The Federal Government of Nigeria, through the Bank of Industry Nigeria (BoI), has formally launched a N10 billion Youths Entrepreneurship Support (YES) project to empower youth with loans to start businesses in Nigeria.
The Youth Entrepreneurship Support (YES) programme is an ambitious programme by the Bank of Industry (BOI) aimed at addressing youth unemployment in Nigeria which is currently over 50%. According to a 2013 survey by the Nigerian Institute of Social and Economic Research (NISER), most of the capacity building programmes aimed at addressing youth unemployment, have concentrated more on training without any tie-in to the provision of small business loans, which is a critical success factor to the establishment of small businesses. In addition, they hardly take care of the entire training value chain in terms of Entrepreneurship, Business Management and Technical Skills.
The Minister for Industry, Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah, Speaking at the launch of the project in Abuja, said that the ‘YES’ entrepreneurship project of BoI was part of the Federal Government’s youth employment scheme, saying that about 36,000 jobs would be created annually through ‘YES’.
Meanwhile, the acting Managing Director of Bank of Industry, Waheed Olagunju, said that a participant under the scheme could have access up to N10 million loans with single digit interest rate repayable over three to five years.
According to Olagunju, the YES Programme involved building the capacity of the youths by equipping them to be self-employed and manage their own businesses.
He said that participants will be drawn from young aspiring entrepreneurs between the ages of 18 and 35 years and an applicant must present NYSC or higher education certificate as collateral to qualify for the entrepreneurial knowledge and skills, while also funding their business plans.
Although some industry experts are of the opinion that the funds made available for the program might be diverted to unknown project but according to Olagunju “BOI’s approach to tackling the youth capacity building challenge is to focus on young aspiring entrepreneurs within the age bracket of 18 – 35 years that have viable business ideas by developing a Product Program – Youth Enterprise Support Programme (YES Programme), for empowering them. This crop of Nigerians forms a significant proportion of unemployed youth in the country”.
Mr. Olagunju reiterated that there would be five days in-class entrepreneurship and business management training covering five modules, adding that 10,000 online applications would be solicited nationwide, out of which 2,000 would be selected for the online training.
According to him “Applicants will register online and will be expected to provide accurate answers to questions. Such answers count towards determining the suitability of the applicants for the training programme. Only the top 1,200 online participants will qualify for the in-class training programme annually, and in-class training would be delivered by BOI accredited partner training institutions and would take place on a bi-annual basis at selected centres which will be spread across the six geo-political zones of the country, including Lagos and Abuja, adding that 600 participants are expected to be trained at the designated locations twice in a year”.
Some of the 11 training facilitators with whom BoI signed the MOU included African Community Bridge Foundation, After School Graduate Development Centre, Empretec Nigeria Foundation, Fate Foundation, and Growing Business Foundation, among others.
Olagunju said the final evaluation and selection of the candidates qualified for funding under the YES-Programme, will be by a seven-man panel comprising senior management staff members of the bank and other eminent members made up of successful entrepreneurs, professionals, and retired bankers.
Besides, the Programme Objectives of The YES project has the broad objectives, which includes creation of an interactive learning platform to train young aspiring entrepreneurs in entrepreneurship and business management that will ultimately translate into improved efficiency and productivity. This according to professionals in the field will help to kindle the entrepreneurial spirit of the youths.
He further explained that it will act as an incubation center where business ideas are nurtured to their full potential as well as entrenching global best practices by inculcating a culture of innovation-driven entrepreneurship and ethics in the programme participants, and promotion of self-employment among graduates of institutions of higher learning, thereby changing their job-seeking mindset.
Finally it will deepen financial inclusion by de-risking the young aspiring entrepreneurs and making them eligible for small business loans to be provided by BOI. It is hoped that the initiative would further add up to the growing need by the federal government in reducing unemployment by taking away sizable number of graduates annually and making them self-reliant.