Recently, a good number of young Nigerians, talented in diverse areas of human endeavours, ranging from entertainment to fashion design, gathered in Abuja to showcase their talents, with the ultimate view to making them entrepreneurs of repute in the country’s business community, at the instance of ICON Afrique and Naomi Davids Ltd. Clem Khena-Ogbena of our business desk, present on the occasion, reports:
The rising number of unemployed youths in Nigeria has remained a grave and great concern to many, including the government, corporate organisations, Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and individuals alike. The era of white collar jobs is long gone, while most companies or industries that would normally have provided jobs have either folded up or on the verge of doing so.
In some cases, due to better business or investment climate, some industries have relocated from Nigeria to other countries, such as Ghana, Senegal, Sierra- Leone, to mention but a few, a development which has further fuelled the unemployment situation in the country. Lack of jobs for the ever teeming population of Nigeria’s youths has resulted in the youths channelling their energy towards all kinds of crimes, such as armed robbery, kidnapping, advance-fee fraud (419), drug peddling, among others. Most of our graduate-youths are not employable, because they are bereft of special and relevant skills, which can offer them a place in the job market.
However, there is no known place in the world today, where government alone provides employment for all. Since every economy is private sector-driven, jobs, therefore, are usually generated by this sector, after the government may have fulfilled its own side of the bargain, by providing the enabling environment for the private sector, comprising the SMEs, to operate. The economies of the Asian Tigers are SMEs-dependent.
***The Federal Government of Nigeria’s Transformation Agenda and the Vision 20: 2020 might be jeopardised if the SME sector is not strengthened. Imperatively, therefore, concerted efforts of well-meaning and patriotic individuals, corporate organisations, NGOs and other sectors, are urgently required to reverse the undesirable trend. The intervention of ICON Afrique to harness and prepare the country’s budding talents for sound entrepreneurship footing, with a view to making them self- employed individuals in the society, is a welcome development, which should be emulated by many more Nigerians, NGOs, private organisations and corporate bodies, among others.
Having identified varied, promising, trainable and potentially marketable budding talents among the Nigerian youths, but who apparently are unable to improve and project themselves to the outside world, due to certain limitations, ICON Afrique, an Abuja-based NGO, with the resources of Naomi Davids at its disposal, has volunteered to provide generously the missing gap and bring hope to such youths in the country.
The Chief Executive Officer/ Managing Director, ICON Afrique and Naomi Davies Ltd, Mrs. Jackie Ola, has emphasised the dire need to harvest and harness as well as maximise youths’ latent entrepreneurship potentials in Nigeria, for the overall national growth and development.
However, she expressed regret over the rising youth unemployment in the country, saying many youths in the country have potentials and dreams but lack the opportunities to maximise such gifts and keep their dreams alive.
Ola stated this at the ICON Afrique Youth Empowerment Showcase/Exhibition, held April 26, 2014, in Abuja, where she also expressed the view that if the potentials of the youths are harnessed and developed through capacity building training, they can be useful to themselves and the society. ICON Afrique is a youth-focused non-governmental organisation (NGO)
Ola assured that after the latest Showcase/Exhibition, designed to drive self-employed youths and those with skills and potentials to showcase their talents and endeavours, Noami Davids would further organise capacity building training for the participants in the Exhibition, at the Nigeria Entrepreneurs Forum’s (NEF) capacity building training centre, at the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment. She added that those who would qualify at the end of the training would be assisted to secure funds, to support their businesses, thus create employment for the affected persons.
Ola explained that ICON Afrique, which focuses on youth empowerment in the country, has affiliated groups that provide capacity building training for self-employment and entrepreneurship, adding that ICON Afrique, which is a non-governmental organisation , provides an enrichment training for, assists, supports and promotes upcoming fashion designers, designers in other areas, song writers, singers, and the likes.
Ola stated: “Since I was appointed a year ago as CEO of ICON Afrique, I decided to combine the training I have already been doing professionally in collaboration with NEF, SMEDAN and CBN. Nami Davis provides training free for those who come under ICON Afrique. Naomi Davids is an international people’s development and human resources consultancy company, which offers entrepreneurship training for free for those who come under ICON Afrique.
“However, at its own expense, Naomi Davids provides such training in collaboration with Nigeria Entrepreneurship Forum (NEF), which is domiciled at the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, in Abuja; at the end of the training, qualified trainees will be assisted with funds, to support their businesses.”
Ola noted with concern that so many people have skills which they can use to fend for themselves, but unaware of existing opportunities through which they can access the assistance and support they may require. The ICON Afrique boss stated, “We focus on youth empowerment. I know a lot of people here who have talents, who have gifts but do not have platform to showcase what they are, and also, we have our affiliated groups that are responsible for training certain more people within the situation of joblessness in the country to become self employed, as entrepreneurs.
“There are so many people who have skills and who can use such skills to fend for themselves, but they do not know of the existing opportunities for them in the country to access the help they need.
“That is why we are here. Also, there are some people who would showcase the talents they have. So, we have young fashion designers, designers in other areas, song writers, singers, dancers and many others. We have entrepreneurs generally. We have people who manufacture things from the little materials they have. We have people in the entertainment. We all know how well the entertainment sector is doing at present in the country.”
Mrs Jackie Ola, who doubles as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of ICON Afrique, a youth-focused NGO and NaomiDavids Limited, a people development company, stated: “We focus on youth empowerment. I know a lot of people here who have talents, who have gifts but do not have platform to showcase what they are. Nevertheless, we are on ground to render free training to such talents. Also, our affiliated groups in the country are responsible for training certain more people within the situation of joblessness, in order to make them self-employed entrepreneurs.
