According to the 2006 census conducted by the National Population Commission (CPC), about half of Nigeria’s population falls between the ages of 18 and 35. This huge number under better circumstances should be converted to a valuable asset-an instrument to propel the country forward. Sadly, a huge proportion of Nigerian youths are unemployed, unskilled and largely restless. Hence, the rising crime rate in the country.
Many ills plague the Nigerian youth: unemployment, unskillfullness, limited access to business financing, exclusion from real contribution to the political destiny of the nation, and a host of other factors that have lead to a pervading angst among the youth? And the alienation of the Nigerian youth. Over the decades several youth empowerment schemes have been created and funded by government to address this issue, yet it seems Nigerian youths are trapped in a vicious circle, with interwoven elements of poverty, unfulfillment, crime and emasculation.
The Minister of Youth and Development, Bolaji Abdullahi, seems to have a good grasp of the issue as he recently he painted a graphic, picture of the problems affecting Nigerian youths. He said his ministry, in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Communication Technology, launched a youth empowerment scheme, Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria (YouWin!) which is expected to run till 2014.
The scheme, a function of a good business plan, is designed to boost the entrepreneurship and employment of young Nigerians. The You Win, We Win! idea is an interesting innovation with an annual business plan competition (BPC) as its hallmark. The competition is to inspire youths with entrepreneurial spirit to draw up innovations and formulate business ideas that will better their lot and transcend into a better society.
In order to ensure transparency in the selection of the competition’s participants, a multistage review process was drawn up. In the first stage, an international African university will assess all initial submissions using a standardized score card. A variety of factors determine whether a participant would go on to the next round. These include entrepreneurial intent and commitment, skills and experiences of applicant, preliminary analysis of the market, and description of business, among others.
At least 6,000 lucky applicants drawn from all post-secondary institutions are expected to advance to the next round which involves a zonal training aimed at preparing them for the next round of the competition. Here, a more detailed business plan is expected from the participants and the same university involved in the first stage is also responsible for the reviews in the second stage.
A total of 1,200 participants are expected to win between 1 million and 10 million naira.
Though the federal government has included a whopping 50 billion in the 2011 budget to propel the project, private sector participation is key to the success of the scheme. The private sector is expected to participate in the areas of financing and mentoring. Thus, the success of the scheme, like many before, depends largely on the synergy between the public and private sector. Government alone cannot carry the weight of 68 million young Nigerians. Private sector players possess the apt motivation to ensure products of such programmes meet the demands of the markets.
So far, statistics released show that while general employment in the country stands at 19.7 per cent, youth employment is 41.6 per cent. Not an impressive number. However, with the present minister’s strides so far, change is not too far off.
The inability to provide collateral, which is a pre-requisite for access to loans for entrepreneurial projects, is the major problem that plagues the existing employment generation schemes. Thus, You!Win and its like may be the key to harnessing the raw and available talents in Nigeria’s youthful population in the process of thrusting the country into better frontiers.