student standing in street in nigeria
University of Richmond student Amara Ugochukwu (front right) spent her summer in Nigeria working on a project to help solve youth unemployment.

UR student tackles youth unemployment in Nigeria

December 13, 2022


Junior Amara Ugochukwu is actively working to reduce youth unemployment in Nigeria, a country close to her heart.

“As an aspiring development economist with roots in southeastern Nigeria, I spend a lot of my free time researching pressing issues in the region,” said Ugochukwu, who is studying political science and mathematical economics.

Her parents emigrated from Nigeria and instilled in her a strong sense of duty to give back to the region. She received a $10,000 Davis Projects for Peace grant to support her goal this year. The initiative supports college students on grassroots projects designed to promote peace.

Ugochukwu used the grant to create an apprenticeship program for unemployed youth in Nigeria between the ages of 15 to 24 last summer. The program is based on the traditional apprenticeship system of “Imu Ahia,” which translates to “learning the market” in Igbo. The concept entails businessmen working with youth in their community to teach them their craft.

“This project is founded on the premise that solutions to indigenous people’s problems can be solved by using systems that worked in the past, adapting those to the present, and using technology and other modern tools to scale them,” Ugochukwu said. “The methods are more likely to succeed if local communities already feel connected to them, and Imu Ahia is especially successful because it’s rooted in mutualism.”

Ugochukwu partnered with faculty from Lagos Business School in Lekki, Nigeria, to explore scaling the Imu Ahia system into a condensed workshop setting. The workshop was held at the Ajegunle Business School in Lagos, about 20 miles west of Lekki, which offers workshop spaces for locals in low-income areas to learn new skills.

As part of the workshop, Ugochukwu facilitated conversations, demonstrations, and hands-on learning opportunities for 15 participants. They explored vendors at a local market and practiced negotiation and business strategies with workshop leaders and shop owners. All workshop participants received diplomas from the business school to aid with their employment opportunities. 

Ugochukwu, who is currently studying abroad in the United Kingdom, intends to continue this research and is working on a paper she hopes to publish centering on the workshop experience.