Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Entrepreneurship pivotal to national development

It is no longer news that the issue of unemployment in Nigeria has continued to pose a serious problem to the nation’s economy even as efforts are being made to contain the challenge it poses to growth and development.
In the country today, the challenge of lack of access to funds as experienced by youths who intend to start up businesses of their own to beat down the scale of unemployment is phenomenal such that it takes a handful of determined minds to venture into entrepreneurship giving the harsh environmental challenges the economy throws at them.
Again it is a known fact that the youth demographic currently represents approximately 75 percent of Nigeria’s population and for a nation that wants to be reckoned with in terms of growth and development, this segment of the population is crucial and special focus must be deployed to increase their enterprise capacity.
It is against this backdrop that BusinessDay in collaboration with the ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, as well as Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) chose the maiden edition of University Entrepreneurship Development Programme (UNEDEP) initiative as a platform to promote entrepreneurship across Nigerian universities and to create in students the hope about the opportunities within the country.

Olusegun Aganga, the minister of industry, trade and investment, while addressing a crowd of budding university undergraduates who are rearing to explore business opportunities in the country but are being hampered by the bottleneck of finance and bureaucracy, said the aim of the UNEDEP is to increase access to finance for young entrepreneurs by exposing them to panels of investors.
According to him, “We are also working on other creative windows to further unlock access to finance for MSMEs. As a result, we are at advanced stages of partnerships with some commercial banks to increase the amount of funding being disbursed to SMEs. We are also working to build the business angel, private equity and venture capital networks in Nigeria so that you entrepreneurs, particularly youth entrepreneurs, can have more access to funding.”
Aganga said his ministry stretched the mandate on entrepreneurship to the university level with UNEDEP because it understands the need to cultivate the culture amongst Nigerian youths.
He revealed that there is a global focus on MSMEs, adding that more countries are making the development of this sector a priority because it is the only sector that continues to employ while larger corporations are making staff redundant.
The minister encouraged the students to take full advantage of these sessions and to join the various discussion forums as it moves to the 19 pilot universities in the country as this would give them the necessary guidance in developing their business ideas.
“I urge you to capitalise on all that this programme has to offer. I urge you to be creative, to go against the grain and be a leader! With our combined efforts, we can reshape this sector,” he said.
Reiterating further the importance of this initiative which aims to empower undergraduates for job and wealth creation as well as poverty alleviation, Bature Masari, director general of SMEDAN, said his Agency places a lot of premium on the use of mentoring as a veritable platform for empowering students for success in their businesses.
Masari called on all students to take the programme very seriously as it has the potential of offering to them on a platter of gold experience and skills that will put them on a higher pedestal in their quest to excel in both their existing and potential business endeavours.
On his part, Ben Bruce, CEO, Silver Bird group, urged the undergraduates who are aspiring to establish businesses of their own to decide whether they want to fight the system or not; stressing that sometimes in business one needs to fight the system to change the system.
“You must be conscious of the realities of business and not the consciousness of success; the most successful people in life are not the smartest people, and they are not the people that work the hardest,” he said.
Frank Aigbogun, publisher of BusinessDay maintained that the UNEDEP initiative is very critical, adding that the involvement of the ministry of industry, trade and investment which is aggressive in promoting investment in Nigeria will through the platform “create a level playing field for the realisation of the potentials of our people in unleashing their latent energy.”
Highlights of the thrilling maiden University Entrepreneurship Development Programme (UNEDEP) event included breakout sessions on various business interests, motivational speeches, experience sharing sessions by established entrepreneurs and various awards to deserving successful entrepreneurs.
Source: BusinessDay

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