Government provides capital for entrepreneurs in Niger Delta

The Federal Government (FG) has moved to broaden access to capital for entrepreneurs and start-ups to deepen business activities in the Niger Delta.

Sanni Fatai Abiodun, National Project Coordinator of the Livelihood Improvement Family Enterprises for Niger Delta (LIFE-ND) scheme, disclosed in Port Harcourt Tuesday, December 20, 2022, at a three-day training for certification for youths and women in the three other oil states not included in the scheme; Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Imo

Abiodun addressed over 150 participants in the training certified by the major credit avenue, the Nigerian Incentive-based Risk Sharing system for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL). NIRSAL is known to have $500m in its coffers to support agric value investments. They certify training institutes so that their graduates can qualify for loans from banks backed by NIRSAL.

Furthermore, the FG is partnering with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) an arm of the United Nations to fund LIFE-ND and boost entrepreneurship in the oil region.

The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) is one of the funding partners expected to add $30m but has yet to do so since inception three years ago, an action that denied 13,500 participants from Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Imo states from joining.

In November, the management at the NDDC announced readiness to pay up, thus the new fire catching at LIFE-ND and the commencement of training for prospects in the three states.

They would join the 25,250 already in the scheme from the original six states to make expected total of 38,750 beneficiaries.

LIFE-ND officials explained to the trainees that lack of funds has thus killed the dreams of so many budding entrepreneurs and frustrated them into thinking that before you can start any thriving business in Nigeria, you must be from a wealthy family or must have political connections. “That’s why FGN LIFE-ND has decided to step in as an intervention platform to help entrepreneurs to actualize their entrepreneurial dreams.”

The Coordinator told the enthusiastic participants that the core vision is to move people from poverty to prosperity by helping them access loans subject to training exercises like this. “We believe that this training will serve as a launch-pad to your resounding business success as you navigate the murky waters of entrepreneurship.”

For a start, the participants would undergo training at the Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDI) facilitation exercise where they would train on ‘Building an entrepreneurship mindset for youths of the Niger Delta; Effectives Sales and Marketing; Ecommerce (Economic and Commerce principles); How to write bankable business plan (and how to write business proposals); Business Model; and Human Resource Management.

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Abiodun, the national coordinator, encouraged the participants, saying the project is project taken seriously by the FG. “It is a rural development scheme with major aim being to support the youth of the Niger Delta in financial inclusion toward economic empowerment through entrepreneurship, skills, training, and access to finance. It operates on the principle that knowledge is power.

“We urge you to take the knowledge to develop businesses; and to get into the NIRSAL network. We want to get success stories from this exercise. Note that most big people you hear about today started small. So, pay attention to the lectures.”

The national coordinator told newsmen in an interview that the loans were according to the type and size of the business of each participant. “The loans range from N200,000 to N500,000 and sometimes N5m, depending on capacity and result of the assessment.

“You must show capacity to take loans and repay it. The assessors will be sure of what your business can absorb and repay.”

On the $30m promised by the NDDC, Abiodun said it had not dropped into LIFE-ND coffers but hopes were very high because there has been substantial progress.

He stated: “I can tell you that NDDC is living up to their billing and we are very hopeful that before the end of the year, we will have the fund so that Rivers, Akwa Ibom, and Imo youths can join. Most of those here today are from Rivers State. They have not been able to participate because of the absence of counterpart fund from the NDDC.

“These youths are eager to join entrepreneurship and to create jobs and boost growth in the oil region.”