For observers and professionals in the country and within the continent alike, the recently concluded 6th Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi, Kenya, which was declared open by United States President Barack Obama, reflects a new dawn for Nigeria, Africa and millions of its young and aspiring entrepreneurs.
However, worthy of great importance is to understand that as fertilizer is to the enhanced and improved production of bountiful harvest of crops, so also is the acquisition of skills, particularly technical and vocational skills, to the making of true and sustainable entrepreneurs that can identify industrial needs, meet manpower for development requirement and become job and wealth creators.
Launched by President Obama in 2009, the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, for a start, aims to bring together young and budding entrepreneurs and investors from across the African continent and around the world, in order for them (budding entrepreneurs) to showcase their innovative projects, exchange new ideas, and by so doing, spur economic opportunity and growth within and outside their regions.
This latest summit, coming on the heels of the vastly acclaimed and very successful visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to the United States, is a positive signal to the rest of the world that Africa’s, nay, Nigeria’s, time to blossom economically and industrially has indeed arrived.
So, in agreeing with President Obama as he consistently identify entrepreneurship, particularly amongst young people as representing the future of not only Africa but of the world, the question that becomes appropriate and imperative to ask would be how Nigeria, with its mega youth population and position as the undisputed economic leader on the continent, can benefit from the outcome of this summit alongside previous ones in the immediate and long term.
Firstly then, it must be known by aspiring young entrepreneurs and other stakeholders that the Global Entrepreneurship Summit has pledged almost over $5 billion to upcoming young entrepreneurs in Africa and around the world in the last six years. More than $4 billion was pledged in 2014.
Secondly, smaller and lesser endowed countries like Morocco, Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal have already benefitted immensely from the establishment of an academy by carmaker Volvo for 140 entrepreneurs. The academy will also focus on the maintenance of industrial and commercial equipment. If these nations can so benefit, why not Nigeria?
Bringing into consideration the warm and cordial relationship that currently exists between the United States and Nigeria, particularly when viewed in light of President Buhari’s recent visit, Nigeria, it can be rightly predicted, can and should be able to receive even more extensive support, both from the United States Agency for International Development and the United States Department of State’s Global Entrepreneurship Programme, to help the nation’s young entrepreneurs start and grow businesses through start-up competitions, awareness events and mentoring.
As part of these benefits, Nigeria can also, through the Global Entrepreneurship Programme, benefit from the floodgates of American investments that will be expected to inflow into the country. The Global Entrepreneurship Summit can connect the country’s emerging entrepreneurs with leaders from business, international organizations and governments looking to support them from around the world.
It is on record that since 2009 when the United States came on board as one of the major anchors of the summit, the programme has successfully helped young and even established entrepreneurs from around the Muslim world to generate more than $80 million in revenue for their companies through its Global Innovation and Science and Technology initiative, (GIST).
Thus, Nigeria, with its huge population of young, educated, mobile and urbane Muslims, can also benefit from the GIST initiative in ways that will help produce young job creators, curb insecurity and empower women and children in the country.
It is noteworthy that over $3.2 billion was recently put aside to support micro, small- and medium-sized enterprises, while another $80 million was mobilized in private capital for startup accelerators in the developing world, particularly Africa, through development financing institutions and programmes.
Nigeria can be part of the countries that can access this funding – all things being equal. It is my candid belief that accessing this funding by the nation’s young entrepreneurs will go a long way in achieving President Buhari’s objective of addressing the challenges of youth unemployment in a sustainable manner.
According to the American president, “Entrepreneurship creates new jobs and new businesses, new ways to deliver basic services, new ways of seeing the world — it’s the spark of prosperity. It helps citizens stand up for their rights and push back against corruption. Entrepreneurship offers a positive alternative to the ideologies of violence and division that can all too often fill the void when young people don’t see a future for themselves.”
I strongly believe that entrepreneurship, added with technical and vocational skills, and effectively blended with the restless and innovative Nigerian spirit, can provide ownership and self-determination, as opposed to simply being dependent on somebody else for livelihood and future.
Entrepreneurship can, and will, bring down barriers between communities and cultures and build bridges that will help everyone take on common challenges together, because one thing that entrepreneurs, irrespective of tribe, religion and nationality, understand is that they don’t have to look a certain way, or be of a certain faith, or have a certain last name in order to have a good idea.
Lamentably though, it is hard sometimes to get the trainings and the skills required to run a business as professionally as it needs to be in this competitive world. It is even harder to tap into the networks and mentors that can mean the difference between a venture taking off and one that falls flat.
It is in that light that the Federal Government must be commended for its total focus and commitment towards the acquisition of technical and vocational training by Nigeria’s youths using the interventionist agency of the Industrial Training Fund (ITF).
Committed towards creating entrepreneurs and job and wealth creators, the ITF has successfully expanded and deepened its training programmes, successfully matched skills with existing opportunities and is on the verge of completing a national skills survey that will identify specific and general areas of skills required by the country’s industrial sector.