BEING THE TEXT OF A SPEECH DELIVERED BY MR. EMMANUEL ETIM, CHAIRMAN NIGERIA YOUTH CHAMBERS OF COMMERCE, CROSS RIVER STATE; ON THE OCCASION OF THE 2015 YOUNG BUSINESS ICONS AWARDS/SUMMIT HELD AT THE CULTURAL CENTER, CALABAR ON 31st OCTOBER, 2015.
There is a global consensus that young people are the greatest assets any state could rely on for meaningful development. The underdevelopment of this demographic segment portends huge dangers for Cross River State. It is worrisome that youths in Cross River State have long battled the unwholesome impacts of unemployment, poverty and underdevelopment.
The challenge of youth unemployment is one of the biggest problems facing our state. With limited opportunities for employment by the government and few corporate organizations in the state, entrepreneurship becomes a viable alternative for job creation and poverty reduction in the state.
With youth accounting for over 50 percent of the state’s population, it is imperative that policies, programs and processes are actively set in place to promote youth entrepreneurship as a panacea for underdevelopment of the state. This will be the focus of this treatise.
WHAT IS YOUTH ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND WHAT ARE ITS GAINS:
In spite of the increasing recognition of entrepreneurship as a source of job creation, empowerment and economic dynamism in a rapidly globalizing world, there has been no systematic attempt to look at it from a youth angle.
The tendency has been either to subsume the youth into the general adult population or to ignore their efforts to forge a livelihood through enterprise activities. This has resulted in the lack of an adequate understanding of the potential benefits of youth entrepreneurship as a means of improving youth livelihoods.
In this treatise, we will define ‘youth entrepreneurship’ as the “practical application of enterprising qualities, such as initiative, innovation, creativity, and risk-taking into the work environment (either in self-employment or employment in small start-up firms), using the appropriate skills necessary for success in that environment and culture”.
It is now widely accepted that there are many good reasons to promote entrepreneurship among young people. One key reason for promoting youth entrepreneurship is that it creates employment for the young persons who own the businesses and others whom they employ.
Youth entrepreneurship promotes innovation and resilience as it encourages young people to find new solutions, ideas and ways of doing things through experience-based learning.
In certain circumstances, young entrepreneurs may be particularly responsive to new economic opportunities and trends. This is especially important given the on-going globalisation process.
Youth entrepreneurship provides valuable goods and services to society and helps to meet growing demand for these goods and services. This contributes to the growth in the economic sector of the state
The final reason is that youth entrepreneurship helps address some of the socio-psychological problems, crime, vices and delinquency that arise from joblessness. This in turn helps improve security and safety in business environment in the state.
WHERE IS YOUTH ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN CROSS RIVER STATE AT PRESENT?
The Cross River State Government in 2010 established the Micro Finance and Enterprise Development Agency (MEDA) which is saddled with responsibility of promoting the growth of Micro Small and Medium Scale enterprises in Cross River State.
In working to achieve set objectives in the state the agency on behalf of the Cross River State government signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Bank of Industry to receive for onward lending about N250 million which was complemented with another N250 million by the Cross River State government.
In 2014 the Central Bank of Nigeria launched the N220 Billion Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development MSME Fund. The fund was established to channel long-term, low-interest funds to the MSME sector of the Nigeria economy.
Cross River State Government keying into this initiative signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Bank to draw down the sum of N200 million for onward lending to interested youth entrepreneurs in the state.
The Cross River State Government has also partnered with the Central Bank of Nigeria to establish the CBN South-South Entrepreneurship Development Center in Calabar. This centre has trained thousands of youth in entrepreneurship.
Even with all these achievements, only a few youths have been able to access funding to start and grow their businesses in the state. A lot more still needs to be done then to promote youth entrepreneurship in Cross River State.
I will attempt to take a look at this in order to chart a way forward for the development of this opportunity.
WHAT MORE CAN BE DONE TO PROMOTE YOUTH ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN CROSS RIVER STATE:
I will start with the need for a clear policy by the Cross River State Government on youth entrepreneurship with the unveiling of a blueprint and the Cross River State House of Assembly passing a bill that will make this formal and legal in the state.
Upon achieving this, the Cross River State Government will then partner of the 18 Local Government Areas of the state to unveil a state wide Youth Entrepreneurship Scheme which will create an opportunity for millions of youth to be trained, to access funding and start their Small Scale enterprises.
I must emphasize that if we must achieve success, the state must establish Youth Entrepreneurship Development Centers YEDCs and Youth Entrepreneurship Incubation Centers YEICs in all the 18 Local Government Areas in the state and not just in Calabar the state capital.
In addition to these, the Cross River State Government must mainstream youth entrepreneurship development initiatives into its development programs. Government must also make entrepreneurship education compulsory in secondary and tertiary institutions in the state.
In concluding, given the growing importance of youth entrepreneurship as a source of new jobs and economic development in Cross River State, all hands must be on deck to ensure that policies and programmes that will promote this in the state is supported. The Youth Entrepreneurship scheme if properly planned and executed, will.
Emmanuel Etim is a development consultant based in Nigeria.(firstname.lastname@example.org)
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