An Intervention Fund for Innovative, Entrepreneurial Youths

At the recently celebrated maiden edition of the National Youth Day, the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare unveiled the N75billion Youth Investment Fund, where 15 young Nigerians innovators were also specially recognised for their talent, creativity and innovations, writes Mary Nnah

Two significant things happened at the Aso Villa Banquet hall on November 1, 2020. It was the day the country celebrated maiden edition of the National Youth Day where 15 young Nigerians innovators were also specially recognised for their talent, creativity and innovations. It was also the day the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development led by the Minister; Mr. Sunday Dare, launched the N75billion Nigeria Youth Investment Fund.

At the National Youth Day event with the theme: ‘Invest in the youth, secure our future’, President Muhammadu Buhari was represented by Minister of Federal Capital Territory, Muhammad Bello who congratulated the young innovators on making the nation proud, assuring them that his government will continue to invest in entrepreneurship, skills and career development.

The Nigeria Youth Investment Fund has been described as the cornerstone and most ambitious intervention fund targeted at young people to become wealth creators. As precursors to the N75billion fund had been a slew of other youth-focused initiatives of the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development and that of Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development such as the N-Power that have engaged 500,000 young Nigerians in the last five years out of which 109,000 of the beneficiaries have become entrepreneurs.

The federal government is targeting first quarter of year 2021 to absolve the next batch of 400,000 youths under the N-Power programme according to Aminu Nyako, Special Assistant to Minister of Hummanitarian Affairs.

Some other youth empowerment initiatives domiciled with the Ministry of Youth and Sports are the partnership with Mastercard Foundation and Corporate Farmers which seeks to engage 50,000 young Nigerians in Sorghum farming. There is also a partnership with the IBM, a global technology giant to train 14,000 Nigerians in Digital Skills and Artificial Intelligence as well as the partnership the Minister, Sunday Dare brokered with Google to train over 20,000 youths across the country. Under the watch of the minister, Africa Development Bank is also working in partnership with the Nigerian government to launch a special fund for youth.

Speaking at the event, Mr. Sunday Dare in his 25-paragraph speech gave a panoramic view of the government investments in the development of young people as the future of the country. He noted that the recent youth-led #EndSARS protests across the country against police brutality underscored the ability of the young people of Nigeria to demand accountability from leaders, most especially in matters that affect them.

Government, the minister said, will continue to celebrate the energy and talents of Nigerian youth adding that the National Youth Day celebration provided the rare opportunity for national introspection and more meaning engagement.

“Against the backdrop of all our country has witnessed in the past three weeks, there can be no better time than now to celebrate our youth and validate their contributions to national economic development.

“And indeed beyond the celebration of the potentials, ingenuity, talents, innovative ness and resourcefulness of our youth in Nigeria and across the world, this event, the maiden edition of the National Youth Day offers us as a people the opportunity to reflect, take stock and chart a new youth action plan that tackles headlong the issues that confront our teeming youth population,” the minister said.

On the current challenges of youth unemployment and shrinking opportunities for socio-economic mobility, Dare revealed that his ministry, at multilateral level, is working on a more structured and sustainable way in conjunction with the African Development Bank on a new focus and vision that will unearth and accelerate ingenuity among the young people of Nigeria.

“Let me start with a direct reference to the new focus and youth vision of the African Development Bank led by Nigeria’s Dr. Akinwumi Adesina : that the establishment of Youth Entrepreneurship Investment Banks will help to fully unleash youth potentials through technology and entrepreneurship. This assertion made in September 2020 first validates the strength of our youth and secondly demands from government and the private sector direct investments in the youth population with a de-risking mentality.”

While alluding to the exploits and impact-creating talents of Nigerian young people at home and abroad, Dare said the success of one young person is an enabler and a source of inspiration for others.

He said, “The exploits of our youth here at home and across the globe signpost the fact that for every 100 Nigerian youth that excels, there are hundreds of thousands more that can achieve the same but are unable. Why? There can be no single reason but a myriad. Lack of opportunities. Education that is not suitable for the jobs available. A huge unemployment popular market occasioned by a struggling and sluggish economy, lack of relevant skills, lack of credit and access to finance for youth enterprises and businesses, low investment from the public and private in the Nigerian youth among others.

