By Nkechi Isaac, Abuja –
Small and medium scale enterprises have been identified as one of the key engines that activate economic development. It is on record that the most powerful economies in the world today are not driven by big business corporations but a conglomerate of small and medium scale enterprises.
Though economic analysts have said Nigeria’s economy is out of the blues, there is still the pressing need for economic development by developing small businesses and having incubation centres where these innovations can be nurtured to full blown innovations that can directly be utilised for our economic development.
Bridging the gap for youths who own start-up enterprises to grow their businesses to become more viable and contribute to economic development was the crux of the ‘Accelerate the Economy through Youth in Enterprises (Accelerate LABS) convened by The Zariah Elizabeth Foundation in partnership with Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI), The Future Project and Microsoft Nigeria.
Giving the opening remarks at the Accelerate LABS – North Central Region training in Abuja, the vice president of the ACCI in charge of the ICT Hub project, Prof. Adesoji Adesugba, said the chamber was collaborating with other stakeholders to build the capacity of youths because it could create a multiplier effect for economic development.
He said: “This is part of the program of ACCI ICT Hub; the current president had initiated the setting up of ICT hub about two years ago; the most important thing about that is that we realised the fact that today’s business is being driven by technology and there’s a need to be able to assist our members as well as the public as far as technology-driven businesses are concerned.
“One critical aspect of the hub in the FCT that we identified with the demographics of today’s technology is that younger people are involved in it and so we’ve been able to try to link up with people with similar ideas such as Accelerate LABS and Microsoft to collaborate with us to be able to train young people on how to use technology to drive their business.”
“ICT is one area of the economy where we believe we have the greatest multiplier effects. We’re all saying there are no jobs but if you know what to do as far as technology is concerned you’ll be the one to create jobs. That’s why we’re collaborating to build capacity of young ones especially with creating a very vibrant SME sector utilising ICT. The future all over the world is in the Internet of Things (IoT); here youths can take advantage of this to do great things irrespective of your location especially for yourselves and the country.”
He urged youths to take advantage of the programme to improve their capacity as far as ICT is concerned.
Giving insight to the programme, the co-ordinator of ACCI ICT HUB and the executive director of The Zariah Elizabeth Foundation, Mr Akindayo Akindolani, said the programme, Accelerate Labs is an initiative of The Future Project with support from Microsoft Nigeria, geared towards supporting and encouraging youth enterprise, adding doing this would reduce youth unemployment thereby creating more wealth for the nation.
According to him, Accelerate LABS entails the activation of the small and medium scale engine to accelerate economic development through enterprise development and technology incubation by equipping 2,160 youths to build socially inclined, high profit, and highly competitive enterprise capable of impacting the GDP.
“Each geo-political zone would be represented by a host state that will serve as a hub to incubate the businesses. Accelerate Labs will be in three streams with each stream running for 3 months. Each stream will include 3 weeks taught session, 4 weeks mentoring session, 3 weeks research and practice and a demo day for pitching of business ideas to prospective investors,” he further stated.
In her remarks, the Citizenship Lead, Microsoft Nigeria, Olusola Amusan, said the programme would help youths engage with mentors to help them grow their businesses.
She said: “Microsoft is thrilled to support The Future Project as they highlight the incredible strengths of Nigerian youths while developing our society. At Microsoft, we are helping to empower all individuals to achieve more and this project will help increase the awareness and opportunities for youths in Nigeria to engage mentors who offer unique perspectives as regards entrepreneurship.”
Similarly, the deputy chief operating officer, The Future Project, Bukonla Adebakin, said the partnership with Microsoft Nigeria serves as part of the project’s mission to build a network of empowered citizens through jobs, entrepreneurship and active citizenship which is in line with the Microsoft Youth Spark mission to increase access for all youths to learn.
“By the end of one year we would have empowered youths to develop empathy, find clarity of purpose and the needed resources to build socially responsible enterprises in their communities. We will have youths across Nigeria, leading the frontiers of change in various disciplines”, she added.
In her remarks, a participant, Kelechi Ekebor, a fashion designer, looking towards running an eco-fashion venture, said she planned to utilize the training in using ICT to grow her business.
“At the end of this training I expect to acquire tool kits, other forms of training and opening contacts with mentors, investors and networking generally. I expect that at the end of this training I should be able to have people with the same common interest to network with them and build my business,” she added.