The growth platform’s “Human Banks”: A vehicle for youth employment
Africa is the youngest and fastest-growing continent, with almost 60 percent of the population under 25, and over 350 million youth projected to join the workforce over the next thirty years. Nigeria’s Growth Platform offers an exciting model for harnessing the energy and optimism of this generation of entrepreneurial youth.
Youth unemployment is a critical issue for Nigeria’s largely young population. This is more pronounced as global developments like COVID-19 shrink the scale or scope of employment opportunities. In Nigeria, youth unemployment rose from 40% before the pandemic to 53% by the end of 2020.
Unemployment brings many social challenges, and contributes to the growing African “brain drain”, with an estimated 70,000 skilled African workers seeking employment outside the continent every year.
And yet, the wealth of young talent is also the country’s most vibrant resource. In our work at the Growth Platform, we’ve seen that young people are intensely eager for opportunities to work and thrive. And they have found in the Growth Platform – Africa’s largest fully digitized executor of MSME interventions – a path to success.
One of the platform’s most significant successes is its extraordinarily high youth enrolment. Historically, businesses led by young people have been underserved and unsupported in Nigeria, and thus it was anticipated that there would be less uptake from the youth. Currently, youths make up a staggering 57 percent of beneficiaries on all the programmes under the Growth Platform’s portfolio.
A significant portion of the country’s MSME owners are young, and it’s clear that our model, focused on extending financial aid and services to commercially capable small entrepreneurs, speaks directly to young, aspirant business owners.
Human banks: the friendly faces bringing solutions to communities
It’s not just young recipients who benefit. A core aspect of the Growth Platform’s success is its network of “human banks”, or roving agents – the friendly, accessible faces of the operation’s complex infrastructure – aided by a strong force of behind-the-scenes workers such as call-centre agents.
The agents are equipped with mobile technology that allows them to capture beneficiary data quickly and easily in the field, and manage beneficiaries throughout their credit or financial-services journey. They often hail from local communities and have existing relationships with beneficiaries, which helps to build trust.
These are largely young people, many well educated. Three-quarters of the programme’s 22,000 human banks are below the age of 35, and nearly five percent have Master’s degrees or PhDs. The programme has become a competitive employment forum for such ambitious young people. Many report that the reliable income, skills development, and personal growth they’ve gained from their involvement have allowed them to dream of bigger and brighter professional futures.
Take Sharon Babalola, who has been working as a Growth Platform agent in her local community since 2018. Approaching her task with discipline and dedication, Sharon has used her familiarity with the community to empower many local businesses through the platform’s credit/grant solutions. In the process, she has built the confidence and personal resources to become a successful entrepreneur in her own right.
Just as indispensable to the programme is the youthful support staff. Jennifer Maksat Kwasu, for example, joined the Growth Platform as a call-centre agent in 2019, and has worked there full time ever since. In the process, Jennifer has learned invaluable professional skills: “My inter-personal communication has improved, my level of patience when dealing with people has improved, I’ve learnt to work under pressure & also learnt how to multitask effectively.” she attests. “These are skills that money can’t buy.”
These young people represent the kind of African ingenuity that makes the continent a particularly exciting arena for growth and investment. The solutions the Growth Platform has pioneered point the way to opportunities for international financial players to reach Africa’s growing cohort of young entrepreneurs, and benefit from their energy and vitality.
To understand more of the Growth Platform’s operation, click here
Toyin Adeniji is an Executive Director at Nigeria’s Bank of Industry (BOI); Uzoma Nwagba is the Chief Operating Officer of the Growth Platform. Read more at aidforproductivity.org.