The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, has made a case for entrepreneurship development as a way of solving the rising youth unemployment across the country. The CBN boss stated this in Lagos recently while delivering the 51st Convocation Lecture of the University of Lagos, entitled: “National Development and Knowledge-Economy in the Digital Age: Leapfrogging SMEs in the 21st Century.” According to Emefiele, the apex bank is now ready to collaborate with universities in designing a framework for entrepreneurship development to check rising youth unemployment, which latest NBS statistics put at over 47 per cent.
We welcome the CBN’s plans to work with the nation’s universities to deepen entrepreneurship education in the country. The universities should access the CBN’s research grants and training on entrepreneurship development. Beyond that, it is equally important that government at all levels and the private sector should provide more assistance in addressing the challenges confronting small businesses in the country. Nigerian youths are enjoined to use entrepreneurship to develop the economy and create jobs. At present, technology is not only reshaping how knowledge is shared, but also how goods and services are traded in both domestic and international markets.
We urge the universities to take this challenge and encourage research in entrepreneurship development. In an era of knowledge-economy, expanding the entrepreneurship class or ‘frontier economy,’ is the way to go. It also entails empowering Small and Medium Enterprises in the country.
It is heartening that CBN has also pledged its readiness to increase its development finance intervention to support Micro, small and medium-scale Enterprises (MSMEs). Data from SMEDAN, the agency for small and medium businesses in the country, estimate that there are over 20 million registered SMEs in the country. It is unfortunate that millions of fresh school leavers are yet to take advantage of Youth Entrepreneurship Development Fund (YEDF), which is one of the CBN’s development initiatives to support fresh graduates rather than searching for elusive jobs. Let access to the aforementioned facilities be liberalised.
Some of the CBN’s programmes aimed at supporting SMEs include the SME Credit Guarantee Scheme (SMECGS), Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Fund (MSMEDF), Agric-business/small and medium enterprises investment scheme (AGSMEIS), creative industry financing initiative (CIFI), targeted credit facility (TCF) and the Nigeria Youth Investment Fund (NYIF). We urge the youths to access them.
Given our rising population growth and the growing number of graduates every year, it has become imperative to expand and empower young entrepreneurs. If the ranks of entrepreneurs are too thin, it will not augur well for the society, and the consequences could be dire for the country. Though there is much awareness today about entrepreneurship than previously, the opportunities it affords have been hindered by lack of access to loans, hurdles in registration of start-ups, lack of power supply and other challenges.
Since having a university degree is no longer a guarantee for getting a decent job, entrepreneurship education is critical to creating more jobs and developing the economy. We urge the youths to use the opportunity offered by the CBN intervention to own businesses and reduce the rising unemployment. Countries such as India, China, Korea, Malaysia and Singapore have used SMEs to create more jobs, develop the economy and lift millions of their citizens out of poverty. Transition economy such as Nigeria can benefit from what these countries have done if the youths can leverage on entrepreneurship. Undoubtedly, the government has a big role to play to make this possible. We call on the Federal Government to design macroeconomic and fiscal policies that will help drive job growth by encouraging and rewarding job creators rather than job seekers. Aggressive development of entrepreneurship and SMEs will go a long way to hasten our economic growth and job creation drive. The EndSARS protests of last year had revealed that youth unemployment can lead to frustration and unpalatable consequences. And no country can develop when its youths are unemployed.