By Our Correspondent
Nancy Agban is a graduate of Accounting from the University of Mkar, Benue State. Aged 25, this graduate waiting for her call up letter to serve her fatherland is already an employer of labor. On our Special Entrepreneurship Platform this week, you will meet Nancy Ndifon Agban, the Director of Rural Enterprise Advancement Program [REAP] who combined academic work with entrepreneurship development because she wanted to be an employer rather than employee.
May we meet you please…
My name is Nancy Ndifon Agban, I am a native of Ofutop, in Ikom Local government Area of Cross River State. I am a graduate of Accounting from the University of Mkar, Benue State. Presently I’m waiting to serve my fatherland as a corps member.
When did you establish REAP and what does it mean?
Rural Enterprise Advancement Program [REAP] was a child of emergency and out of curiosity in a bid to develop my talent and become self sufficient. Basically it all started in early 2013 but formalized in October 2014, as the name implies the aim was to develop myself and thereafter spread the message to advance rural entrepreneurs through REAP.
How did you come about the program?
The program was conceptualized when I went to OBUDU to see a friend in 2013 and coincidentally it was a period the Governor, Professor Ben Ayade (then a Senator) brought some people to come and educate his constituents on how to be self sufficient from a humble background. I was part of the beneficiaries even though I was not from his constituency then (but he belongs to everybody now in Cross river state), so the message got tucked in my brain and when I got back to school in Benue, I discussed with my friends and room mates. I started training from Abuja during a holiday in a place I got through Internet in Federal Housing Lugbe, I did six months in peace meal, from there I went to Port Hacourt and got certified in Lagos.
What exactly did you learn as an Entrepreneur?
I learnt skills through courses in making Ankara designs/products and leather works: shoe making, bag making, slippers, clutch purse, palm shoes , wallets and accessories, ear rings, bangles, finger rings, necklaces, brooch flower, all made with Nigerian fabrics and leather and 100% local content with international quality.
How did you infuse these skills into the rural populace?
After I finished my school in February 2015, it was the period of political campaigns and incidentally the personality that inspired me was the candidate of a popular political party in Cross River State, so the message I kept hearing again is “If I can do it you, you, you, can do it; Every successful success starts from a small idea” etc, so I talked to myself again and the program planning started. So if you ask me what drives me to this program I will tell you that I started REAP to key into Governor Ayade’s job creation Programs.
What are the multiplier effects of your program?
The project in a way is to promote inclusion is bringing in other skills/courses like Beauty Management [hair, nails, and make up], Bead Making, Driving, Welding works, Cinematography, Catering [cake making and design], Phone Repairs/unlocking and Cosmetology [soap, perfume, bleach, insecticide], Vulcanizing, Event Management [planning, decoration], Website Design, Furniture Making and Satellite Disc Installation. REAP Project will also promote agriculture in partnership with some other critical stakeholders, because we know what we are doing and our target is already set out for actualization, the only challenge is fund but we are looking inwards in other not to be discouraged.
What will you say about the Rate of Unemployment in Cross River State and Nigeria?
Unemployment in Cross River State cannot be separated from that of Nigeria and it’s growing in a frightening dimension, it has become a canker worm and eaten deep into the fabric of our society. It is getting into the position of endangered specie if you like, destroying lives and societies. Every year the universities produce thousands of fresh graduates like me for the labor market, these graduates hit the street every day in search for white collar jobs that do not exist. Seven out of ten graduates of higher education cannot find jobs with a population of more than 170 million people, Nigeria will need more than 24 million jobs in the next 10 years for her teeming unemployed population.
So what do you think is the way forward?
It is clear that the opportunities are limited and government alone cannot create jobs to equal the number of unemployed people produced from the universities every year. The resulting negative economic and social outcomes of unemployment are enough to warrant a systematic focus on providing employment for the teeming unemployed group; it calls for a new approach in finding a solution to this pandemic. As a more sustainable solution therefore ENTERPRENUESHIP EDUCATION PROGRAM has been identified as a strategy for job creation as individuals themselves will become job creators instead of job seekers. That is where the Rural Enterprise Advancement Program [REAP PROJECT] comes in to empower youths and women in the rural areas who suffer severely from the scourge of unemployment in Cross River State.
The project goal is to encourage self employment and reduce over dependence on wage employment among the rural population. Between January and now, the project has trained over 200 entrepreneurs who have been on their own and have been training others. 66 people trained in Ikom local government area, 83 in Etung and 55 in Calabar municipality and Calabar South respectively. The trainees who are mostly youths and women are mobilized through fliers, banners, radio jingles/announcement and the social media. REAP Project is facilitated by Action on Strategy, Sustainable Employment and Training a non governmental organization that works to improve access through our mission to invest in abilities of unemployed persons that translate to employability and contribute to social development and change.
What has been the responses/feedback from the trainees?
Many of our beneficiaries have testified to the fact that the project has impacted on their lives and change things for good.
“I have been looking for money to learn a trade that will help raise money to continue my education but to no avail. Thanks to reap project and Asset Nigeria, most especially the Director, Nancy Agban” – Imaobong Asuquo.
Another one said, “The program was very interesting, enlightening and empowering” – Mercy Ofem.
“I would have missed a lot if I wasn’t part of the training, Thank you so much Nancy – Effa Fabian.
How do you fund the project?
Funding for the project has been generated from goodwill contributions of well-meaning individuals to implement our dream projects. We call on our amiable govenor, Senator Professor Ben Ayade, the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. John Gaul Lebo, Members of the National Assembly from the State, Members of the State Legislature and Chairmen of Councils as well as other public spirited individuals to see our effort as contributory to the State economy by supporting the dream in no small measure in order not to allow the lofty idea die.
What is your advice to young people and would-be entrepreneurs?
I urge them to rediscover themselves and always follow their mind by attending seminars, workshops and above all be an ardent reader and look for a role model. As for me, Ayade turned me on with my idea. And for other well-to-do people, please support or encourage the unemployed within your environment to participate in this lofty project to better their lives and future. They are an asset to this State and Nigeria.
E-mail;Nancyagban@gmail.com facebook; Nancy Agban facebook page; Nancy Ankara designs bags shoes and accessories. Phone; 07064679431
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