Empowering youths for self-employment through CBN intervention funds

It was the British statesman, novelist and two times Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli who said that “The Youth of a Nation are the trustees of posterity.”

This underscores the importance of this group and the fact that an empowered youth of today will tomorrow be the strength of any nation.

Incidentally, no fewer than 40 million of unemployed people in Nigeria are youths. This is about 66 per cent of the nation’s working population, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

Speaking on this to Newsmen, a public affairs analyst, Jide Ojo, said,

“An increased unemployment rate would virtually lead to increased poverty level; no two ways about it and eventually lead to an increase in crime rate, insecurity and corruption. If you don’t pay workers a living wage, they would want to augment their sources of income, through illegal means for them to meet up their responsibilities,” Ojo said.

All hope however, is not lost at the federal government through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is not turning deaf ears to the myriad of warnings.

The CBN had earlier observed that the character of the youth and its configuration have proven that this is a group of persons blessed with diverse and tremendous talents that when empowered will build a pool of future economic actors that the nation desires.

So, the bank seeks to replicate the successes of the Ancho Borrowers Program (ABP) on other areas that the youth are involved. Analysis of the ABP showed that participation led to an increase in yield by about 42.46per cent, which shows the effectiveness of the ABP in the study area.

The founders of Paystack, Shola Akinlade and Ezra Olubi, are cases in point. They, among others, have proven that youths are capable of greater achievements when given a little more push.

Also, the entire Nollywood film industry, music and entertainment subsectors are nurtured and driven by them. The boisterous social media platform known for vibrantly driving the various segments of the economy and businesses, is the youth’s natural habitat. Add to that, the super active informal trading on the streets and around the various market spaces.

In the same vein, there are a lot of business deals that are wrapped up and consummated daily in the various Information Communication Technology (ICT) markets in Ikeja, Lagos – notably the famous Computer Village, reputed to be the largest in sub-Sahara Africa, and other thriving centres in Port Harcourt, Enugu, Aba, Kano and Abuja, among others.

These trustees of posterity according to Benjamin Disraeli are making a living by trying their hands in multifarious trades such as barbing, catering, fashion and design, direct marketing and salesmanship with literarily no form of government input, or support.

These are the segments, among others, that the CBN-funded Nigeria Youth Investment Fund (NYIF) is targeted and intended to support, and if well-managed, doubtless, will catapult many youths into some enviable heights in no distant time. It is an initiative of the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development funded by the CBN.


Eligible businesses

The CBN has outlined in the NYIF framework, the businesses and activities that are legally allowed to be eligible to participate in the scheme. These include technology/innovation, agriculture and its related value chain, green economy and the renewable energy sector. Others are manufacturing, hospitality/tourism, construction, logistics and supply chain, healthcare value chain, the creative sector, trading and services, as well as others that would be certified by the CBN from time to time.

It must also be recognised that the CBN did not overlook the role of the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development; hence the administration of the N75 billion NYIF is mainly the responsibility of FMYSD and understandably so, because that is the Federal Government department that is saddled with matters that relate to the youth.

Accordingly, the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, had taken on the gauntlet.

Dare said last year in Abuja, that the NYIF underscored the importance placed on youths by the administration, saying the fund would be spread over three years to cater for youth-owned businesses and investment needs.

Analysing the NYIF, Professor of Capital Market, Nasarawa State University, Uche Uwaleke, adjudged the concept as good and that if well-implemented, would go a long way in assisting to reduce the high unemployment rate among youths.

According to him, “since beneficiaries are expected to have a Bank Verification Number (BVN), it will help to bring a lot of informal businesses into the formal sector, saying the program aims to empower Nigerian youths to create about 500,000 jobs over the period up to 2023.

The terms of disbursement are also concessional: five per cent interest rate with one year moratorium. However, Uwaleke thinks that one major issue exists.

“I think the challenge will be chiefly in the area of ensuring that the funds are not disbursed to ineligible beneficiaries” he said, pointing out: “There is also the challenge of ensuring that a significant proportion of unemployed youths are able to access the funds.”

To mitigate this challenge, Uwaleke said “The CBN, which is providing the funds, should involve more participation from financial institutions other than using only the NIRSAL Microfinance Bank. The Bank of Industry (BOI), in his words, “should also be involved.”

“To ensure effective disbursement and optimal utilisation of the funds,” Uwaleke advised, “fresh graduates from the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) should be the primary target because the proposed training by the Ministry of Youth will be easier to handle with NYSC graduates.

“To this end, the age bracket should be reduced from 18-38 years to 21-30 years. This safeguard is necessary; else there is the tendency for people to falsify their ages in order to benefit from the fund.”

The Nigerian Youth Employment Action Plan was to address fragmentation of youth initiatives that prevent assessment of impact, and to provide Nigeria youth with investment inputs required to build successful businesses that can become sustainable employers of labour and contributors to Nigeria’s development.

The plan targets young people between the ages of 18-35 years and details the needed actions required to support business establishment, expansion and consequent employment creation for youth in critical economic and social sectors.

