage entrepreneurship; we must provide skills and resources to support and sustain new businesses. Young business owners have been shown to employ other young people as their businesses grow.

Perhaps in recognition of the potential of entrepreneurial training to foster inclusive growth, the Nigerian government launched its YouWin! programme in 2011, a business-plan competition that provides training and mentoring to second-stage qualifiers and awards lucrative grants to finalists. The programme has trained more than 12,000 young people so far and plans to fund 3,600 businesses in three years.

But successful schemes such as these should not be left to the government alone; there are various private and not-for-profit organizations that have had success with similar projects.  FATE Foundation’s Aspiring Entrepreneurs Programme and Goldman Sach’s 10,000 Women initiative are two that have, through entrepreneurship mentoring and training, improved the financial literacy and business-planning skills of many micro-entrepreneurs. Having gone through rigorous grant awards or selection processes, and equipped with foolproof business plans, these entrepreneurs are better able to approach institutions for equity or debt financing, and more likely to hire as the business grows.

For the Lagos Hub of the Global Shapers Community, we are fully committed to using the talent and experiences we have, as well as those of our extended network, to provide basic entrepreneurship training for young people in our community. We are committed because we have seen it work within our ranks: a Lagos Shaper was recently awarded a million-dollar grant for his enterprise (a network of more than 100,000 young people that provides a platform for technical and vocational skills acquisition).

Furthermore, through our Business Skills Workshop, initiated in August 2013, we have trained close to 100 local micro-entrepreneurs in various aspects of business planning: marketing, finance, operations, management and legal structure, and industry and competitive analysis. The pilot programme will run over five modules, after which we hope to widen its scope into a business-plan competition that awards grants to the best participants.

The Hub is also developing a Farmer’s Club project to teach secondary-school students about the basics of agriculture and encourage an interest in agri-preneurship.  One student, at a school where the project is currently in its pilot phase, remarked: “I want to learn these skills to help me provide for my family in the future – in case I cannot find a job.”

The issue of youth unemployment and inclusive growth doesn’t concern the Lagos Hub alone; it’s a hot topic across the humanitarian community. The Forum’s Annual Curators Meeting serves as a crucial platform for Global Shapers to encourage one another and collaborate on how best to tackle the problem, wherever they are in the world.

Author: Lola Talabi-Oni is the Managing Director of BRENTT Consulting Ltd and is the curator of the Lagos hub of the Global Shapers CommunityShe will be attending the Global Shapers Annual Curators Meeting from 21-25 August in Geneva, Switzerland, bringing together over 325 Curators from around the world.

Image: A staff member inputs data into a computer at the warehouse of Konga online shopping company in Ilupeju district in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos September 13, 2013. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye