Youth Empowerment Scheme for Poverty Reduction

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The depiction of Nigeria as a paradox by the World Bank (1996) cannot be faulted. The paradox is that the level of poverty is a contradiction of the country’s enormous wealth. Nigeria is immensely endowed with human, oil, gas, agricultural, and untapped mineral resources, just to mention but a few. Unfortunately, despite these endowments, the country remains one of the poorest in the world. In its 2000 Human Development Report, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) placed Nigeria among the 30 least developed countries (LCDs) of the world (UNDP, 2000).

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Although poverty is rampant in Nigeria, it is more prevalent in certain areas; and with a much more devastating dimension in rural communities. One of these areas is the Niger Delta region, which is the mainstay of the Nigerian economy because of its significantly high level of oil reserves. The region has vast oil reserves but remains poor, underdeveloped and torn apart with conflict (Eweje, 2007). Amnesty International (2005) confirmed that the Niger Delta remain among the most deprived oil communities in the world – with 70 per cent living on less than US$1 a day, which is the standard economic measure of absolute poverty.

Decades of political and economic marginalization that resulted from the neglect of the Niger Delta region by successive Nigerian governments, and the initial hesitation of multinational companies (MNCs) to attend to their social responsibility and contribute to social development, enshrined poverty in the region (Idemudia, 2007). According to Orogun (2009), the many years of oil production has benefited the federal, state, and local governments as well as the multinational oil companies, yet this huge profit has yet to improve the deplorable human condition, misery index of the indigenous inhabitants; nor has it fostered sustainable economic development in the oil producing communities.

Sequel to this, the youth of the region have incessantly expressed their grievances by attacking deployed law enforcement and security agents, vandalizing oil installations, kidnapping and taking foreign oil workers hostage, bearing arms against the state, and forming militia groups in order to draw government’s and multinationals’ attention to their plight.

Globally, there have been growing demands on MNCs to provide community development programmes and assistance to their host communities, especially in developing countries – in other words, meeting locally defined social and economic goals. This is primarily because developmental projects and other social infrastructures are lacking in most of these countries; and most of the time they are not provided by the state. Multinational corporations, as Etheredge (1999) believes, have an obligation to act as responsible members of the societies which grant them legal standing. He goes on to say that MNCs’ good corporate conduct does not only imply responsibilities that are only within the bounds of minimum legal requirements but also social responsibilities that are both acceptable and beneficial to various social constituencies that surround business enterprises.

In developing countries, MNCs are expected to provide some social services and welfare programmes in addition to their normal economic activities. Although these are not the functions of businesses in economic terms; but in the developing countries, as Eweje (2006) stresses, these roles are expected from MNCs as an expression of demonstrating corporate social responsibility (CSR). Elucidating this view, Wasserstrom and Reider (1998) maintain that oil and gas companies in Asia, Latin America and Africa, for instance, are facing demands from the local community to provide education and healthcare programmes. They continued, saying that, these programmes are not “give-aways,” but involve training and working with community members to allow them to plan for meeting their own needs in the future.

Wasserstrom and Reider (1998) further noted that by establishing such programs and working with the demands of the community, firms find less resistance to their operations, not only from the local community but from environmental and human rights special interest groups as well.

Against this background, the Multinational oil companies in the Niger Delta have demonstrated commitments to the reduction of poverty through their respective community development initiatives. The study, therefore, evaluates the youth development strategies of Shell (normally called Shell Petroleum Development Company – SPDC) in the Niger Delta.

From the foregoing, it suffices that MNCs have a role in development not only through capital investment but more importantly by investing in human capital and providing local people with the tools to drive their own economic development (Nelson, 1996).

Statement of the problem

The high incidence of poverty in the Niger Delta is in sharp contrast to the region’s critical importance to the Nigerian economy. The Niger Delta oil contributes enormously to the well-being of the Nigerian state, which depends on the oil industry for approximately 95% of export earnings and 80% of government revenue (SPDC, 2009); yet the poverty level in the region is higher than the national average (Clark et al., 1999; NDDC, 2004). Zandvliet and Pedro (2002) illustrated the picture of the region in the following words:

About 70 per cent of the community lack access to clean water, has no passable roads or electricity supply, a shortage of medical facilities, a large number of dilapidated schools and suffers from severe environmental degradation due to oil production.

After over 40 years of oil exploration and hundreds of billions of dollars of oil revenue, the oil producing communities have received little attention from successive administrations, particularly in the areas of socio-economic and infrastructural development. The cumulative circumstances have led to perceived alienation, and the result of which is the frequent social disorder as the only means by which attention could be drawn to them. Obi (2008) states the following as being responsible for the region’s agitations:

Oil pollution, extreme poverty, high levels of youth unemployment, pollution, perceived discriminatory employment practices against locals by oil companies and socio‐economic and political marginalization and neglect by successive administrations constitute the main grievances against the oil companies and the government.

The prevalence of poverty is very high in the Niger Delta, with over 70% living on less than a dollar per day in the rural areas. This soaring incidence of poverty is in sharp contrast to the region’s position as the treasure base of the nation. This, notwithstanding, it is a political culture of governments at all levels in Nigeria and the elites to lay blame on the multinational corporations for the poverty situation in the region. Such culture of blame goes further in inciting the community members into believing that the MNCs are the architects of the region’s poverty, and believing that the companies are massively exploiting them, but giving too little or nothing in return to them in form of development. Consequently this has occasioned persistent community protests, agitations and conflicts.

The widespread poverty afflicting the people of the region has led to a condition of despair and the recourse to violence against the state and multinationals by the youth. The youth’s resentment stems from the region’s loss of their traditional means of livelihood which are farming and fishing, caused by the activities of the oil companies, such as environmental degradation, oil spillage and gas flaring.

Similarly, faced with massive unemployment and a bleak future due to absence of both government and private employment, the youth, which constitute a larger proportion of the region, have persistently expressed their frustration through hostage taking, arson directed at oil installations and attacks on the Nigerian state.

Although successive Nigerian governments at different times have put up a lot of poverty alleviation programmes, yet all attempts to put the Niger Delta on course of development have been unproductive. Among the ills that hamper the development of the region are corruption and bad governance. For instance, while the institutions of the state at all levels (federal, state and local governments) are very corrupt, making it difficult for budgeted funds to trickle down to the target population; politics on the other hand is used to promote individual and sectional interests, as against the pursuit of public good. Therefore, due to this lack of significant government commitment to the development of the region, poverty has remained a pervasive problem in the Niger Delta.

Hence, conditions have continued to worsen and poverty has become a major issue in the region in spite of her rich resource base. This failure to provide the developmental needs of the communities has led to the reliance by the region on the multinational oil companies to step in and fill this wide development gap. Accordingly, MNCs in the Niger Delta have responded to this challenge by employing community development strategies geared towards poverty reductions in their host communities.

The need for MNCs involvement in poverty reduction cannot be overemphasized. As Ite (2004) pointed out, foreign direct investment flowing to developing countries has the potential to make important contributions to the development of local economies, including creating jobs, capacity building, and the transfer of technology. As a result, multinational corporations (MNCs) can have a positive impact in developing countries, especially through corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives focusing on sustainable development and co-operation with civil society.

As corporate citizens, multinational companies have contributed in various ways to local community development in the area as a way of addressing the unemployment, poverty and squalor that are stacking realities of daily living for the people of the area. For instance, Shell has been involved in educational initiatives, healthcare services and youth development projects, just to mention but a few. The main focus of the study which is on youth development scheme is a vocational training programme in which participants acquire necessary skills for self employment or eligibility for employment, such as welding, auto mechanics and electrical work.

