To be young is to be fearless, adventurous and daring. Young people are always expected to think out of the box, be innovative, inventive and to change the landscape with their verve and vibe. With changing technological and globalisation trends, coupled with the uncertainty of job availability and security in traditional workspaces, youth entrepreneurship becomes the basis for many young people to earn a living by living their dreams.
Worldometer puts Nigeria’s overall population at above 200 million people with a yearly growth of 2.58%. The World Bank indicated that between 2009 to 2019, Nigerians between the ages of 15 and 64 grew from 53.25% to 53.57%, while also showing the potentials in children and adolescents which are reflected to make up 44% and 43.69% of the population in the years indicated. Index Mundi posits that Nigeria’s youth population between 25-54 is 30.44% with youth dependency ratio at 83:88.2 for the country. The reality therefore remains that many youths are unemployed and are dependent on their cultural mechanism of family, friends and old classmates to survive. Likewise, many youngsters are also dependent on the active and healthy adults in their lives to cater for them. Many youths choose different routes: they continue to look for the elusive white-collar job and, with a gamut of certificates, they begin to involve themselves in criminal activities or they acquire technical and technological skills in order to become blue-collar or become an entrepreneur.
A 2016 UNESCO-UNEVOC report titled, ‘Making Youth Entreprenuership a Viable Path,’ indicated that the world needed about 600 million new jobs to cater for the teeming youth population. The report
also showed that the Middle East, North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, and the European Union are facing high and suicidal unemployment rates amongst the youth – about 30% in most of the regions. It therefore asserts that youth entrepreneurship is a viable path to disrupting the unemployment challenges of these continents. The report urges policymakers to discover the barriers hindering young people from starting their own business, and to create policies and programmes that will make it easy for young people to express their full entrepreneurial potential for the good of the economy. The report also presented the agonising fact that, apart from the urgent need to find a nexus between adequate capital and technical know-how, many societies seem unprepared for the versatile potentials of the youth population. The philosophy behind education and curriculum of schools remains, among other things, to equip young people for jobs that are currently scarce instead of engaging in teaching training programmes and curriculum sessions that will provide the needed technical, managerial, social and emotional intelligence skills needed to shape the culture of a global entrepreneur. Other challenges are lack of access to experience and networks, negative cultural outlook to failure which may hinder young people from trying out new things.
Oluwatobi Ogundele did not study Fashion Design in school at the Ekiti State University, Ado-Ekiti. There was no course to cater for his creative and managerial needs. He began to try his hands-on fashion during one of those long ASUU strikes. There, he decided that he would not be looking for a job after school. Oluwatobi who is the CEO of Owanbe Community crafted a niche for himself by styling Aṣọ Oke fabrics for both ceremonial, bespoke and leisure outfits. He has been showcased on BBC Africa Enterprise and other media platforms as one of the young Nigerians making giant strides in the fashion industry.
Oluwatobi first launched CEOmania Alaso Oke in 2013. He said ‘I got my capital from managing the fashion taste of a client. I paid off vendors from the proceeds and began the journey step by step. It has been a journey of faith, love and trust all the way.’ Ogundele has now expanded the brand due to the partnerships that the brand garnered over the years. It is now Owanbe Community, a collective of fashion curators, designers, models, image consultants, trainers, storytellers who leverage on the strength of one another to curate cultural, marketing and social impact. For Ogundele, young people should strive to embrace partnerships, while showing tenacity, professionalism and accountability in their craft.
Yet, it has not been easy for Owanbe Community. The firm constantly manages to catch up with all sorts of taxes from local, state and federal government. It also has to grapple with the high cost of generating electricity for itself while paying PHCN bills for largely unavailable power supply. Oluwatobi’s turf is also very competitive because there are so many young people like him who are showcasing their craft, but are under-pricing their goods to the detriment of the market. The availability of high-quality cotton and the large absence of young cotton weavers also gives him concern on the availability of home woven Aso Oke. There is no ease of doing business for people like Oluwatobi, yet he dreams that his evolving enterprise will become a major fashion brand on the continent. The Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) noted that the ‘textile, apparel and footwear’ sector has grown on an average of 17% since 2010. Other estimates put the value of the Nigerian fashion industry at 4.7 billion Dollars.
Youth entrepreneurship is the engine room of job creation for the future. It fosters creativity and innovation in the delivery of goods and services. While the endeavours of youth entrepreneurs produce income, many of them are conscious of social discourses and issues like cultural identity, environmentally friendly postures and best practices for packaging and export. These youths aspire to economic leadership partly due to the fact that leadership in governance seem like an illusion. They hope to use their economic leadership to shape and change the status quo. A Raleigh International report stated that many youths prefer entrepreneurship
because it asserts their individual choices, which often goes against the grain of old and established industry people who often relegate the young to mid-level or low-level strata of company operations. For young minds who are looking for adventure, self-discovery and finance, working in a highly stratified organisation will lead to monotony, deigning and displacement. They aspire to be the future Dangotes, Alakijas, Otedolas and Ovias by leveraging on the immediate needs of the urban and countryside population.
When you ask the average young entrepreneur of his challenges, one of the topics that would likely be broached is the issue of capital or recapitalisation of the enterprise — either a Small-Scale Enterprises, SME, or a Meduim and Small-Scale Enterprises. While many enterprises battle with their finances, smart entrepreneurs are leveraging on opportunities such as the Bank of Industry’s Youth Enterprenuership Support programme, The Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme among others. These funding organisations align with the position of Olatunji Fadeyi and others, who posit in their paper, Impact of Youth Entrepreneurship on Nation Building, stated that the biggest challenge of many young entrepreneurs is the managerial skills and background to transform their start-ups into world leading firms. A lot of funding organisations therefore take it upon themselves to train and present their businesses to scrutiny or venture capitalists.
Temitope Olukunle, a multi-entrepreneurial thinker runs Avant Services Limited, a real estate and facility management firm, alongside her micro training platform – The Academy of Personal Development and Business Solutions. She also uses social media platforms to engage and educate members of the public on entrepreneurship, while she distils deeper insights and knowledge for those who are willing to pay for experience and expertise. She is an example of leading female entrepreneurs who delve into many streams of passions in order to achieve their full potential. She is also one of the many experienced business people who are exploring an alternative education space where young entrepreneurs can learn the things that our education system has refused to include in their curriculum.
Finyinfoluwa Olajolo is also one of the youths who have carved a niche for herself in Agriculture. She is the founding partner at Heths Agro Services, a firm that produces, processes, packages and sells pigs and its derivates, while offering farmers a neat, secured and affordable facility to rear their pigs. ‘I started with Cassava plantation in 2016, thereafter, I moved into poultry before I started pig farming in 2019’. Olajola who has had to face an umbrage of cultural realities in the agricbusiness world due to her age and her gender has done well for herself, she is a recipient of the 2019 Tony Elemelu Grant, which helped improved her capital and operational base. She was recently nominated for the 25 under 25 Entrepreneurs Awards in the Agriculture category. It has not been easy for Olajolo, she said ‘running a business in Nigeria can be stressful, especially with the daily rise in the price for feed for livestock, and the inconsistent laws guiding business in the country. However, we are pushing and doing all we can to meet the demands of our customers.’
There continue to remain glimmers of hope for entrepreneurs who survive the three years of business in Nigeria. Nigeria has the largest start-ups in Africa. However, experts say that 80% of these businesses often fail or become moribund in three years due to many factors, such as poor marketing, a problematic product, capital, lack of consistency, lack of leadership and management skills.
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