ABUJA — Nigeria risks social unrest in the coming years unless the oil-rich nation takes advantage of its resources and creates jobs for its swelling youth population, a report released on Wednesday warned.
The report commissioned by the British Council said Africa's most populous nation "could reap an enormous economic dividend in the next 20 years if it creates opportunities for its young people -- but faces a demographic disaster if it fails."
Conducted by an independent panel of respected Nigerian experts including economists and ex-ministers, the report said the country would in the next two decades have an abundant supply of young workers.
Nigeria's 150 million population could soar by tens of millions more people by 2050, according to UN estimates.
The report said "the seriousness of the country's predicament should not be underestimated. Its prospects will be bleak and could be catastrophic."
In the worst case, the study forecast that Nigeria could face ethnic and religious conflict and a discredited political system due to its "failure to improve lives."
However, if the country continued with current levels of economic growth, while also creating jobs and boosting health and education standards, more than 30 million people could be lifted out of poverty by 2030, it said.
"But the risks are as great as the opportunities," warned the report, pointing at threats to stability in a country with a past history of unrest.
"If Nigeria fails to plan for its next generation it faces serious problems as a result of growing numbers of young people frustrated by a lack of jobs and opportunities.
"They could be a force for instability and social unrest," it said.
The oil industry contributes 40 percent to national GDP, but only employs 0.15 percent of the population, the report said.
The report said Nigeria, Africa's largest oil producer, would need to create some 25 million jobs over the next 10 years.
Official unemployment statistics place the levels of joblessness at 20 percent, but these are generally disputed.
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