NIGERIA still falls far short of the economic and social progress required to impact positively on the well being of its citizens, given that over half of the population live on less than US$1per a day. Poor funding, inadequate infrastructure, corruption, policy discontinuity, among others are responsible for the regretful state of the economy.
In order to create favourable investment climate and wealth generating enterprises necessary for economic development, there is the urgent need to develop skilled entrepreneurial workforce in areas where the country has competitive and comparative advantage.
Job creation in Nigeria has been inadequate to keep pace with the expanding working age population. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, the unemployment rate in Nigeria increased to 18.80 percent in the third quarter of 2017 from 16.20 percent in the second quarter of 2017.
It also stated that the country’s labour population increased from 83.9 million in the second quarter to 85.1 million in the third quarter of 2017, a difference of 1.2million in additional workforce.
In a developing country like Nigeria, there are several socio-economic conditions impeding meaningful development despite interventions and policy strategies. However, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), if fully developed have been identified as instruments in alleviating poverty through job and wealth creation.
This sector can benefit any government that develops it to the extent that it has the capacity to grow a country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), generate taxes and other revenue, as well as assist in bringing stability in the polity of a country. The corporate world can also gain from the specialised goods and services of SMEs and the healthy market competitiveness it promotes, thus giving way for a strong private driven economic sector, with entrepreneurs springing up.
But the prevailing economic and political conditions have not given room for SMEs to thrive, as evident in the challenges they are currently facing in the country. Despite these challenges, SMEs are associated with immense potentials to trigger development in the country.
Statistics from the Enterprise Baseline Survey revealed that there are over17 million SMEs in the country, employing over 31 million Nigerians and making immense contribution to the GDP. Therefore, formulating and effectively implementing SME-friendly policies represents innovative ways of building the capacity to engage in entrepreneurial activities and creating job opportunities with multiplier effect in the society.
It is in line with this that the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, at an event in Lagos, urged the private sector to support the Federal Government’s efforts at increasing jobs and stimulating growth of the Nigerian economy. He also pledged the CBN’s continued support for companies committed to job creation. He stated that there are many Nigerian youths whose potential could be harnessed to strengthen the industrial base of the country.
In order to enhance job and wealth creation in Lagos, the state government established the Ministry of Wealth Creation and Employment in 2015. The aim is to promote and sustain entrepreneurship and employment through effective use of wealth creation strategies and resources by collaborating with all stakeholders.
In 2017, the Ministry in collaboration with Betti-Okuboyejo Foundation came up with six-month garment technician sustainable development programme to train and equip youths with employable and entrepreneurial skills in garment making. It was aimed at creating wealth and financial liberty.
Similar initiative took place in Delta State where the governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, instituted a programme with six basic operational units to enhance the wellbeing of the people in 2015. As part of the programme, the administration trained and empowered 1,300 youths with some already employers of labour.
Despite these efforts, private sector participation is still required for greater impact. However, an excellent step to eradicate the ugly phenomenon of unemployment and poverty in the Southwest was taken by Goldberg, from the stables of Nigerian Breweries Plc. This is demonstrated in the brand’s empowerment scheme christened Isedowo, which recently supported businesses of 100 artisans in Osun, Ekiti, Ondo, Oyo and Ogun States with N300,000 each.
Through Isedowo, the brand extended its affinity with the people of the region beyond culture and tradition to entrepreneurship.
Launched in August 2017 by the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja I1, and with the last activation in Abeokuta on February 9, 2018, Isedowo received wide commendation from monarchs and other respected individuals in Yorubaland. Oba Adeyeye, for one, commended Goldberg for supporting artisans in the Southwest. “Goldberg Lager Beer and Nigerian Breweries have challenged other corporate bodies to give back to the society where they operate,” he said.
In his remarks at the project launch, Marketing Director, Nigerian Breweries Plc, Franco Maria Maggi, said Goldberg, through Isedowo, would transform lives of its beneficiaries while the spill over effects on the larger economy is the increase in job and wealth creation.
Commenting on the scheme, Emmanuel Agu, the Portfolio Manager, Mainstream Lager and Stout brands at Nigerian Breweries Plc, said the entrepreneurial intervention is part of Goldberg’s strong resolve to eliminate poverty and unemployment among people of the Southwest, especially artisans who have little or no capital to invest or expand their businesses.
According to him, Isedowo would in no small measure improve the living standard of people in the region. “Goldberg through Isedowo has deepened its connection with the people of the Southwest by supporting their economic aspirations,” Agu said.
The Senior Brand Manager, Mainstream Brands, Nigerian Breweries Plc, Funso Ayeni, said that through the empowerment scheme, Goldberg has demonstrated a strong commitment in improving the wellbeing of artisans, who on the other hand, would transform lives in their society. He further said that although Goldberg had taken giant strides in the past to empower youths through its Excellency Tour and Ariya Repete initiatives in the Southwest, it deemed it right to strengthen its relationship with the people in the region through Isedowo.
In each of the five states, the scheme commenced with submission of business proposals that impacted on the society, followed by collation and sorting of applications, audition and screening, trade visit and cheque presentation.
Beneficiaries included auto mechanics, caterers, fashion designers, carpenters, hair dressers, panel beaters, cobblers, and dry cleaners among others. They all commended Goldberg and affirmed that Isedowo was a relief from financial challenges faced in expanding their businesses.
Expressing his joy during the activation of the empowerment scheme in Ibadan, Oyo State, Orimadegun Ishola, one of the beneficiaries, said the scheme is laudable and worth emulating. A trader in bags and shoes, Ishola was delighted that he could now expand his business by buying more products for sale. “The empowerment scheme was timely and a huge relief,” he said.
Bakare Michael Taiwo, a panel beater, praised Goldberg for creating wealth and job opportunities in the Southwest. He said the grant would enhance his business as he would be able to purchase additional working tools and build a workshop he had longed to have. He said: “Isedowo has taken that burden off me and has put smiles on faces of people in distress.”
Tolulope Soremi, a dry cleaner who also extolled the brand, said he would buy a washing machine with the grant, while an elated Folake Sunday Christiana, a caterer, stated that she would buy an industrial oven used for baking about 300 meat-pies and a cutting machine with the grant. She added that Isedowo had made 2018 a blessed year for her. “I can now run my business with ease,” she said excitedly.
Ojo Adeosun, a fashion designer who was overjoyed after receiving the grant, said the N300,000 was a huge uplift from financial challenges as it helped him in purchasing a new sewing machine he had always required to expand his business. He disclosed that he also started selling fabrics and now had three apprentices working with him.
Adeosun said he had been in dire need of capital and when he heard about Isedowo, he decided to send his business proposal for the auditioning and screening processes. “I commend Goldberg and Nigerian Breweries for boosting my business and the initiative is worth emulating,” Adeosun stated.
Ayodele Adebalogun, an aluminium fabricator, said Isedowo provided a relief from the daunting struggle to raise capital. He added that after buying a new cutting machine for his work, he supported his wife’s catering business with parts of the grant.
“My old cutting machine was faulty and Isedowo was there for me when l needed assistance to replace it. Now, my wife’s catering business is also active again,” he said.
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