Creating jobs, entrepreneurship with N75b Youth Investment Fund
The provision of N75 billion Investment Fund by the Federal Government through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is a bold step to pull youths out of joblessness, writes Group Business Editor, SIMEON EBULU
The Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) move to again walk its talk on its commitment to revamping the economy by directing attention to youth empowerment with the creation of the Nigeria Youth Investment Fund (NYIF), is a refreshing reminder that with time, Nigeria’s huge youthful population will, eventually, secure the opportunity it has yearned for to unbundle its ingrained talents waiting to be harnessed.
The character of the youth and its configuration have proven, no doubt, that this is a group of persons blessed with diverse and tremendous talents. The founders of Paystack, Shola Akinlade and Ezra Olubi, are cases in point. They, among others, have proven this in many ways.
The entire Nollywood film industry, music and entertainment subsectors are nurtured and driven by them. The boisterous social media platform reputable for vibrantly driving the various segments of the economy and businesses, is their natural habitat. Add to that, the superactive informal trading on the streets and around the various market spaces.
Also, figure out the humongous business deals that are wrapped up and consummated daily in the various Information Communication Technology (ICT) markets in Ikeja, Lagos – notably the famous Computer Village, reputed to be the largest in sub-Sahara Africa, and other thriving centres in Port Harcourt, Enugu, Aba, Kano and Abuja, among others.
Think of other professional youths, the educated and others in-between, sidelined by the authority, so to say, but who are eeking out a living by trying their hands in multifarious trades such as barbing, catering, fashion and design, direct marketing and salesmanship with literarily no form of government input, or support. These are the segments, among others , that the CBN’s NYIF is targeted and intended to support, and if well-managed, doubtless, will catapult many youths into some enviable heights in no time.
The CBN has outlined in the NYIF framework, the businesses and activities that are legally allowed to be eligible to participate in the scheme. These include technology/innovation, agriculture and its related value chain, green economy and the renewable energy sector. Others are manufacturing, hospitality/tourism, construction, logistics and supply chain, healthcare value chain, the creative sector, trading and services, as well as others that would be certified by the CBN from time to time. It must also be recognised that the CBN has ceded the administration of the N75 billion NYIF to the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, understandably, so because that is the Federal Government department that is saddled with matters that relate to the youth.
Accordingly, the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, had taken on the gauntlet by launching the Nigeria Youth Investment Fund. Dare said last year in Abuja, where he said the NYIF underscored the importance placed on youths by the administration, saying the fund would be spread over three years to cater for youth-owned businesses and investment needs.
He said the loan provided under the NYIF by the CBN has an interest rate of five per cent yearly, pointing out that any youth who wished to apply as an individual, or a non-registered business could draw up to N250,000. He also indicated that youth-owned registered businesses could apply for up to N3 million.
Dare said the loans are with a tenor of five years with a moratorium of up to 12 months.
“Our commitment to see the youth succeed is such that the loan is bundled with trainings that will ensure business sustainability for successful applicants. It is my belief that the fund will grow to become a permanent feature of our society where beneficiaries run successful businesses and repay the loans,” he stated. Dare directed applicants to avail themselves of the fund’s application which is available online on NIRSAL Microfinance Bank’s site — http://www.nmfb.com.ng.
The NYIF was set up by the Federal Government to invest in the innovative ideas, skills, and talents of youth and to institutionally provide the youth with a special window for accessing much-needed funds, finances, business management skills and other inputs critical for sustainable enterprise development.
The FMYSD is the lead implementation entity and is responsible for budgetary provisions and for funds mobilisation. Already, over 236 applications have been processed and approved and that nearly N166 million in cash has been pushed out in what is termed, Pilot Disbursement. Application data showed that a total of 3,120,107 have registered for the NYIF Pre-Assessment/Training to benefit from the three-year financing for youth-owned businesses and ideas.
Experts dissect plan
Analysing the NYIF, Professor of Capital Market, Nasarawa State University, Uche Uwaleke, adjudged the concept as good and that if well-implemented, he said, it would go a long way in assisting to reduce the high unemployment rate among youths.
According to him, “since beneficiaries are expected to have a BVN, it will help to bring a lot of informal businesses into the formal sector, saying the programme aims to empower Nigerian youths to create about 500,000 jobs over the period up to 2023. The terms of disbursement are also concessional: five per cent interest rate with one year moratorium. However, Uwaleke thinks that one major issue exists.
“I think the challenge will be chiefly in the area of ensuring that the funds are not disbursed to ineligible beneficiaries” he said, pointing out: “There is also the challenge of ensuring that a significant proportion of unemployed youths are able to access the funds.”
To mitigate this challenge, Uwaleke said: “The CBN, which is providing the funds, should involve more participation from financial institutions other than using only the NIRSAL Microfinance Bank. The BOI, in his words, “should also be involved’’.
“To ensure effective disbursement and optimal utilisation of the funds,” Uwaleke advised, “fresh graduates from the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) should be the primary target because the proposed training by the Ministry of Youth will be easier to handle with NYSC graduates. To this end, the age bracket should be reduced from 18-38 years to 21-30 years. This safeguard is necessary, else there is the tendency for people to falsify their ages in order to benefit from the fund.”
Other experts who volunteered opinions, but who asked that their identities be veiled, said the NYIF initiative was a brilliant idea, but they were, however, sceptical about the possible success rate of the programme two-five years from now given the success rate that normally attends government programmes.
They said they would adopt a wait-and-see attitude while hoping that the government’s goal in engaging the initiative to reduce unemployment and create more entrepreneurs from the vast pool of trained youths would be accomplished.