By Abdulrasheed Saadudeen.
When the Kwara State Government (KWSG), through its agency, Kwara State Social Investment Programme (KWASSIP) announced a youth-driven intervention through which startups in the state would be supported with free-interest loans, one cannot but commend a nongovernmental organisation, the Hannis Institute for Development Studies (HIDS) which initiated the idea in Kwara State almost two years ago.
Tagged the Kwara Young CEOs Forum (KYC), the event which was held at the magnificent Kwara Hotel Hall A, was targeted at providing mentorship and loans for Kwara youths who showcased brilliant business ideas. The KYC was a very ambitious intervention which was undertaken by an NGO with the support of many entrepreneurs in the state. It was an empowerment platform through which successful and aspiring entrepreneurs were brought together for impactful and interactive sessions.
Notable among the speakers at the event included the Managing Director of FIK Construction and Engineering Company, Mr. Taofiq Abdulrahman, the CEO of AKOT Prints, Mr. Tobiloba Adeyeye and Mrs Medinat Adigun Oladotun, the CEO of Trendsville Media Limited, an Ilorin-based Integrated Marketing Communication Company. Others were former Commissioner for Special Duties in Kwara State, Ms. Aisha Ahman Patigi and Mr. Shola Gegele.
Unarguably, the Kwarapreneurs has a few features in common with the KYC. They are both designed to help the youths upscale their businesses while creating more jobs as well. And relying on the available records which have shown negative impact high-interest loans normally have on startups, the two interventions have free-interest loans for the beneficiaries, thus making it a viable bridging loan for small businesses. Mention should be made of the competitive process of the two interventions which require young entrepreneurs to make their pitches. As a result, beneficiaries would be selected based on the ingenuity, innovativeness and feasibility of their ideas.
With that being said, the KYC, as part of its foolproof, included pep talks and mentoring sessions for tens of hundreds of aspiring entrepreneurs across the state. This is to help them fine tune and scale up their businesses. At the risk of sounding preemptive of the Kwarapreneurs process, the KWASSIP would do well by organising entrepreneurial and mentoring training for every Kwarapreneur that participates in the programme. Such training would have a positive effect on job creations among the youths.
Similarly, like the KYC, the agency should empanel a jury whose membership has people with integrity, honour and technical know-how in relation to feasibility of entries submitted by Kwaran youths. The panel should eschew all forms of partisan including the “politics of primordial loyalties” in deciding the fate of the participants. Admittedly, there would be pressure on the panel given the enthusiasm and remarkable dexterity that would be on display by Kwara youths. Hence, preference should not be given to candidates on the basis of their tribes, religions or their affiliation with any political party.
The chief issue which characterises most government’s startup capitals is wilful diversion of such funds to personal use other than businesses which they are meant for. Commenting on this issue on a socio-political forum, Kwara Commission, the Convener of Brain Builder Youth Development Initiative (BBYDI), Olasupo Abideen advised the KWASSIP to tie the loan to “milestone or BOI methodology”. This, he said, would make the investment programme achieve its set objectives.
In relation to the KYC, the issue of possible diversion of the loan was addressed by the HIDS. Rather than giving out the cash, the winners were asked to provide a list of items needed for the upscale of their businesses while a subcommittee was constituted for monitoring and performance appraisal. But, given the pedigree of the Head of the KWASSIP, Mr. Mohammed Brimah and the KWSG’s penchant for transparent process, one is convinced that Kwarapreneurs would be a huge success just like the KYC.
Finally, as a youth-based organisation committed to empowering the youths socially and economically, the HIDS and its promoters have shown that Kwara youths have the capability and capacity to think and implement Big Ideas if given a right platform to showcase their talents.
*Saadudeen is Secretary of Hannis Institute for Development Studies (HIDS), Ilorin.
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