The study, therefore argues that the youth development scheme is an empowerment scheme that has improved the livelihood of the participants; although the efforts of the multinationals are constrained by factors which are political economic and social. However, the strategies must be sustainable if they have to make long term impact on poverty reduction.

  • Has the vocational training on the youths been empowering?
  • Have the youth been empowered by the vocational training?
  • Do the community participate in the scheme and what is the level of their participation?


The following questions will be addressed:

  • To what extent have youth vocational training been empowering?
  • How much does the community participate in the scheme?
  • What are the barriers that hamper MNCs’ community development efforts in the area?


The general objective of the study is to evaluate the youth development initiatives of Shell multinational, aimed at poverty reduction among the youth of the Niger Delta.

  • To evaluate the impact of youth development strategies on the participants
  • To examine the level of participation of youth in the projects
  • To identify the barriers of CD efforts of the multinational oil companies in Niger Delta


The study seeks to be a contribution to the already existing literature on Niger Delta. It will serve as a reference source to the authorities of Nigeria, multinational oil companies, and other Niger Delta stakeholders in gaining more insights into the root causes of the persistent conflict in the region; and consequently look in a new direction for a more effective approach aimed at addressing the crisis.

There is minimal evidence in literature about community development initiatives of the multinationals in Niger Delta. This research adds to the literature on MNCs’ CD assistance in the region. It also shows that business has an obligation to help in solving problems of public concern.

In addition to spurring economic growth and prosperity to the Nigerian state, the community assistance of multinational corporations in Niger Delta should be commended. However, the condition of the region demands a more vigorous corporate social responsibility by the MNCs in the pursuit of community development.

Poverty reduction is an important development concern, which requires sustained involvements of the stakeholders in addressing community needs. The study highlights the usefulness of the MNCs’ corporate social responsibility in reducing poverty among the youth, which represent one of the major assets of any community. In this respect, the study contributes to knowledge on poverty in Nigeria.


The study evaluates the impact of vocational and skills training programmes employed by Shell to empower the youth. It will also examine the level of youth’s participation in the programmes. Thirdly, it will identify the factors that constrain the CD efforts of the multinationals in the Niger Delta. It will examine several government intervention programmes in the region and why they yielded no positive results.

Among the limitations of this study is inability to cover the entire oil producing communities of the chosen state of study due to time, financial constraint and proximity. The geographical terrain of the communities and the presence of security personnel also constitute an impediment to reaching certain key individuals. Further, the volatile condition of the area poses difficulties to the researcher as fresh conflict is capable of springing up at any moment. Hence, the researcher would, as a matter of caution avoid some locations, that otherwise would have provided useful information to the study.


In this section, the important points and variables to be considered are described to foster a clear understanding of the proposed inquiry.

Niger Delta

Niger Delta is defined both geographically and politically. The former comprises of states in the South-South geo-political zone, namely, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross River States; while the political Niger Delta extends to the neighboring oil producing states of Ondo, Abia and Imo, for reasons of administrative convenience, political expedience and development objectives (UNDP, 2006). The study focuses on the geographical Niger Delta, with River State as the case study.

Multinational Corporations (MNCs) and Multinational Oil Corporations (MOCs):

Multinational Corporation is a firm which control and organize production using plants from at least two countries (Caves, 1996:1). Multinational oil corporations are corporations operating in more than one country for the purpose of exploring for, producing, refining, and marketing oil. In Nigeria, there are many of these multinationals oil corporations such as: Shell, Texaco, Chevron, Elf, Exxon, Mobil, Agip, Fina, and Total, just to mention a few. For the purpose of this study, Shell multinational will be my case study; although references will be made to other multinationals, where necessary.


Poverty connotes a condition of human deprivation or denial with respect to the basic necessities of life – food, shelter, and clothing. It is above all a symptom of embedded structural imbalance, which manifests in all domains of human existence (Hamdok, 1999). The author also believes that poverty is highly correlated with social exclusion, marginalization, vulnerability, powerlessness, isolation, and deprivation.

Community Development (CD):

Community Development means improving the quality of peoples’ lives and expanding their ability to shape their own futures through improving their access to opportunities to better themselves (Soubbotina, Sheram & World Bank, 2000).

Community development in this study refers to the provision of capacity to the youth of the Niger Delta, through vocational training, with the ultimate goal of reducing unemployment among them.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CRS):

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD, 2000) defines CSR as the ‘commitment of business to contribute to sustainable development, working with employees, their families, the local community and society at large to improve their quality of life’. According to Idowu and Papasolomou (2007), CSR addresses the fundamental role that business plays, or ought to play in society.

Corporate social responsibility in the current study refers to Shell’s community development programmes targeted at youth, with the view of improving their livelihood through job creation programmes.

Capacity Building:

Capacity building is the process by which individuals, groups, organizations, institutions and societies increase their abilities to perform core functions, solve problems, define and achieve objectives; to understand and deal with their development needs in a broad context and in a sustainable manner (UNDP, 1997).

UNDP. (1997). Capacity Development Resources Book. New York: UNDP

Eade (1997) is of the view that within the concept of capacity building is the idea of development, which is an empowering process; while the notion of overcoming poverty is part of the process of development [Eade, D. (1997]. Capacity Building: An approach to people-centered Development. Oxford: Oxfam Publication.

Capacity building as employed in this study refers to the process of equipping the youth with skills such as welding, electrical work, auto-mechanics, which will enable them to become gainfully self-employed, thereby reducing poverty.


Chapter three: Methodology

This chapter presents the research methods used to guide and accomplish the study objectives. It discusses the research design, how the researcher intends to gather his data, the type of techniques to be employed in assembling the information, the respondents, and the method of analyzing the data. The appropriateness of the design, the target population, the sampling frame and the size of the sample are also discussed.

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3.1 Research Design

The study will utilize the qualitative research approach, using in-depth interview, and will be analyzed descriptively. Qualitative in-depth interview provides a valuable means to probe intensely into subjective realities; covering a wide range of topics because of its flexible formality. According to Kvale (1996), qualitative in-depth interviewing approach is comparable to ‘wandering together with interviewees; while interviewers who genuinely want to understand are on a journey with interviewees, giving the later an opportunity to communicate stories in their own perspectives.

Kvale, Steiner. (1996). Interviews: An introduction to qualitative research

interviewing. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Potter (1996) confirms that the ability of interviewing to explore the subjective perception has made in-depth an essential data collection tool in research.

Potter, W. J. (1996). An analysis of thinking and research about qualitative methods.

Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

The method enables the researcher to understand the experience and viewpoint of the interviewee and gather information about issues that cannot be comprehended by other means.

On it flexibility feature, Lindlof and Taylor (2002) advised that it can be conducted wherever two people can talk in relative privacy. Similarly, Fontana and Frey (1998) are of the view that it can take the form of face-to-face interviewing and telephone interviewing. Rubin & Rubin (1995) further maintain that another quality of in-depth interview is its malleability in redesigning the study by the researcher based on new information emerging from his probing.

In-depth interviewing is most appropriate for this study because of the aforementioned merits; and more importantly, because of its distinctive ability to generate rich information on topics that have limited literature and topics that have been relatively understudied as the current study.

Lindlof, T. R., & Taylor, B. C. (2002). Qualitative communication research methods

(2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Fontana, A., & Frey, J. H. (1998). Interviewing: The art of science. In N. K. Denzin

& Y. S. Lincoln (eds.) Collecting and Interpreting Qualitative Materials (pp.

47-78). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Rubin, H. J., & Rubin, I. S. (1995). Qualitative interviewing: The art of hearing data.

Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

3.2 Population and Sample

The population of the study will be drawn from Obia-Okpor community of River State. The youth of this community who have been involved in the Shell projects will constitute the sample frame. A total of seven respondents will be selected from among the sample frame to make up the sample size for the study. This number is considered suitable for the in-depth interviewing, as the interview itself will cover a wide-range of questions. It is hoped that the diverse contributions of the seven respondents will provide extensive information to the researcher. In qualitative research, a sample is chosen, not to be representative of a larger population but rather for the depth and insights the sample can offer the researcher on the topic of interest (McCracken, 1988). [McCracken, G. (1988). The Long Interview. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.] Also, an official of the multinational company who is directly involved in the youth projects will be interviewed in order to have his insight into the impact of their projects on the youth.

3.3 Data collection:

The research will use both primary and secondary sources in collecting data. Semi-structured interviews will be employed as primary data collection method. This is the type of interviewing conducted with a written list of questions and probes that are used as an interview guide (Bernard, 1988). [Bernard, R.H. (1988). Research Methods in Cultural Anthropology. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications]

McCracken (1988) discusses many benefits of conducting semi structured interviews with interview guide. Some of these benefits include the fact that the guide ensures that the researcher discusses all the topics that are vital to the understanding of the issues under study. Also the guide allows the researcher to focus attention on listening to the informant’s responses, thus offering more understanding of the testimony and better probing by the researcher. McCracken (1988) also stated that the guide does not hinder the open nature of the interview process. There is still opportunity for the researcher to follow the informants’ interesting lines of thought and their unexpected explanations of the issues.

A semi-structured interview is the most useful interview format for conducting qualitative research. This is because the interview is neither highly structured as is the case of an interview comprising of all closed-ended questions nor is it unstructured such that the interviewee is simply given the permission to talk freely about whatever comes up. Semi-structured interviews present topics and questions to the interviewee, but are carefully designed to draw out the interviewee’s ideas and opinions on a given topic, as opposed to leading the interviewee toward preconceived choices. They rely on the interviewer following up with probes to get in-depth information on topics of interest.

This study will also rely on secondary data obtained from textbooks, journals, periodicals, newspapers, reports from both the government of Nigeria and multinational corporations.

3.4 Data Analysis:

After data collection, notes and recorded interviews will be transcribed and descriptively analysed. Interview transcripts and notes will be copied and pared down to represent major themes or categories that describe the topic being studied. Transcripts are also coded as they are transcribed. This involves assigning a particular theme or idea a number or keyword (the code) and then marking the code next to any text on the transcript that concerns the relevant theme. Otherwise called thematic analysis, it is a process for coding qualitative information. A thematic approach will be employed in the analysis of the transcribed data. According to Gibson (2006),

thematic Analysis is an approach to dealing with data that involves the creation and application of ‘codes’ to data. The ‘data’ being analyzed might take any number of forms – an interview transcript, field notes, policy documents, photographs, video footage … there is a clear link between this type of analysis and Grounded theory, as the latter clearly lays out a framework for carrying out this type of code-related analysis.

This general approach to qualitative data analysis was first developed by Glaser and Strauss (1967) and termed “grounded theory” to refer to the fact that the data for analysis (in the proposed study, the transcribed responses of interviewees) are grounded in their experiences and the context of the topic under study. The researcher will create codes to label the findings, and will analyze the interview data obtained from each participant independently.

The notion of Capacity Building

Capacity building is in some sense as old as development assistance itself. Slogans such as “helping people to help themselves” and the proverb, “teach a man to fish” point directly at capacity building. Capacity building is a relatively new concept in the field of development, emerging in the 1980s (Lusthaus, Adrien & Perstinger, 1999).

Lusthaus, Adrien & Perstinger. (1999). Capacity Development: Definitions, Issues and Implications for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation. Universalia Occasional Paper, (34), p.1

As with the concepts such as ‘globalization’, ‘development’, and ‘sustainability’, the term capacity building is an ambiguous concept that means different things to different people, groups and organizations. Although many people use these terms, their definitions do not conform to the same, as each puts emphasis on a certain aspect of capacity development (James, 2001).

