Worried about the state of unemployment and youth redundancy in the country, the Federal Government of Nigeria and other state governments have over the years put in place various entrepreneurship and skill acquisition programmes to reduce unemployment.
Some of these government’s interventions to tackle unemployment include Start-up Nigeria, Osun Youth Empowerment Scheme, Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria, Youth Entrepreneurship Support Programme, and the recent Lagos State Employment Trust Fund among others.
These programmes show that government at all levels has persistently made effort towards the development of entrepreneurship in the country, with some recording impressive results.
Though some of these programmes have not recorded expected results, these policies and programmes put in place to grow small businesses, however, remain beneficial to the economy.
The YouWin initiative gained prominence under President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration. Many start-ups got financial support from the government to fund their entrepreneurial initiatives and some have blossomed over time, making the initiators of such start-ups as employers of labour. Thus taking many unemployed youths off the streets.
On its own part, the LSETF was established by the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund Law 2016 to provide financial support to residents of Lagos State, for job, wealth creation and to tackle unemployment.
The fund has the mandate to directly invest N25bn in helping Lagos residents grow and scale their Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises or acquire skills to get better jobs.
The LSETF launched three key programmes ― the loan scheme, the employability programme and Lagos Innovates ― to achieve its mandate.
The mandate shows that under the loan scheme, new businesses/start–ups can get a loan of up to N250,000, existing businesses can get a loan of up to N500,000, and medium-scale businesses can get a loan of up to N5m at a five per cent interest rate per annum and with zero collateral.
It said the employability programme was is in partnership with United Nations Development Fund to train and secure jobs for 10,000 unemployed and under-employed youths in Lagos.
The mandate noted that unemployed people are trained to provide skilled labour to the key sectors of the economy such as manufacturing, construction, hospitality, entertainment, healthcare services and garment making.
It said the Lagos Innovates aimed at sustaining Lagos’ status as Africa’s most vibrant technology hub by providing support and funding to the Lagos-based technology ecosystem.
Startup founders and operators of co-working spaces and hubs are able to apply for one of the workspace vouchers, hub loans and events sponsorship, through open, merit-based, online applications processes.
Findings reveal that the fund has disbursed over N7bn to over 10,000 entrepreneurs since inception, while over 25,000 jobs have been created by beneficiaries of the loan scheme.
Under the employability programme, 3,364 people been trained so far, out of which 1,100 have been successfully placed in jobs or self-employed.
Under the Lagos Innovates, 75 workplace vouchers have been given to budding innovators and N34m issued in loans to hub owners.
In separate interviews with our correspondent, beneficiaries of the fund reported a change in their families’ welfare after participating in the scheme.
A graduate of the employability programme, Sunday Akinlosotu, said he learnt formwork carpentry under the employability programme.
He said he learnt about the programme through his wife and applied reluctantly.
Akinlosotu said, “I really don’t believe in things like this, but my wife told me about it and kept pressuring me to apply. You know how women can be, I just applied to shut her up.
“So, I got a message one day saying I had been selected, I dismissed it, saying it was a scam; but again, my wife demanded that I go and confirm.
He said he was, however, grateful that he took the bold step to apply, adding that his life was now better what it used to be.
Akinlosotu, who noted that he was operating a barbing salon before, said he now ran both vocations simultaneously.
“I cannot abandon one for another. Carpentry work does not come all the time, but when it comes, I make a lot of money that I may not be able to make in a year as a barber,” he said.
He described the barbing job as important, saying it was a steady and constant source of fund for day-to-day upkeep and also gave him a reason to leave the house instead of staying idle.
Another beneficiary of the Lagos Innovates programme, Babajide Ibiayo, a technology entrepreneur, said he heard about the programme online, did some research and applied.
He said, “I was not expecting it to be successful because there is this belief that if you do not know anyone in government, you cannot get certain things.
“To my surprise, I got a call asking me to come for an interview and I went. The interview was successful, after which I was required to attend training as a social media associate under the entertainment and media programme.
“Certificates were presented to us afterwards and we were also given transportation fares.”
Ibiayo added that he was recently informed that he had been selected for a mentorship programme, after which he would qualify for an entrepreneurship loan of between N500,000 to N5m.
“I am really excited about it. I think we need to change our perception about government loans and entrepreneurship programmes as a lot of people have become really successful through such programmes,” he stated.