It is no longer debatable that Nigeria’s economy is witnessing some recession. At least, the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun mentioned this herself. Even without the minister saying so, the economic situation now can never be described any better even by the greatest sycophants.
As with any economy witnessing recession, job losses abound even as prices of goods and services skyrocket as productivity gets lower and lower. This is the situation with the Nigerian economy right now.
The only obvious answer or better put, way out of the woods is a re-jig of the economy which can almost only be done by encouraging small business to thrive and provide jobs thereby cushioning the effect of the recession. In other words, entrepreneurship is the way to go now!
You might have perhaps heard this a number of times in seminars, training workshops, news and the likes. The missing link however, which has made us remain still on talking terms without really visibly pursuing these realization is that the supportive structures for entrepreneurship is still lacking.
Here are 10 smart ways that we all including the government of the day can tremendously encourage entrepreneurship in Nigeria.
- Emphasizing More on Entrepreneurship Courses in Schools.
Perhaps you thought the first item to be mentioned would be, providing grants to aspiring entrepreneurs. But while this will also be mentioned later, it is important that the right foundation is laid.
It is already too bad that the orientation of most parents is that their children should graduate and then apply for work. That’s why you’ll often hear most parents and guardians encouraging their wards to perform well so that they can easily find immediate employment upon graduation.
You almost never hear parents encouraging their wards to work hard so they can build business empires and be the Dangotes of tomorrow.
This must be corrected going forward and that, through a greater emphasis on entrepreneurship in schools (just like what the Small and Medium scale Enterprises Development Agency SMEDAN is doing through its National School Entrepreneurship Programme N-SEP) to compensate for what most parents have failed to do.
In fact, it should go beyond just making Entrepreneurship a compulsory subject, the practical component of such a course should be focused on.
This way, results will be properly tracked and necessary adjustment made to ensure that graduates understand how to identify and harness business opportunities to create wealth and generate employment.
- Building Skills Acquisition Hubs
Emphasizing on entrepreneurship education in schools, will almost only target those enrolled in schools. Consequently, in a country like Nigeria where a large number of children are out of school, it is obvious that the aforementioned approach will not have a full blast impact.
Therefore, to complement it, skill acquisition centres would need to be created in different strategic areas or localities.
This responsibility is indeed not on the government alone. Public spirited individuals and philanthropists can convert the dollars they intend to spend on holidays in the Bahamas to building skills centres even if it’s only in their locality.
That would indeed be an indelible legacy.
Corporate individuals, civil societies, government institutions, foreign development partners among others can toe this same line.
- Fine-tuning the NYSC Programme Towards Entrepreneurship Development
The fact that nearly all graduates of tertiary institutions participate in the National Youth Service Corps Scheme makes the programme a very strategic platform to encourage entrepreneurship.
Not to say that nothing is being done in this regard, as we have the Skills Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development (SAED) Programmes, conducted as part of camping activities.
However, going by available records, this programme is still yet to have the desired impetus on job creation.
It is not so structured to appeal to and capture the interest of participants.
What needs to be done is a proper follow up of these activities after the camping programme. Corps members should enjoy some support, both financial and otherwise to be able to execute the entrepreneurial skills acquired even while still in service.
This will encourage prospective corps members to apply themselves effectively to the programme.
- Provision of Grants and Interest-free Loans Through Business Plan Competitions
Indeed, it can’t be overemphasized that lack of access to funding has rendered so many brilliant business ideas to either be left unimplemented or poorly implemented. In fact, many young people hide under the cloak of no funding to shun entrepreneurship.
Therefore it is imperative that government institutions, financial houses, corporate individuals, public spirited Nigerians and non-governmental organizations as well as civil society groups regularly identify and financially support young enterprising Nigerians.
Business plan competitions should be regularly organized and winners provided with grants to start up their businesses.
In this regard, corporate bodies should toe the line of organizations like the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Foundation that annually conducts a business plan competition and awards grants as well as business training opportunities to winners drawn from across Africa.
Again, the money you would save from flying in an economy class instead of a business class can get two or three business ideas implemented and create enormous wealth than you would ever imagine.
- Creation of Mentoring Programmes for Aspiring Entrepreneurs
To ensure that the grants or loans provided entrepreneurs are judiciously applied and shrewd business decisions taken, mentoring programmes for prospective entrepreneurs are imperative.