(James, R. (Ed.). (2001). Power and Partnership: Experiences of NGO Capacity Building. Oxford: INTRAC Publication.

However, a group of these definitions have emphasized that capacity building is a tool to build and improve the skills, resources and ability of people to implement, monitor and assess a project. Thus, capacity building is seen as a process by which individuals, groups and organizations, institutions and societies increase their abilities to perform core functions, solve problems and define and achieve objectives; to understand and deal with their development needs in a broad context and in a sustainable manner (UNDP, 1997)

UNDP. (1997). Capacity Development and UNDP: Supporting Sustainable Human Development. New York: UNDP.

Morgan (1993) conceives capacity building as the ability of individuals, groups, institutions and organizations to identify and solve development problems over time.

Another definition sees capacity building as an approach to development which encompasses all the fields that influence the development sphere (Eade, 1997) Eade, D. (1997). Capacity Building: An Approach to People-Centered Development. Oxford: Oxfam Publications.

In this approach to development, capacity building identifies the weaknesses that people experience in achieving their basic rights, and finding proper means through which to build up (develop) their ability to overcome the causes of their exclusion and suffering.

To have successful capacity building is attainable through a strong process of learning and education. And for capacity building to be sustainable, new technologies, new knowledge and information need to be introduced, especially in this period of globalization. This is because development is not comprehensive without sufficient knowledge in this age of globalization and information and technology. Capacity building is a comprehensive process that involves all dimensions of life. It is not so much a matter of just implementing a project or enhancing a particular aspect of life. It is an approach to development which aims to enhance the capability of people in its broadest and in a comprehensive manner.

As a people-centered activity, capacity building is a process of community development where people are the focus of capacity enhancement. It creates an enabling environment where people are developed in order to manage themselves and contribute to their societies. To this end, community development becomes the ultimate output of capacity building process. Thus, capacity building is a response to community development needs. Capacity building therefore is seen as women and men becoming empowered to:

bring about positive changes in their lives; about personal growth together with public action; about both the process and the outcome of challenging poverty, oppression and discrimination; and about the realization of human potential through social and economic justice. Above all, it is about the process of transforming lives, and transforming societies (Eade & Williams, 1995).

Eade & Williams. (1995). The Oxfam Handbook of Development and Relief. Oxford: Oxfam Publications.

In this process of capacity building, people acquire and improve their abilities. This creates an avenue for them as individuals and as members of the community to achieve their development objectives.

Capacity Building and Sustainability

The concept of sustainability has generated varied interpretations in literature, just like other development concepts. Although the concept emerged as a human response to the human destruction of the environment, it has been argued that sustainability cannot be an issue for a solely social and natural science (Kohn, 1999). Notwithstanding the myriad definitions and interpretations of sustainability, the ultimate goal of the concept is to improve human well being (Sachs, 1999). Capacity building, therefore, as an approach to development is linked to sustainable development. While sustainable development is an attempt to provide improved livelihood for the people, it is through the process of capacity building that the potential of people to achieve sustainability in their lives can be realized. Eade (1997) likened achieving the objectives of sustainable development to the outcome of capacity building, and maintained that both cannot be differentiated.

Kohn, J., Goody, J., Hinterberger, F., & Straaten, J. (1999). Sustainability in Questions: The Search for a Conceptual Framework. Northampton: Edward Elgar

Sachs, W. (1999). Planet Dialectics: Explorations in Environment and Development. Halifax: Fernwood Publishing.

Capacity Building and Empowerment

Empowerment is a cross-disciplinary term, mainly used in fields of Education, Psychology, Community Development, Economics, among others. The understanding of the concept varies among disciplines, too. Based on this many meanings of the term, it has been seen as a construct easy to define by its absence but difficult to define in action, based on the idea that it takes different forms in different people and contexts (Rappoport, cited in Page & Czuba, 1


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