We are unlocking the key to Nigeria’s economy – Nwankwo

Value Drivers Investment Nigeria Limited recently organised an Agriculture Entrepreneur Skills Acquisition Training Programme for graduates and school leavers from different parts of Nigeria in partnership with Total Exploration and Production Nigeria. The CEO, Uzoh Nwankwo in an interview with IFEOMA OKEKE, looks at its impact and sheds light on his company’s plans to empower Nigeria’s teeming youth to tap into the opportunities in Agriculture, with the help of Total E&P. Excerpts:

Can you tell us a bit about what you do?

Value Drivers Investment Nigeria Limited is an organization conceived for human capital development within and outside corporate entities. We desire to partner with corporate bodies, foreign missions and NGOs in the quest to developing human capital in several areas of human endeavour, ranging from agriculture, safety, fashion, projects management, and health care, to name a few.

Though incorporated in 2014, the company has been in operations for about a year. We offer human upliftment and livelihood skills through training, exposure and development. We endeavour to advance economic growth of people through up-scaling knowledge and empowerment.

Is this your first time of carrying out a programme of this nature?

This was the first edition of the Total Agriculture Entrepreneur Skills Acquisition Training Program. However, Value Drivers is currently in partnership with other organisations to deliver more value across other relevant areas in line with our vision. Agribusiness is just one in the portfolio of programmes we have.

We have a multi-disciplinary team made of professionals with proven track record in their respective fields. We have other empowerment programs on safety, business risks management and assurance billed to come up later in the year.

Why are you focusing on the skills training on Agriculture, and what prospects do you see if more people get on the programme?

Agribusiness is the key to unlocking Nigeria’s economy. It is currently the least tapped, hence so much opportunities abound for our youth in the area. There are very few local players and we are here to uplift our youths to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the sector. This can only be achieved through knowledge and skills acquisition, which is what we are currently doing. What differentiates us from others, is how we run the program as a business program and not just passing of agricultural knowledge.

The future prospect is great and if followed through, Nigeria will grow from importer of foods and allied manufactured items to a major exporter in the near future. Agribusiness is vital to our future and holds the key to lifting majority of Nigerians out of poverty much more than any other sector.

What criteria are used in the selection of participants?

The sensitised the public and called for applications, with suitable applicants invited for an initial interview with Value Drivers. Subsequently the shortlisted candidates were presented to Total E&P for assessment and validation before the final selection, which was jointly made by Value Drivers and Total E&P. It was quite competitive because the number of candidates required was limited, hence, there was a stringent selection process to ensure the best candidates emerged from the six geopolitical zones of the country from the numerous applications received.

How were the facilitators of the programme selected?

The facilitators were professionals and experts in their various areas amply qualified to facilitate the program. We went for the best faculty that can be obtained around. This is the reason our lead faculties were from Lagos Business School, other Agribusness Subject Matter Experts and Dominican Farms, which boast of mainly ex-IITA staff as facilitators. The subject areas were many and included; Good Agriculture Practices (GAP), Farming methods/practices in cassava, vegetable, snail and crop production, Agribusiness value chain in cassava, vegetable, and snail business, General principles of farm Accounting and book-keeping, Farm produce branding, Packaging and marketing, Risk Management in Agribusiness, Farm as a business, Business Plan development and Business Proposal writing among others. This includes the theory delivered in Lagos and practices demonstrated in the Dominican Farms in Ibadan, Oyo State. No doubt, the quality of the delivery by the facilitators has put the beneficiaries on the right pedestal for a successful farm entrepreneurship.

What kind of impact do you envisage that this first batch of graduates of the ‘Agriculture Entrepreneur Skills Acquisition Training Programme,’ will be able to make?

The graduates have been developed and empowered and the sky is their limit. Indeed, they have brighter future, which is our main objective in Value Drivers, to give our youths and people hope and better life through knowledge empowerment. The first batch, a pilot scheme had six youths, however, with the help of our sponsors the next edition will increase tremendously. We might be seeing up to 60 youths being put through the scheme in the near future. We will work with other partner organizations to do more aside from the people sponsored by Total. The success of the scheme is bound to have multiplier effect in the Nigerian economy, jobs will be created, while it will also help to change the orientation of youths who never saw agriculture as a business venture.

What support will Value Drivers provide to the graduates to support them as they step into the real world?

Value Drivers and Total E&P will continue to monitor and evaluate the progress of these candidates for the first 12 months, to see how they fair and offer necessary advisory services when the need arises. We are aware that financial support from Total E&P will go the way of beneficiaries that succeed in what they do. We deem the support necessary to ensure the success of the beneficiaries and the sustenance of the program for the benefits of more youths and the society at large.

Why did you decide to partner Total Nigeria on this programme?

Partnership is the key to success of the program. At Value Drivers we value our partners and collaborate with different experts and organizations to ensure success and quality service delivery. The objective is to deliver top quality agricultural training that empowers Nigerian youths with livelihood skills. Through capacity development initiatives, Total aims to empower as many people as possible and actively support nation building efforts in line with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals numbers one and eight, – ‘no poverty’ and ‘decent work and economic growth’ respectively.

What are your projections for the next 5 years?

The organisation expects to have equipped youths and other people in many entrepreneurial areas such as agriculture, safety, fashion and ICT among others, for good livelihood, employment and empowerment. We want to change the orientation of our youths to embrace entrepreneurship in these areas much more, so that they would not just be working as artisans for subsistence living. We expect a boom in entrepreneurship and business, boost in locally produced and processed products as well as export to earn foreign exchange and improved balance of trade for our country, Nigeria.

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