Nigeria’s Top 10 Champions of Youth Empowerment – Olukayode Pitan

Mr. Olukayode Pitan is managing director/CEO, Bank of Industry, which has developed one of the most extensive and coordinated youth empowerment programmes in Nigeria. The bank’s Youth Entrepreneurship Support programme (YES) aims at reducing youth unemployment through capacity building and funding business ideas. The programme builds up young people in knowledge and requisite skills for starting and managing their own businesses.

Eligible for the programme are aspiring entrepreneurs of the age range of 18 to 35 years, who have innovative ideas and who have obtained a minimum educational qualification of an Ordinary National Diploma. They should have been trained under the BOI Entrepreneurship Capacity Building Programme. National Youth Service Corps members, who have gone through the NYSC’s Skills Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development Programme, are also eligible under the scheme.

The YES scheme was designed to offer a more ambitious youth empowerment programme than most of the capacity building schemes aimed at addressing youth unemployment. Most of the programmes concentrate on training without a tie-in to business loans for start-up capital.

The YES scheme recognises the provision of business loans as a critical success factor to youth empowerment programmes. It covers the entire training value chain in terms of developing entrepreneurship, business management and technical skills.

N10 billion fund set aside for the programme is targeted to support the establishment and/or expansion of an estimated 5,000 enterprises promoted by Nigerian youth across the country. The fund is provided as loans to beneficiaries up to a maximum of N5 million per participant at a single digit interest rate of 9 percent per annum for a tenor of 3 to 5 years. The target impact of the scheme is creation of a minimum of 20,000 direct jobs and 30,000 indirect jobs annually.

The broad objectives of the YES programme include the creation of an interactive learning platform to train young aspiring entrepreneurs in entrepreneurship, business management and technical skills for enhanced productivity. The scheme is also expected to kindle the entrepreneurial spirit of the youth and act as an incubation centre where business ideas are nurtured to their full potentials.

Global best practices are expected to be entrenched by inculcating a culture of innovation-driven entrepreneurship and ethics in the programme participants. Other key objectives include changing the job-seeking mindset of school leavers towards self-employment. The scheme is also designed to deepen financial inclusion by de-risking the young aspiring entrepreneurs and making them eligible for small business loans being provided by BOI.

The YES programme comprises eight weeks of extensive online entrepreneurship and business management training and five days of in-class training covering the business idea, business model, sales and marketing and running a successful business. It also incorporates financial plan, technical skills training in partnership with the various technical training and vocational institutes in the country. Two thousand applicants selected nationwide access the training programme annually.

BOI also operates Graduate Entrepreneurship Fund (GEF), which affords serving NYSC members with entrepreneurial skills an opportunity to venture into self-employed businesses. The fund is a N2 billion empowerment programme launched in 2015 as a joint initiative between BOI and NYSC.

It is intended to encourage graduates of tertiary institutions undergoing the compulsory one-year national service to venture into own businesses and become employment creators rather than job seekers. It is also designed to fill the entrepreneurship capacity gap, as participants are guided to produce bankable business plans after a capacity building programme.

The scheme is also expected to deepen financial inclusion by de-risking the NYSC members and making them eligible for concessional loans ranging from N500,000 to N2 million to be provided by BOI. The monitoring role by the NYSC Directorate and BOI under the scheme is to ensure sustainability of the businesses of the loan beneficiaries.

The bank has used the GEF scheme to gather from year to year the most promising real sector business ideas and support bankable business plans across its 35 SME clusters at an interest rate of 9 percent per annum. 

The bank’s strategy is to avail the youth an operating environment for innovative actions for them to make meaningful contributions to the economy and society. It recognises the youth as a critical force in developing solutions to challenges facing communities and the nation.