The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on Thursday in Abuja flagged off the pilot phase of the Youth Entrepreneurship Development Programme (YEDP) aimed at empowering 1,500 youths with a total of N2.5 billion loan.
The CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele in his remarks said that the inability of Nigerian youths to access funding for businesses had been the bane of entrepreneurship.
Emefiele said that entrepreneurship among Nigerian youths had been hindered by low capacity and funding which has made many of them opt for white collar jobs which are not even available.
“ These challenges have continually made many youths to jettison their laudable ideas in pursuit of white collar jobs.
“Their inability to access funding has been the bane of developing the ideas of many educated and enterprising youths in Nigeria.’’
He said that the programme would address the problem of high and rising youth unemployment and restiveness.
While stressing that it was a loan that would be paid back and not a grant, he said that the single digit interest rate of the loan was to allow the youths to grow their businesses without much ado.
He admonished the beneficiaries to be of good character by repaying the loan when due as the success of the scheme depends solely on this first phase.
“We do not anticipate that they would not pay, we have as collateral their NYSC and Degree certificates and we know that our youths know the importance of their certificates.
“I do not think that somebody who has gone to the higher institution for those number of years to gain gainful employment for a gainful life will abandon those certificates because he wants to collect loan and not pay back.
“As far as I’m concerned I have not looked at the equation of them not re-paying so I want to enjoin everybody who accessed this loan to please pay.’’
The YEDP is aimed at harnessing the latent entrepreneurial spirit among the teeming youths by providing timely and affordable loans to implement their business ideas.
It is also serving as a training sponsored by the CBN for National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) members in collaboration with Heritage Bank.
It targets youths between the age of 18 and 35 to create one million direct jobs in the productive sectors of the economy within four years.
Some of the qualified business sectors are agro-allied, food processing and preservation, arts and crafts, construction support and Information and Communication Technology (ICT).
For his part Director General, NYSC , Brig.-Gen. Sule Kazaure said that the programme was a milestone for the NYSC because it was in line with the its Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development (SAED) programme.
He said under the SAED scheme, over 600,000 corps members had been trained in various entrepreneurship programmes but lacked funding to establish their own businesses.
He urged the corps members to take the programme seriously saying their future and the nation’s may depend on it.
“I urge all corps members, irrespective of their course disciplines, to key into the opportunities provided by these collaborations and become budding entrepreneurs through skill acquisition, self-employment, wealth creation and employment generation.’’
Also speaking Managing Director, Heritage Bank, Mr Ifie Sekibo told the youths that their success was important as it might mean that a path to creating a society that is worth our while was being charted.
He urged them to exhibit a flawless character and be tenacious in the pursuit of their goals.
“The spirit of entrepreneurship is not just in word but in the character you exhibit and the tenacity you bring to bear, the ability to follow your dreams despite the challenges.
“ If you don’t bring your character to the table this experiment will not succeed. A tenacious spirit, a never say die spirit, a can do spirit.’’
Mr Success Obi, one of the applicants who spoke on behalf of others, thanked the three organisations for providing such employment opportunity for the teeming Nigerian youths.
He assured that if granted the loan they would do their best to create employment opportunity for themselves ourselves and fellow youth and pay back the loan when stipulated.
The flag-off was done simultaneously in Plateau, Katsina, Enugu, Akwa-Ibom, Osun and Lagos states and Abuja