NIRSAL Microfinance Bank (NMFB) is serving as the managing agent of the CBN contributions to the program in order to ensure the guidelines are adhered to. The NIRSAL MFB window is funded with an initial take-off seed capital of N12.5 billion.


Youth Entrepreneurship Development Program

The NYIF is not the only program set out for the youths by CBN. It had earlier set up other targeted programs to catalyse specific sectors, such as the Youth Entrepreneurship Development Program (YEDP).

The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr Godwin Emefiele said that the Youth Entrepreneurship Development Programme (YEDP) has the potential of becoming the stimulus for job and wealth creation, growth and economic development through improved access to finance by young entrepreneurs.

Emefiele made the statement while welcoming guests to the commencement of loan disbursements to Nigerian youths under the Youth Entrepreneurship Development Program (YEDP) launched by the Bank on March 15, 2016.

He stated that the program was aimed at providing affordable credit to identified youth entrepreneurs with expected multiplier effect on job creation and economic growth. This, according to him, was also to ensure that the creative energies of the over 64 million Nigerian youths were harnessed to stimulate growth, address restiveness and promote economic development.


Globally, access to credit had been recognised as a powerful instrument to enable entrepreneurs build assets, increase income, reduce vulnerability, economic stress and grows sustainable businesses. To realise this objective, the governor said that the Bank in partnership with the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and Heritage Bank began the pilot to inspire and harvest the entrepreneurial abilities of Nigerian youths towards creating over one million direct jobs in a few years.

The YEDP aims to fix the triple-barreled constraints of insufficiency, high cost and inadequate term of capital usually faced by youth entrepreneurs and startups. It offers credit of up to N3 million to eligible youth or N10 million for groups of three to five youths, Interest rate is nine per cent per annum. Beneficiaries can be encouraged to migrate to other CBN interventions to obtain more funding if they utilise the YEDP facility properly.

The Guidelines for the programme indicate that activities eligible for financing include startups and expansion projects in agricultural value chains (fish farming, poultry, snail farming, etc.), cottage Industry, creative industry (tourism, arts and crafts) and Information and Communications Technology (ICT) among others.


CBN’s AADS loan

Another targeted intervention is the Accelerated Agriculture Development Scheme (AADS). Indeed, the apex bank authorised the commercial banks to give up to N2 billion maximum loan to youths interested in agriculture. The loan, according to the regulator, comes under the Accelerated Agriculture Development Scheme at five per cent interest rate per annum.

This was created by the apex bank in collaboration with state governments to engage 370,000 youth in agriculture. According to the loan guideline released and signed by CBN Director, Development Finance Department, Yusuf Yila Philip, in Abuja, recently, the maximum loan accessible under the scheme shall be N2 billion per obligor. Philip said the country’s population pyramid was bulging around the youth segment, with an estimated 75 per cent of the population identified to be aged below 35 years.

In their reaction, the All-Farmers Association of Nigeria, which is the umbrella body of all farmers in Nigeria, commended the Federal Government and the CBN, pointing out that the intervention loan would really boost job creation through agro-allied value chains.

AFAN’s Lagos chapter Chairman, Dr Femi Oke, while talking to the press, heaped praises on the CBN for coming out with another agric sector intervention loan, but this time, specifically for the youths in the country. Oke noted that the move was in order since it was going to open doors of opportunities for the teeming youths aspiring to go into agriculture.


Creative Industry intervention

Although the creative industry boosts of all segments of the population, youths constitute major players in the sector. Therefore, to further boost the creative sector’s contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) unveiled plans for development of creative industries park across three major cities with the youths as main target.

Mr Emeifele, stated at the Creative Nigeria Summit in Lagos that with the support of the Federal and Lagos State Governments, the National Theatre Iganmu in Lagos would serve as the initial pilot for the Creative Industries Park, adding that efforts will be focused on discovering the most innovative young entrepreneurs across the music, movie, fashion and Information Technology (IT) industries.

The bank plans to set up similar parks in Kano, Port Harcourt or Enugu following the deployment of the pilot scheme in Lagos.

“Our goal through the establishment of these parks is to create an environment where startups and existing businesses can be incubated and rewarded for their creativity.

“In each of these parks, efforts will be focused on discovering the most innovative young entrepreneurs across the music, movie, fashion and IT industries.”

“Each park will be able to support skills acquisition for over 200,000 Nigerians.

“These individuals will be empowered with funds at single digit interest rate, state-of-the-art tools, high level training and networks, that will enable them to turn their ideas into a reality.”

The CBN and Bankers Committee believe that the little they can do is to create opportunities for these youths to access credit and bank loans to grow their businesses.

“We cannot afford to let the talents of our youthful population go to waste, as it would portend great dangers for the progress of our nation,” he stated.

According to him, efforts must therefore be made to harness the innovative and creative energy of the youths, towards enabling them to create productive ventures that will support improved wealth and job creation in Nigeria.

“We intend to support the development of over 50 additional cinemas from our current capacity of 48 cinemas nationwide,” he stressed.


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