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Despite COVID-19 challenges, Nigeria remains largest economy, most populous country in Africa – Agba

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From Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja

The Minister of State, Budget and National Planning, Prince Clem Ikanade Agba, has said that despite the COVID-19 challenges, Nigeria remained the largest economy and most populous country in Africa.

Agba who spoke in Abuja during the first edition of the European Union (EU) Open Day, also said Nigeria has an estimated population of more than 200 million.

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Agba who was represented by his Special Assistant, Dr Philip Ugbodaga, added that the population is expected to grow to 411 million by 2050 whereby Nigeria will become the third most populous country in the world after China and India.

Agba however said the demographic trend that has a huge youth component, has serious implications for Nigeria’s economic development, adding that providing for such a large population poses significant economic challenges with consequent security threat to the social wellbeing of the people.

“The World Bank, in a report, stated that 74 percent global growth of youth population aged 18–23 will be majorly in Nigeria and nine other countries from 2015 to 2035. Despite the COVID-19 challenges, Nigeria remains the largest economy and most populous country in Africa with an estimated population of more than 200 million, which is expected to grow to 411 million by 2050 and become the third most populous country in the world after China and India. This demographic trend that has a huge youth component has serious implications for Nigeria’s economic development as providing for such a large population poses significant economic challenges with consequent security threat to the social wellbeing of the people.

“Consequently, the Government of Nigeria through the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, has prioritized youths in its development agenda by making youths one of the key pillars of the National Development Plan (NDP) 2021-2025. The mainstreaming of youths into the NDP further demonstrates government’s understanding that youths are the engine room for development.

“The Nigerian government has over the years enjoyed excellent collaboration with the EU, a cooperation which includes trade, military and humanitarian assistance, and several others with the EU remaining the largest trading partner with our country, while members of the Union equally remain the largest investors. We will continue to work together to strengthen multilateralism, democracy, human rights, free and fair trade and sustainable development,” Agba said.

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Earlier, Agba said he was particularly motivated by the EU’s decision to celebrate this year’s event by focusing on the role of youths and accordingly designating it as the European Year of Youth and the importance of young Europeans in building a better future that is greener, more digital and healthier.

“It has been said that if you want to change the world, reach out to the youths. It is in the realization of this that the administration of President Muhammadu  Buhari is paying special attention to youth development by vigorously promoting policies aimed at creating opportunities and avenues that can empower the youths to contribute meaningfully to their communities and to the country,” Agba also said.

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In her remarks, the Head of the EU Delegation to Nigeria and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Ambassador Samuela Isopi, said 2022 is the European Year of Youth which is also the theme of this year’s celebration for the Europe Day and a major focus of the Open Day.

While welcoming guests to the event, Isopi also said this year, the EU decided to open the doors of its house to celebrate the Europe Day with Nigerians.

Isopi disclosed that more than 2000 Nigerian visitors were expected in the EU complex to be guided in a journey into the history of the European project, through European Union institutional architecture and symbols, such as the EU flag, the European anthem and its common currency, the Euro.

“You will also discover European diversity and learn more about EU-Nigeria partnership,” Isopi said.

Giving the historical details of the Europe Day, Isopi said Europe Day commemorates what is considered to be the “founding act” of the European Union.

“On 9th May 1950, just five years after the end of the Second World War, French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman, made a declaration, a proposal, to put the two materials needed at that time to manufacture weapons, coal and steel, under the control of a supranational organisation. An ingenious way to avoid war in Europe after centuries of conflicts among European Nations.

“A year later, six European countries — Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and Netherlands, founded the first European Community, the European Community for Coal and Steel.

“Since then, the Schuman Declaration has secured long-term peace in post-war Europe and is considered the beginning of what is today the European Union.

“A Union of 27 countries, which is unique in the world because we are not a state, we are not an international organisation, we are a supranational union that continues to deepen and to develop. We are a community with a population of more than 440 million people, with 24 official languages, with different cultures and traditions, with a Parliament elected by citizens,” Isopi stated.

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