Presently, in Nigeria, the issue of unemployment among the youth group of the population has remained a nagging issue. It must be emphasised that it is a problem that pre-dates this administration. In those times, there were policies, too numerous to remember, intended to address the issue which met with limited successes due, mainly, to their political nature aimed at scoring cheap points.
At a stage of the policy moonlighting, a whole bank, the Peoples Bank of Nigeria, was set up to address the financial requirements of potential small-scale entrepreneurs. Typical of things Nigerian, abuse set in and the bank itself was liquidated in no time. And, unsurprisingly, the problem has persisted, in spite of those efforts, leaving in its trail, an army of unemployed youths on the verge of getting frustrated.
But there is a fresh approach to making those youths entrepreneurs instead of job seekers. The Tertiary Institutions Entrepreneurship Scheme (TIES), an initiative of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is part of policy measures to address rising youth unemployment and underemployment. The policy is designed to get the buy-in of Nigerian polytechnics and universities and in the process, harness the potentials of graduate entrepreneurs (gradpreneurs) in Nigeria. Hopefully, it will create a paradigm shift among undergraduates and graduates from the pursuit of white-collar jobs to a culture of entrepreneurship development for economic development and job creation.
From the standpoint of this newspaper, the scheme, if well implemented, and shorn of all the inanities usually associated with the perception Nigerians have of money from government agency sources as political largesse, the policy aims to provide an innovative financing model that will create jobs, enhance the entrepreneurial ecosystem and support economic growth and development.
Expert opinion claims that the problem of start-ups in Nigeria is finance. This newspaper disagrees. What a start-up needs, in our opinion, is an idea that is actionable, the determination to succeed, the perseverance required to confront the initial challenges and overcome them. Otherwise, giving money to anyone who is not ready to strive will only end in flushing valuable resources down the drain. It has happened severally in the past. But this policy by the apex bank is geared towards enhancing access to finance by undergraduates and graduates of polytechnics and universities in Nigeria with innovative entrepreneurial and technological ideas.
It is noteworthy that the involvement of the tertiary institutions is aimed at providing an enabling environment, incubator of sorts, for co-creation, mentorship and development of entrepreneurial and technological innovations; fast track ideation, creation and acceleration of a culture of innovation- driven entrepreneurship skills among graduates of polytechnics and universities; promote gender balance in entrepreneurship development through capacity development and improved access to finance; leapfrog entrepreneurial capacity of undergraduates and graduates for entrepreneurship and economic development in partnership with academia and industry practitioners; and boost contribution of non-oil sector to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
A perusal of the policy document by this newspaper brings out the optimistic proclivity of the scheme which only requires for success, a committed regulatory framework, a purposeful participation by the tertiary institutions and a youth group ready to say good bye to unemployment. From our assessment, the scheme hopes to create those it calls gradpreneurs, 25,000 annually, with innovative start-up ideas and businesses and who will be provided access to finance. These will generate 75,000 sustainable jobs. The appealing aspect of the scheme is the focus on the female gender who will form 50 per cent of those gradpreneurs. There will also be others such as agropreneurs, creative entrepreneurs and techpreneurs.
The scheme will give priority to innovative entrepreneurial activities with high potentials for export, job creation and transformational impact. Traders are not welcome to the scheme that will draw its financing from both the Agribusiness / Small and Medium Enterprise Investment Scheme (AgSMEIS). Individual Loan Limit is N5 million with a five-year tenor on an interest rate of five per cent per annum (nine per cent effective from March 1, 2022 with a moratorium of maximum of 12 months on principal and interest. Prospective applicants are expected to attend mandatory entrepreneurship trainings with their respective Nigerian polytechnics and universities and certificates of completion issued to trainees.
As a newspaper, we welcome this policy directed at taking the youths off the street into a more fulfilled life. The tertiary institutions, the regulatory authority and the participating gradpreneurs must be made to understand the reason why a separate special scheme is being made available to those who seek to better their lives. For the participants, in particular, they must see this as an opportunity dropped on their laps by the CBN to enable them make their own contributions to the economic development of the country.
We urge them to be another Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Bill Gates (Microsoft) or Michael Dell (Dell Computers). They all started their businesses as students. By sheer will power, they are, today, world leaders. In our opinion, it is doable in Nigeria.