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Key findings
  • Seven in 10 young Nigerians (70%) have secondary or post-secondary education, outstripping educational attainment among older generations.
  • But youth (aged 18-35) are also more likely than their elders to be unemployed: 24% say they are not employed and are looking for jobs, compared to 11%-16% of older age groups.
  • Crime/security, unemployment, and management of the economy are the most important problems that the government must address, according to young Nigerians.
  • Among young citizens, approval ratings of the government’s performance have plummeted to 14% on economic management, 18% on job creation, 21% on crime, and 27% on education.
  • Most youth say the country is going in “the wrong direction” (87%) and offer negative assessments of the nation’s economy (84%) and their personal living conditions (69%). About half (49%) expect things to improve over the coming year.
  • Young citizens are less likely than their elders to engage in political and civic activities such as voting in elections, attending community meetings, joining with others to raise an issue, and contacting elected officials, though their contact with local government councillors and members of Parliament has been increasing in recent years.

More than three-fourths of Nigerians (77%) are aged 35 or younger. The median age is 17 (United Nations, 2022; Worldometer, 2023). The country’s youthful potential is glaringly obvious, as are the dangers of failing to lay the necessary social, economic, and infrastructure foundations for young people’s success (Baiye, 2022). 

Beyond providing free primary and early secondary education and offering some technical/vocation training, the government lays out a wide variety of interventions in its National Youth Policy, ranging from study loan schemes for tertiary students and mass literacy centres for out-of-school youth to a job-matching programme for National Youth Service Corps graduates and enterprise development and incubation centres (Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2019). In 2018, the “Not Too Young to Run” law opened space for youth political participation, including lowering the minimum ages for political candidates (from 40 to 35 for would-be presidents) (Amaza, 2022). 

Yet millions of young Nigerians confront unemployment, limited opportunities for skills development, and other systemic challenges that limit their participation in social, economic, and political activities (Abdullahi & Saka, 2023). Nigeria ranks as a “low youth development” country, 161st out of 181 countries, in the Global Youth Development Index, with particularly low scores on employment and opportunity (173rd) and peace and security (168th) (Commonwealth, 2021; Punch, 2021). 

The Afrobarometer Round 9 survey (2022) offers some insights into the situation of Nigeria’s youth (defined here as citizens aged 18-35). Findings show that young people are more educated than their elders, but also more likely to be unemployed. Security, unemployment, and the economy are the most important problems on the minds of young Nigerians, who think their government is doing a poor job on all of these issues. Most see their country as headed in the wrong direction. 

Despite their dissatisfaction, Nigerian youth are less likely than their elders to engage in political processes. 

Sunday Duntoye

Sunday is the data manager for NOI Polls

Raphael Mbaegbu

Raphael is a project manager for NOI Polls