President Goodluck Jonathan has announced a N220 billion fund to support young entrepreneurs in the agricultural sector. It is unclear if this is separate from the N220 billion MSME fund managed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
As part of its efforts to improve the nation’s economy through enterprise development, President Jonathan has also inaugurated a National Council on MSME.
Speaking at the investment week organized by Federal Institute of Industrial Research Oshodi (FIIRO), Jonathan, represented by Vice President Namadi Sambo, said the gesture is in line with the government’s transformation agenda to provide jobs and create wealth.
“It is part of our transformation agenda to create a minimum of three million new jobs in the economy and increasing Foreign Direct Investment, FDI, inflow by at least 300 percent by 2015,” Sambo said.
A cross-section of 100 young people of varying ethnicity and educational background had taken part in a three-day skills acquisition workshop at FIIRO, where they were exposed to various methods of commercializing the research outcomes of Nigerian scientists to meet market needs.
Amongst many of the technologies transferred to them are the skills of converting raw cassava into various forms of products such as flour for bread, chips, biscuits odourless fufu powder.
They were also trained on how to make nutrient-rich soy biscuits and snacks, ready-to-cook local soups such as Banga, Edika ikong, soap and chemical making, bottling and packaging of palmwine and solar energy options.
Further to the presidential directive, the vice president asked the director general of the Institute, the host of the event, Gloria Elemo to forward the names of the participants and indicate those who will need assistant to start up their small or medium scale business specifically in agro-allied products.
According to Sambo, the funds will be available to the workshop graduates through FIIRO and the Bank of Industry, BOI.
One of the beneficiaries, Kelechi Okorie, executive director of De-Intellectlinks, a youth initiative, considers this a realization of their dreams and called on Nigerian youths not to walk in darkness of joblessness.
“We want more youths to come and join us to learn. The Nigerian dream has been revealed. For over 100 years, people have wandered for lack of direction, a defined purpose and dream. But as the nation begins another century from 2014, this generation and the coming ones will walk in newness of mind,” he said.
Investment in agriculture is capable of providing up to 60 per cent employment opportunities, analysts believe. And this will reduce the current grim situation of unemployment in the country. The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) estimates that 5.3 million Nigerian youths are unemployed while 1.8 million graduates enter labour market yearly.
In the light of this, FIIRO, the oldest research institutes in Nigeria, is working hard at commercializing its technologies and developing new ones to ensure food as well as nutrition security for the nation.
In her remarks, Elemo noted that at least 250 research and development works of scientists have been prepared for commercialisation.
“With the technologies available here today alone, we anticipate that it can create 2,500 businesses, with 250,000 jobs and USD 75million in direct investment,” Elemo added.