The N3 billion-funded Youth Innovative Entrepreneurship Development Programme (YIEDP) of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), aimed at empowering young graduates, has kicked off with the invitation of over 1500 applicants for a training workshop last week. Following the inauguration of the initiative by the CBN and the subsequent launch of the business application portal by Heritage Bank-the partner financial institution, in March this year, not less than 4000 applications have been received. However, 1,547 candidates of the total applicants have emerged as the first batch of possible beneficiaries of soft loans for their businesses and now undergoing business development training, conducted across CBN’s Enterprise Development Centres in the six geopolitical zones of the country.
The Chief Executive Officer of Africa Leadership Forum (ALF) and a capacity building consultant, Dr. Olumide Abimbola Ajayi, at the workshop in Lagos, said the training is important for effective entrepreneurship development and job creation. He enjoined other financial institutions to partner CBN in funding the young people that have undergone the entrepreneurship development, as apex bank alone cannot provide all the development funds for all participants. “If the banks are doing this by now, the unemployment rate would have reduced. Nigeria has great potential to take over the whole of Africa and we will do it through entrepreneurship development,” he stated.
According to Ajayi, the programme is an initiative of the CBN, Heritage Bank and the National Youth Service Corps, to help young graduates pick entrepreneurial skills that will enable them start their own businesses and become employers of labour rather than become job seekers. The Managing Director of Heritage Bank, Ife Sekibo, restated that the aim of Heritage Bank being in the forefront of youth empowerment is to emancipate the latent entrepreneurial spirit in the teeming youths, by providing adequate and affordable loans in executing their business ideas and, hopefully, migrate them to successful Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
He said the effort would also result to providing the mechanism of stimulating growth, reducing unemployment, as well as addressing youth restiveness in the economy. “The bank’s passionate interest in the programme also arises from the fact that the initiative aligns very much with the vision of the bank, which is to help partners create, preserve and transfer wealth across generations.” To be eligible for the YIEDP programme, youths must be within the age bracket of 18 and 35 year old, serving National Youth Corps members or not more than five years post-service.