As you may have read over the last month or two, I am headed to Nigeria to do a 6 month consultancy. I leave tomorrow.
It involves a challenging project, in a challenging environment, at a challenging period for Nigeria. It is a youth savings project, focused on the idea that the habit of savings and the development of assets can and will transform the life of poor youth. The habit of savings is correlated with improved health, better outlook on life, avoidance of risky behaviors, and the ability to make long-term life plans. The development of assets provides these young people with opportunities to pursue schooling and business opportunities, without the onus of paying it back (like in microcredit).
The Bayelsa State Government has taken on this project, and is committed to doubling everything the kids save (up to a cap), provide financial training to the youths and their families, and to test this approach to alleviating poverty in their community.
Its a tough project: it involves money, logistics, kids, education, etc.
It's a tough environment: Bayelsa is in the Niger Delta, which is where Nigeria's oil comes from. There are ongoing, low-lying militant conflicts, underserved populations, poor roads, pollution, heavy rainfall, extreme heat, etc.
It's a tough time: Elections are in April 2011, Nigeria just gained a new leader (President Goodluck Jonathan), who is from Bayelsa. There is plenty of local electoral strife and violence. Also, there is the question of what will the new President do about the amnesty proceedings with the militants?
What's in it for me? A life-changing experience. The opportunity to test some of the theories I learned in graduate school. If the project is even halfway successful, it's an important step forward for the region.
Wish me luck!
Stay tuned to find out more!