Here, successful business men and women in the chosen niche of entrepreneurs should be recruited to mentor them. This will serve not only as a tremendous source of inspiration to these entrepreneurs who perhaps are still skeptical or uncertain about the success of their businesses, but, provide the needed connection and network for these entrepreneurs to easily access quality advice, learn about expected challenges and how to access markets.
The Bank of Industry currently does this through its network of Business Development Service Providers (BSDPs). Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme (TEEP) also appoints mentors to each of its awardees. Even Marafoundation provides high quality mentoring programme that is freely accessible to prospective entrepreneurs through its platform Maramentors.
There is need for more of these programmes to ensure that properly skilled and connected entrepreneurs are built all over the country.
- Provision of Basic Infrastructure.
If you randomly ask a cross section of Nigerian youths why they are not considering entrepreneurship as an option, you’re likely going to get replies such as: where will I get money to buy and fuel my generator? How will I move my products over these bad roads? Where do I get affordable housing for my shop? And so on.
These obviously are not far from the truth. Infrastructural inadequacy can really be a pain in the neck for an aspiring and obviously inexperienced entrepreneur.
Unfortunately when these ones fail, a lot more get discouraged. It is therefore more than imperative for government, corporate organizations and development partners to identify and pursue infrastructural development as one of the most strategic ways of boosting entrepreneurial culture in Nigeria.
It is not enough to bring up gloomy statistics about unemployment figures. Actions geared at attacking the root cause of unemployment as well as inhibitors of entrepreneurship should be vigorously pursued. Infrastructural development is indeed one of them.
- Provision of Security
Even the most reckless of entrepreneurs will never consider investing in a society where his investments are not secured. Little wonder why areas where we’ve had prolonged insurgency, have witnessed very low entrepreneurial activity.
It is therefore important that the issue of insecurity in all parts of the country is tackled head-on. Vandalism, kidnapping, armed robbery, militancy and terrorism must be eliminated.
Businesses must be encouraged to expand and create more wealth through the provision of efficient and reliable security infrastructure.
- Policy Consistency and the Creation of Markets
Indeed, policy inconsistency and unfair market competition kills new businesses faster than bullet. Just consider a business engaging in the local production of frozen chicken. Let’s say the business is thriving, expanding and employing many Nigerians while the government places import restriction on frozen chicken.
What do you think will happen if government suddenly opens up its borders, allowing the influx of frozen chicken, some of which, due to their stale nature would sell at a ridiculously lower price?
Definitely, the previously thriving business would be heading for the rocks as unsuspecting Nigerians would definitely switch patronage to the imported chicken.
Therefore, to encourage entrepreneurship in Nigeria, efforts must be made to ensure that through appropriate policy instruments, the huge market available in Nigeria due to the size of the country’s population is really available to Nigerian business.
In fact, if it means restricting importation of certain items, then, so be it. After all, charity they say begins at home. Besides, like they say, if the desirable is not available, then the available becomes the desirable. Nigerians would eventually learn to patronize locally made products.
- Granting Tax Incentives to Corporate Organizations Supporting Entrepreneurship
In the business world, the common slogan is: what is in it for me? Indeed, while corporate social responsibilities remain part of organizational promotion strategy, many corporate bodies would be more encouraged to support entrepreneurship if government reciprocates their gesture by granting them tax incentives.
Besides, if we say that they are using the supposed taxes to support entrepreneurship, a responsibility which the government would have eventually needed to discharge; it means that the government actually loses nothing by granting them tax holiday.
- Instituting Entrepreneurship Awards
For public spirited individuals who have no organizations that would enjoy the recommended tax incentives, an entrepreneurship award should be given.
This will not only motivate them to do more, but awaken similar consciousness in the minds of other well-to-do Nigerians.
Also, foreign development partners and donor institutions that also are not domiciled in Nigeria and thus cannot enjoy the tax incentives should also be recognized through such awards.
This is not to say that Nigerian based corporate institutions can’t also be part of the awards. In fact, all individuals and corporate institutions that have demonstrated significant contribution to the development of entrepreneurship in Nigeria should be duly recognized.
These recommended strategies are by no means exhaustive. However, they indeed constitute the starting point for a collective effort towards encouraging entrepreneurship in Nigeria even as we strive to build a truly prosperous and peaceful Nigeria.
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