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1.1      Background to the Study

Although the current economic reforms in Nigeria were supposed to open up the national economy to the global economy, the reality on ground rather is the down-sizing of the civil service and more need to cut down on government expenditure (Onoge, 2005). This meant that social institutions, amongst them, schools deteriorated even as the intake and turn-out from such schools continued to rise annually. Consequently, the Nigerian situation is such that the institutions of learning turn out a workforce that is not equipped with the right skills employers require (McGraith and King, 1995). In addition, there is a recorded massive rural-urban drift, especially amongst the youth, who feel that they can make it better, economically in the metropolitan areas of the country (Echebiri, 2005). In consequence, the unemployed simply have to fend for themselves and grapple with this new phenomenon to create jobs independently – self-employment as it is called and this has been the trend for over two decades. It is how the youth have fared in pursuit of economic power/empowerment (entrepreneurship) and what the church can do to support them that constitute the thrust of this study.

Osamwonyi (2008), stated that the informal sector has been described by the International Finance Corporation as a vibrant sector that accounts for one-third of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), creating 90% new jobs. In Nigeria, the Federal office of statistics shows that the sector is responsible for 70% of Nigerian economic activity and 60% of total employment. By implication, a majority of Nigerians work and own business in this sector. However, the inability of the government to effectively harness the potential of these entrepreneurs and link them to the real sector has continued to foster poverty and undermine the potentials of economic growth that is inherent in this sector. Another important factor is that there are two types of entrepreneurs, namely: entrepreneurs of choice and those of necessity. The difference between the two is that entrepreneurs of choice are into business as a vocation and learn to seize opportunities in this field of endeavour. On the other hand, entrepreneurs of necessity are mostly those who are forced to survive in this sector because they do not have any other alternative. This group also comprises the dominant majority in the informal sectors who live and operate at the level of petty business/trading. Another significant difference is that the first group often comprise of business people who have received special training in one field or the other that place them in position to generate self-employment and to provide employment for other people. The second group is generally described as businessmen (and women) by necessity. Put in another way, skill acquisition is paramount because it is a recognized panacea for poverty alleviation as it fosters entrepreneurship and, in some cases, leads to the provision of micro-credit finance.

Youth in Nigeria constitutes the major percentage of the population and their importance to the present and future development of the nation cannot be underestimated. The political bureau (1987) observed that in the context of Nigeria’s historical experience the term refers to those between 6 – 30 years and those within this age group form about 56 percent of the population. Antanwu (2010) stated that they are “that part of the society that have departed from childhood and are entering a new phase of adulthood to grapple with the reality of their society”. It is a period of great biological and physiological changes in the life of an individual, internal stress, strain and crises. At this stage youth could be a problem to parents, teachers, the church, institutions and the government if they are not handled well. According to Iremeka (2007) it is all about working with youth to help them acquire the needed knowledge and then develop necessary skills, competence and attitudes which will make them become active agents in their society rather than victims of societal development and changes. It is therefore all about positively affecting their present position for good and making them contribute to the general development of the society.

Youth empowerment has become imperative today because it is seen as a vital ingredient in maintaining the social stability of our youth and to support nation building initiatives in Nigeria. The Social Development Policy of Nigeria (1989) believes that what the Nigerian youth need in today’s challenging world are emotional stability, self concept, identity, sense of belonging, intellectual and moral development, education, self-realization, good leadership and training to prepare them for their future role in the society. Therefore, this study will explore the impact of youth empowerment on the development of churches in Nigeria using Pentecostal churches like Deeper Christian Life Ministry, The Redeemed Christian Church of God, Living Faith Church Worldwide, Christ Embassy, etc. as case study.

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