• Friday, June 14, 2024
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We focused on SMEs to unlock growth, create jobs for Nigerians – Oyelowo

We focused on SMEs to unlock growth, create jobs for Nigerians – Oyelowo

Small and medium-scale enterprises are the bedrock of any economy as they contribute significantly to job creation and nation-building. The 21 days Y’ello care initiative put together by MTN recently empowered youth, women, and physically challenged entrepreneurs to drive investments in the economy. Oluwaseye Oyelowo, project manager of MTN Y’ello Care in this interview with some select journalists spoke about the impact of the just concluded programme and its impact on the growth of the economy among other issues. AMAKA ANAGOR-EWUZIE brings the excerpts:

MTN Nigeria has shown its devotion to impacting Nigerians through the Y’ello Care initiative. Can you explain the initiative and what it means to business?

The 21 Days of Y’ello Care initiative started in 2007. It is an MTN employee voluntary initiative, which is basically a way to encourage staff across all countries where MTN currently operate to volunteer their time, skills, and knowledge to positively impact their immediate communities.

This is a move to get involved in giving back to society beyond what the company does as a business. Through this medium, the staff of MTN contribute money, devote their time and provide their skill to give back to society in different ways.

The approach to every of the Y’ello care initiatives depends on the theme for that particular year. The theme for the year 2023 event was centered on empowering entrepreneurs to unlock growth, and job creation for communities. What that basically means is that unlike the initiative last year which was focused on trying to bring people out of the challenges experienced by Covid-19, this year, we believed that people are out of Covid impact as businesses try to find their feet.

So, this year’s theme is focused on coming together to help businesses to grow and be able to create more jobs. We believe that small and medium enterprises are the bedrock of any economy because they drive the growth of the economy. SMEs create more jobs and if they grow, the economy will also grow.

Tell us, what is peculiar about the initiative this year?

For this year, the focus was on three sectors of the economy namely; the youths, women, and differently able people or physically challenged. From our experience during this initiative, we observed that those physically challenged entrepreneurs actually do more, and we use our various platforms to project all their capabilities.

Please share with us other activities that were done over the 21 days of Y’ello Care?

For the 21 days of this initiative, we executed multiple projects in different locations across the country. During the whole duration of the initiative, we executed projects in Nasarawa, Oyo, Kano, and Niger States at the same time.
One of the highlights of the initiative for this year was the SME Day fair which focused on around 40 to 50 SMEs that cut across youths, women, and physically challenged people.

The fair witnessed different indigenous SMEs that came to project and showcase their products and we were able to use up our platform to show Nigerians what SMEs are doing to support the drive of the Federal Government.
Another highlight of the initiative this year was the Y’ello Pitch-A-Thon which provided opportunities for businesses to pitch their services and they were empowered.

From this initiative, we were able to get 10 different winners. They won Laptops, data, and their businesses became known around the country and they were able to attract investors by that singular project.
In Kano State, the initiative empowered 500 women who naturally were making soybeans cake and milk from firewood. We were able to provide modernised cooking equipment to allow them to produce more, by doing so employ more people.

In Kebbi State, we also empowered about 450 differently-abled people, we activated MoMo wallets for them thereby enabling them to transact businesses without having to get to the traditional banks. Thus, people in the villages and rural areas are able to receive money.

I am aware that in the past, you usually partnered with different organisations for the initiative. Is it the same this year?
All MTN staff are very grateful to all our suppliers and trade partners for their support. All our partners came forward and actually supported this initiative. We had our partners not just supporting us in terms of materials, and contributions towards the initiative, they were physically present at different locations to executive and implement some of their projects and their ideas.
In the course of the programme, we collaborated with our partners across all spectrums to provide the platform where we virtually trained about 20,000 entrepreneurs, equipping them with new learning insights on how to grow their businesses.
How does the initiative align with MTN’s Goodtogether mantra?
The 21 days of Y’ello care totally aligns with the Goodtogether mantra of the business. This year’s theme focused on empowerment, collaboration, partnership and support. What we believe at MTN is that the SMEs remain the backbone of the economy and we believe in supporting and collaborating with them in making sure that they are also successful.
We believe in supporting our customers to be successful in their own businesses. This year’s theme properly aligns with the Goodtogether mantra in the sense that it is targeted at collaborating and supporting businesses in Nigeria.

As the project manager for this year’s programme, what was the high point of leading the initiative?

Before I became the project manager, I had participated in the previous year’s programme. What you consistently find during these periods of the initiative is energy. The excitement that the staff across the business exhibits for this project shows that the thinking of the owners of the business is right in all senses of it.

Across all sorts of business excitement, you see the commitment of the staff in making sure that every Y’ello Care is successful and this year was no different.

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It is particularly interesting to see staff travelling over water, just to make sure that they deliver the goods to the communities across the country, despite the security challenges in some regions, staff were committed to every location to make sure that the impacts of our contributions are felt.

We believe that it is not enough to give, but it is also important to actually, transfer some of the knowledge, skills, and expertise acquired over the years to help businesses do better, employ more people, and increase the revenue of the country.

Another thing I found very instructive in this year’s programme was that it provided us with an opportunity to reach the underserved communities that normally don’t get attention. I would also like to use this opportunity to thank my colleagues who made it possible because without them, this year’s event wouldn’t have been successful.

I also want to thank the management of the company for the opportunity given to me to lead this year’s initiative. It has been a privilege, which I totally enjoyed. I also want to thank our business partners who supported us in every area we sought their help.

This is to say to my colleagues that the future looks bright. We should always come together, like we have been doing to make sure that we will continue to impact our communities.

From my interaction and from what I have seen so far, this initiative has endeared the company to a lot of communities. Business owners are excited. They feel energised to do better.

So, these are the encouragement. I want to tell my colleagues that it is important that we should not let down our guard rather that we should continue to come together to do more to empower communities to make sure that it is not only just the company that is sustainable, but SMEs too because when these small businesses do well, the company has made an impact.