2012: Year of the Nigerian Entrepreneur

Elizabeth OlofinInterview With Fate Foundation Director, Elizabeth Olofin

 

Please introduce yourself

My name is Elizabeth Olofin. I work with FATE Foundation. FF has a mission to create wealth through enterprise development.

Congratulations on your appointment.

Thank you very much.

2012 has witnessed an upsurge of interest among Nigerians in entrepreneurship. What’s your general impression?

I think over the years, a lot of sensitization has gone as regards the option of entrepreneurship as a way to go. A lot of work has been done in that regard. It is now glaring that this is the sustainable way for the economy. A lot of key people have talked about it. The job market is not sufficient enough to accommodate the number of graduate produced from higher institutions. It becomes increasingly important that there must be another way and the sensitisation is getting across that we can go to school knowing that the purpose is to create jobs. Beyond sensitisation, we need to ensure that enterprise development would create sustainable value for the country.

What’s your impression about 2012?

2012 has been the year of enterprise. We have involvement of more people and institutions that wants to ensure that more young people actually start and own businesses. That way they’ll have positive living, create jobs and help others and give back (the whole concept of social entrepreneurship). We have partners like JP Morgan sponsoring 120 young Nigerians on our Aspiring Entrepreneurship Programme (AEP). For us that is laudable. Imagine the catalytic effect of that. The 120 persons would be less dependent. They’ll rather be creators of wealth.

You see, entrepreneurship is very interesting. Among this group, you would find social entrepreneurs who would find ways to contribute to the society and improve the value chain. So, 2012 has been a very interesting year – seeing young people working for a positive change. Finding people who are really doing great things give you hope. It’s a year of hope I would say. It tells us Nigeria can be better and there is reason to believe in the country.

Numbers?

This year I can tell you the young people we have in AEP increased this year. We have over 370 people which is more than what we achieved last year. This is besides the regular programme we hold regularly for the general public. So there are many more thousand people we reach out to beyond AEP.

Beyond Training

Beyond training is the message of entrepreneurship. It’s a daily living of value creation. You’ve got to give and you always learn. Training itself will never end because you have to live it out. It is now a question of translating all you’ve leant into the business space; trying to have structure and create sustainable value. It’s also very important to remain creative and the concept of innovation: what can we do differently? What’s unique about us? What need is out there that we can provide solution to? This search is to make the world a better place while making good business. It’s a journey and I hope it’s a beautiful one for everyone.

Interview With EDC Director, Peter Bamkole

Peter Bamkole

Please introduce yourself

My name is Peter Bamkole, the Director of the Enterprise Development Centre (EDC) of the Pan African University, Lagos.

How would you describe year 2012 in terms of entrepreneurship in Nigeria?

The upswing in interest this year on entrepreneurship has been phenomenal. We trained a lot more on the average than we used to train. For our flagship programme Certificate in Enterprise Management (CEM), this year alone we trained more than 350 people. At the end of the year, we have about 1200 businesses that we would have trained since we started. In addition, we’ve had quite a lot of significant partnerships.

We have one with Etisalat Nigeria with whom we launched Market Access Nigeria and we’ve done three editions – in Abuja, Port Harcourt and Lagos. The minister of trade and investment, Olusegun Aganga has been very cooperative and supportive as he was there in Abuja when we launched. He could not make it to Port Harcourt but he was here in Lagos for the grand finale. The MD/CEO of Etisalat was also there in Lagos. So, we’ve had very good and interesting support from Etisalat – not only for market access but for the support during the Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW). This was for us the “best” we’ve done so far since we started hosting it three years ago.

We had a full week of high-packed activities, starting with the GEW Walk which Jay Jay Okocha and Tee-A joined us. Then we had the seminar where we had over 200 people. But the one involving the students was absolutely phenomenal. We had over 800 people came to the Pan African University (LBS) campus. It was huge. Youth corps members, students, everybody was there. At the end of that, we had two people that won the pitch session and stand to gain 200,000 each from angel investors. Indeed, one of them (with the recycle idea) is already proposed for a programme in Israel. So, there are sparks everywhere.

We also had the YouWIN, which we started last year. The second phase has already started – purely for women. Last year, we had 24,000 participants; this year we have 66,000, almost three times. But if you look at it; last year we had about 5,000 women applicants, which meant we are more than 12 times more. This meant that the confidence level has improved. People now accept this is for real, minus the fact that there aren’t many jobs and people need to create jobs themselves.

Diamond Bank is also supporting us, Stanbic IBTC is also supporting. For the second year running, Diamond Bank is supporting the Building Entrepreneurship Today (BET), not just through training but support services that we provide for six months. At the end, we have six winners and each of them get three million naira in grant. We had that last year and are continuing this year. Stanbic IBTC also supported the GEW and “Enterprise Stories” on Classic FM. The Goldman Sachs is also still going on. So, a lot is happening these days around entrepreneurship and we are very excited about it. Everybody is now talking about it and hopefully the output will be more than what we even desire.

About half of the participants in the students entrepreneurship programme are NYSC members. They know that the outlook for job is quite scary and the reality is to better start thinking of setting up one’s venture and being an employer of labour. This is the beginning of mindset change. A lot of people are looking for direction and that provide that.

2013 will be a good year with greater expectation. All of a sudden people are beginning to see that things are possible. This year, we have seen that the wealthiest man in Africa is from Nigeria. We have also seen that a few more have also joined him even from Nigeria. Now, the role models we seek are people from among us. It makes sense for people to reflect and begin to act in this direction. It gives us hope.

Also the directive by the National Universities Commission (NUC) in terms of their expectation for entrepreneurship training is encouraging. There’s a demand that enterprise development centres should be established in all the institutions. The infrastructure, teaching and support to drive entrepreneurship are now in place to help in that direction. Thirdly, there are no jobs! People have to create jobs. From what we’ve seen from YouWIN 1 to YouWIN 2, it shows that we may cross 200,000 next year if the door is opened to men and women.

If we continue with this pace in 2013, there is no doubt in my mind that students in secondary schools will start dreaming and making plans into entrepreneurship. If we are going to make anything meaningful happen in Nigeria’s economy it has to be through enterprise creation. The small businesses will create the jobs and improve the GDP of this country.

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