By Adewale Kupoluyi
A major problem facing Nigeria is the high rate of unemployment. This development is worrisome in the sense that it makes many agile youths and young persons to be unproductive. This situation not only fuels social vices, restiveness and crime, but economic output is also impaired because those willing and capable of contributing to productivity are unable to do so. In the end, the nation becomes poorer by the day and the poverty level increases. Hence, the issue of employment and empowerment of the citizens is key. Despite the series of efforts by governments to empower the people and create an enabling environment to generate employment, the unemployment problem persists. This is where local and international non-governmental actors need to augment what the public sector is doing to make our country prosperous.
This is the crucial role that organisations such as Future Females are playing to empower the people, groom entrepreneurs, and boost the economy of Nigeria. According to Sasha Zakharova, the United Kingdom Nigeria Tech Hub, in partnership with Future Females, has launched the Future Females Business School Programme to support 50 Nigerian female entrepreneurs over the next three months to increase the capacity of their enterprises to scale and become more sustainable. The hub was established as part of the UK’s Digital Access Programme (DAP), which is the UK Government Prosperity Fund initiative while the local tech hub aims to develop a stronger digital ecosystem through the development of skills, entrepreneurship, and partnerships. Future Females seeks to increase the number and better support the success of female entrepreneurs, which is found in 36 locations world-wide by hosting regular events for their engaged community of over 80,000 members.
What does this programme intend to achieve this? Honey Ogundeyi, the Country Director of the hub informed that it is meant “To support gender-inclusive economic growth with a specific focus on empowering women with the skills and connections to overcome the existing digital gender gap”. The programme, which is managed by Sasha Zakharova, has overseen over 500 women undergo training for 10 weeks while another group of talented Nigerians would be joining. To date, over 1609 applications were received and 100 applicants were eventually invited for an interview. To ensure that appropriate beneficiaries participate in the programmes, out of the pool of 100 candidates that were interviewed, the top 50 candidates with tech-enabled businesses, were selected spanning Nigeria’s North-East (8); South-South (3); South-East (3) and South-West (36).
“We were impressed by organic traction and the number of applications we received. We received 500+ applications just within the first week, proving to us that there is a great need and gap for the support of tech female entrepreneurs in Nigeria and we are excited to partner with the UK-Nigeria Tech Hub to extend this programme to the early-stage female entrepreneurs in Nigeria, to support our mission of empowering African female entrepreneurs to build world-class businesses, and stand proud and take up space on global digital and physical stages”, Lauren Dallas, Co-Founder of Future Females has further stated. Entrepreneurs selected in the empowerment programme cover those in the grocery delivery service that bridges the gap between the open markets and the home shopper, digital platforms that connect merchants and lenders to offer shoppers financing through a network of prime and subprime lenders, those engaged in support and tools for small businesses using technology, property technology organisations, online gift registry that enables celebrants and gift receivers to communicate their preferences to friends and family members, and boutique research firm, among others.
This virtual accelerator programme would cover 10 actionable modules equipping participants with entrepreneurial skills and best practices needed to grow their tech-based businesses and throughout the period, they would have access to weekly coaching sessions with industry experts and experienced guest feature masterclasses. How can this initiative make the desired impact? Some indicators are suggesting that Nigeria and Nigerians may be better off. These indicators include the assurances given by the organisers, which suggest that they have a grasp of the current situation in their real-time responses when situated against the challenge facing the nation; ability to increase the capacity of participants’ enterprises to scale and to become sustainable; backing by UK government via the prosperity fund initiative; networking opportunities in 36 locations worldwide and community of over 80,000 members; limitation to women participation, which appreciates and underscores the critical role that women play in society given the outcry of women marginalisation in Nigeria; and thoroughness in the selection process to ensure that right candidates are chosen from both the North and South divide of Nigeria.
Other uniqueness of the programme include being technology-driven; having experienced resources persons; richness and diverse background of participants; and the richness in the modules/curriculum of the programme that spreads over a considerable length of time and gives enough room for rich participation. Beyond what has been highlighted, the organisers should do necessary follow-ups and never forget about mentorship after the session. The reason for this is that several programmes have been done in the past but fail to achieve set objectives. The truth is that once those training or capacity building sessions are over, their participants are left without embarking on relevant monitoring and evaluation.
Future Females should avoid the mistakes of others, stand out and prove to Nigerians that they are for real and truly ready to make a meaningful impact on the people. This initiative should also not be allowed to be hijacked by powerful persons by leaving out genuine beneficiaries. This has been largely responsible for why many people appear receptive to embracing newly-introduced programmes, no matter how laudable it may be or appear to be because of this mindset. Therefore, there should be planned and deliberate attempts to build trust and confidence in governance. It is only hoped that more of such interventions, covering other areas of human endeavours, would evolve such that many Nigerians would become job-creators and be empowered to contribute their quota to national development.
Kupoluyi writes from Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), Ogun State @AdewaleKupoluyi