“Nigeria is highly blessed with a huge and diverse human asset base, yet so many people with skills and talents, which they can use to fend for themselves and their families, have no opportunities to access the help they need in terms of skills development, funding and general awareness. We are here to help promote and showcase the various talents and potentials of these young men and women.
“Among them are young fashion designers, song writers, singers, dancers, farmers, caterers, and so on; we have entrepreneurs generally. We have people who manufacture things from the little materials they have and are surviving this way. Considering the benefits of entrepreneurship to any society and economy, with the right tools given to these people to maximise their potentials and reach their goals, the benefits will be to all of us Nigerians as a whole.”
Speaking earlier, the founder of ICON Afrique, Mr. Dan JumaaOjei, who works with youths on empowerment issues, what each letter of the word ICON stands for is: I =Integrity, C=Creativity , O= Originality and N=Nobility. Ojei, also a social entrepreneur, further stressed, “I work with youths on issues of empowerment, making the youths have a new value and believe in themselves and then, leading a life of integrity; I also make young people know that they can make it in life without indulging themselves in dubious activities and businesses.” According to him, ICON is a project of the African Institute for Governance and Integrity, a project that each of the alumni of the institute was charged with the responsibility of going back to his or her home or country to meet a need. He added, “And in my own case, I saw the need to engage my community youths in Jos, where I live. So, it was in Jos community I saw the need to engage the youths, because most of them then were not employed. So, they don’t just sit back and get involved in all sorts of vices; let them be able to create sources of livelihood. On the other hand, we have those that have the mindset of going to public sector or go into government to loot or cut a portion or part of the national cake. This is what I kept hearing. So, I came up with the concept of modifying the mindset; let them know that if nobody is baking, one day the cake will get finished. So, let us be productive. ICON means Integrity, we can make it without cutting corners; Originality, believe in yourself, be unique, even if everybody is doing the same thing, you stand out; Nobility, each one is a noble person, we are a royalty , we are unique people and our acts are noble acts. That is where our leadership dimension comes in. The leadership aspect of ICON Afrique is that each young person is a leader, each young person is meant to serve.
Rita Nova, a young, promising, upcoming musician, song writer and singer, bursting with so much &n bsp; zest and confidence, said she has been doing music basically all her life but confessed her lack of confidence and courage to come up strong with it. She said she is giving music the full attention it requires to make a good living from it. Nova further explained: “I am a musician and song writer. I have been doing this basically all my life, but have not really mustered the courage or confidence to come up with it. But I officially started like a year ago, and if something is your passion is done with ease. I do music with a passion. I am not a shy person, I am very out spoken, but when it comes to singing, for some reasons, I am muffled. I don’t know why; may be because of the society. When people hear music, they just figure out is one of those unserious things. Nigeria is not really open to music per se. So, I just got up one day and decided that I could sing, and I asked myself why shouldn’t I sing for a living? Just like that. I summoned the confidence, courage and inspiration from only God knows where and I started singing.”
Rita, 23, a Plateau-born budding singer, said she is gifted in different artistic dimensions or genres, stating, “I have a very vast taste for music, because I listen to everything from jazz to rock . I do not really have a particular musician as my role model. I can see myself in every good artiste.”
The National President, Nigeria Entrepreneurs Forum, Dr Sidney Inegbedion, urged theup coming entrepreneurs to embrace the business principle of networking by which they could share business-related ideas, information or vision among themselves. He said, however, on the contrary that most competitors and potential entrepreneurs in Nigeria usually keep such information, vision and ideas to themselves , a practice which, according to him, is against global best practice.
Inegbedion stressed, “All over the world, for business to thrive, most competitors, would-be entrepreneurs and everybody get together to share information. But in Nigeria, what you have is that when you have business ideas, you think is the best idea, you tend to keep it to yourself without bothering to give to other people or share your vision or ideas with other people.” He also noted with regret that “many Nigerian businessmen when you exposed them to international forum for business discussions, even when they invest a lot of money, they do not present the best.” Inegbedion further pointed out that funding is very necessary for the sustenance and success of any business, stressing, “No matter what talent you have, no matter what idea you have if you do not have money, your vision will die”, adding that institutional support and assistance is also germane to entrepreneurial development and growth. He, however, pledged NEF’s assistance in the area of fundingto the budding and the would-be entrepreneurs, through fund-sourcing mechanism.
In his remark, the leader of Da Chronicles Dancers, Ramsey Osaghae, who said the group is taking dancing to the next level, appreciated ICON Afrique and the NaomiDavids for the exposure given the group through the event. He assuredthat the group is poised to get to the top, going beyond the shores of Nigeria.
While introducing the products of his company, Black Gold, a fashion- designer and maker of T-Shirts, said 100 percent of the raw materials used was locally sourced in Nigeria, with his mind focused on exporting the products in commercial quantity abroad any time soon; all he just requires for now, according to him, is funding.
Another youth-participant, Michael Mosiudi (a.k.a Supreme Solar), noted with satisfaction that the event was an eye opener, inspiring and encouraging, while commending the organisers.
Similarly, a youth-disc jockey (DJ), OyikraFidelix Tom, a.k.a DJ Kell, who constantly kept the participants jumping, with his hip-pop vibes and other genres of music from the dial, said he earns a good living from his passion, ‘disc jockeying’. DJ Kelly, who is both a student and Radio DJ on Aso Radio 93.5 FM, said his dream is to make it big in life, as DJ in the entertainment industry.