The youth, without doubt, are the worse hit by the pervading poverty ravaging a greater part of the population. JOHN OBA, in this piece proffers youth entrepreneurship training by the federal government as a practical way of solving the problem.
The rising rate of unemployment and the attendant poverty, particularly among the youth, have made it imperative for that segment of the society to imbibe the culture of entrepreneurship. This may seem difficult because of government apparent policy insincerity when it comes to youth empowerment. This situation is not made any easy by the non-availability of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) dedicated to the promotion of youth entrepreneurship.
Even the poverty eradication programme of the Federal Government has not yielded any tangible results as Nigeria still ranks among the 25 poorest nations in the world despite its huge resources both material and human.
The UN human Poverty Index in 1999 which credited Nigeria with 41.6 percent captured the phenomenon more succinctly as the figure placed the nation as among the 25 poorest nations in the world. Today, it is estimated that two thirds of the country’s 160 million people or 100 million are said to be poor with majority been youth and this is in spite of the fact that since independence Nigeria is said to have realised $300 billion in oil and gas revenues aside the development aid received. Some of the major causes of this state of poverty in the country are youth unemployment, their lack of creativity, unfocused government policies and lack of effective skills training and non involvement of youth in entrepreneurship.
In eradicating poverty, the place of youth entrepreneurship cannot be over emphasised, and programmes that would genuinely address and encourage youths to be involved in such practice are what the nation need at this time. Taking cognisance of the level of poverty in the society, the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, at the inception of his administration in May 1999, set out poverty as one of its areas of focus, approved the blueprint for the establishment of the National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP) – a central coordination point for all anti-poverty efforts from the local government level to the national level. By design, its schemes would be executed with the sole purpose of eradicating absolute poverty but it seems to have lost its focus even with the Youth Empowerment Scheme (YES).
But with the current high level of insecurity as well as high exchange rate which have made it almost impossible for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and entrepreneur to thrive, the scheme would have contributed to the reduction of poverty through job creation and reduction in crime.
According to experts, Nigeria is a difficult country to do business in with red tape abounding almost everywhere because of lack of policy implementation. It is said that an important distinction between developed and developing nations often lies in the wide disparity between policy pronouncements and policy implementation. Often, signs of this disparity are said to be found in the extent policies are clear and measurable and application consistent. Most times, developing nations like Nigeria adopt excellent policies and guidelines that could, if well implemented, change the future of their citizens but they are very often not followed through.
Youth entrepreneurship activity is a necessity in Nigeria and must be encouraged by the Federal government by all means. This is because the decline of the nation’s economy since the 1980’s has created a hostile environment that is unfavorable to entrepreneurial success. The lack of infrastructure limits entrepreneurial effectiveness and is a barrier to success, while the high cost of doing business in Nigeria, such as the lack of adequate electricity and basic needs by a large segment of the population stifle entrepreneurial activity. Also getting venture capital like the UN Habitat youth fund to finance entrepreneurial endeavor in Nigeria is very difficult because of political and economic instability and lack of successive government to contribute into the fund to give creative Nigerian youth the opportunity to take advantage of this. Some policies of the government are barrier to the success of large-scale entrepreneurial success for many Nigerians. While the lack of enforcement of Nigerian patent laws discourages entrepreneurs from commercialising their ideas and inventions, the problem of insecurity in the country is another thing that greatly limits foreign investors and NGOs who would be willing to provide resources for entrepreneurship in the country. Although there are a lot of barriers, Nigerian youth and government at all levels must be involved in entrepreneurship because entrepreneurship in Nigeria is necessary for the country to become a developed nation.
According to Mr. Ayo Thomas, a close look at the issue of entrepreneurship, business and commercial venture establishments that are mostly promoted by government agencies and other stakeholders will reveal that a small unit of entrepreneurship skills must be developed together with other critical assets mentioned above for every young person’s dream to materialise. Application of entrepreneurship to youth empowerment will, therefore, involve an integrated, well fortified education at all levels without diminishing the positive impact of mentoring and coordinated approach that will support and guarantee the development of these attributes in every young person.
The YOUWIN and SURE programmes of the federal government must be intensified to ensure that it helps generate jobs by encouraging and supporting aspiring entrepreneurial youth in Nigeria to develop and execute business ideas that will lead to job creation. It must focus on the utilisation of Federal Government’s share of the subsidy on Social Safety Nets, Niger Delta Development Project, Road Infrastructural Projects, Rail Transport Projects, Water and Agriculture Projects, Selected Power Projects, Petroleum/NNPC Projects and ICT Projects
The government must also identify international partners in the areas of enterprise skills development and investments in critical areas of economic potentials. Depending, ofcourse on the catchment areas comparative advantages identified and which will encourage youth to key into this, because the development of entrepreneurs is the only solution to the eradication of poverty in the country.