Vice Chairman of Manufacturing Association of Nigeria (MAN) and founder/CEO, Emzor Pharmaceutical Industries Limited, is calling young entrepreneurs to get involved in manufacturing sector of the Nigerian economy.
Some analysts have expressed confidence that young entrepreneurs’ involvement in the sector could help boost local production and help strengthen naira.
Dr Okoli, in a chat with Entrepreneurship+ explained that her advocacy for young entrepreneurs in the manufacturing sector was to help reduce unemployment rates which she considers “a time bomb waiting to explode.”
It will be recalled that Okoli founded her company 33 years ago and the company has since extended its footprints to Liberia and Sierra Leone.
“The most important thing here is that all our young ones don’t all don’t have to have jobs; they can be directed to starting businesses from their skills,” she said.
She added that: “If you go to Ladipo market, you will be amazed at how cars are fixed there. If those boys can be helped in that direction, they can do well and even improve the economy of the country. We used to import stainless steel chairs but we now found out that some people are making it in Ojuade market here in Lagos and they are better than the imported ones.
“So, there are so many things we can do to help our young people. Everybody doesn’t have to employed, they can start their own business and become employers of labour.”
Highlighting ways to get the young entrepreneurs into the sector, Okoli said it was important to start with capacity development programmes.
“Now, you will see that I mentioned skills. And this is an area that I strongly believe that we can help our young people, we can teach them the skills they need in the manufacturing sector. If we can provide capacity development programme for these young people, this can go a long way,” she said.
Although her Chike Okoli Centre for Entrepreneurial Studies (COCES) with “vision to re-train, re-tool, and re-skill, Nigerian youths to make them more relevant in an increasingly contracting global economy,” already plays a role in capacity development programmes, she said it was important that many private businesses and governments collaborate to create more of such centres across Nigeria.
Okoli also called on the federal government to develop and implement specific and targeted policies that would strengthen the manufacturing sector and provide level playing field for the young people who are coming into the sector.
“The policymakers must know what the manufacturing sector is about and the policies must be implemented support the sector because the sector, if properly supported, could be the largest employer of labour” in Nigeria, she said.
She added that some incentives such as single digits loan special window for the manufacturers could also go a long way in helping the young people.
“And also, you can’t really progress without exporting your goods; therefore, all the regulatory bodies/agencies must meet and work together. The job of the regulatory agency is to make sure that the industry is competitive to international standard, so that at the end of the day we can have movements of different types of manufacturing products from Nigeria to the different parts of the world,” she concluded.