“It is time we start to change this trajectory to one that is capable of lifting millions of our youth out of unemployment, under employment, frustration with the system, dearth of opportunities and stunted growth. The dreams and careers of our youth must receive a new burst of energy and renewed hope so that as a country our future can be secured.”

Interestingly, the minister while speaking further at the event mentioned that the Buhari-led administration has been the most remarkable in Nigeria’s post-independent history in terms of initiatives that were designed as springboards for young people to fully realise their life ambitions, saying government in the last five years had initiated 25 programmes mainstreamed under various ministries and agencies.

“President Muhammadu Buhari since the inception of his administration has never taken his eyes off the ball when it comes to youth developmental issues. He believes Nigeria youth are given to hard work and must be given the opportunities to prove this. This government has initiated a slew of multifaceted youth focused programmes that are cross cutting.

“Wherever the youth group is found, these programmes target them. Indeed, when in July 22nd, 2020 the President in Council approved the establishment of the Nigeria Youth Investment Fund, NYIF, it was a culmination of all efforts geared at giving our youth the access to funds needed for enterprise.

“The president, through the NYIF demonstrated that Nigeria was in sync and agreement with the new thinking in youth development and that sees investing in the youth as a condition to unleash their potentials. As we speak, the NYIF as been oversubscribed for the 2020 half year funding provided for. Over 1 million applications have been received with more expected to come.”

A major highpoint of the National Youth Day was the special recognition given by President Muhammadu Buhari to some youth innovators in Nigeria including the 20-year-old Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, engineering student Usman Dalhatu, who built a portable automatic ventilator to help people with breathing problems.

Dalhatu was among the five Youth Innovators in different fields showcased by the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development at the occasion which also coincided with the African Youth Day Celebration. The ministry had earlier organised a 60-Day App Challenge competition in which 10 winners emerged across the country.

President Buhari in his address delivered on his behalf by the FCT Minister, Muhammad Bello, assured all the 15 innovators and all Nigerian youths that his government will continue to invest in entrepreneurship, skills and career development.

Among the Youth Innovators, who received cash donations of N500,000 each from the federal government are: Intissar Bashir Kurfi, Managing Partner, Ifrique Eco Solutions, a green Architect and environmentalist. Kurfi, in her late twenties, established a factory for up cycling plastic waste in Abuja. The factory would upcycle Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE) such as pure water sachets, plastic bottles, polythene bags and others into Interlocking Tiles.

Surajo Ismaila, 23-year old indigene of Rubochi in Kuje Area Council in Abuja, is a tractor, toys, vending machines and remote control inventor. Adejoke Lasisi, founder of Planet 3R and Jokelinks Weaving School, an African fabric designer and environmentalist. She is the founder of Planet 3R and Jokelinks Weaving School – the first of their kinds in Nigeria.

Idris Bashir, 28, is the founder of Midrish Technologies Nigeria, credited to have developed an application to help farmers, small, medium and large businesses to reach out to their customers.

In the 60-Day App Challenge competition, 10 young Nigerians emerged winners including Anasiudu Ikechukwu, Elioenal Yomi-Agbajor, Adegoke Oluwatosin Amos, Daniel Osi, Isaac Isaac Ozioma, Yushau El-Sunais Sani, Adeniji Oluwaferanmi, Solomon Yakubu Zamba, Andrew Mogbolu and Olukayode Fadairo.

For the challenge, Dare revealed that thousands of entries were received for the App Challenge and after detailed process by technical partners, 10 entries were selected to receive cash prizes of N1 million each while a number of others won laptops.

Commending the federal government and the Minister of Youth and Sports for all the various intervention programmes, Ms. Bunmi Adeleye, Chief Executive Officer of Atunda, a business transformation consulting company urged government to also work on sustainability models so that all initiatives will deliver expected outcomes.

“Our country, like all developing nations has many problems to be solved. For that reason, the opportunities for employment creation are huge if we adopt a more structured approach to all of these government investments targeted at youths. While government has done well on these initiatives it is time to take it a notch higher in terms of monitoring and assessing impact so that money is not just thrown at people who will be back to square one few months down the line.

9Right frame work should be put in place for evaluation and mentoring for the beneficiaries of the Youth Investment Fund such that five and 10 years from now we should know the value the N75b and other funds targeted at youths have created for the economy. India has done so well in transforming its young people as change agents and significant contributors to national wealth and productivity. We can use the India model to improve on what we are doing and take it to next level,” Adeleye admonished.

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