By Emmanuel Nduka
Critical stakeholders across Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta region have urged youths to strive to build a culture of entrepreneurship, and look away from the decades-old dependency on crude oil.
The charge was given on Saturday at the 3rd Niger Delta MSME Summit held in Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State.
Speaking in his Opening Remarks, Chief Convener of the Summit, Moses Siasia noted that this narrative if adhered to, will transform youths in the region into competitive business owners, and place them at par with their peers globally.
At the event which held symbolically on the same day as the International Youth Day, Siasia who doubles at the Chairman of the Nigerian Young Professional Forum (NYPF) and the Niger Delta Young Professionals (NDYP), regretted that young people have been “malnourished by broken promises”, leaving them abandoned.
To bridge this gap, he said the organizers – the Niger Delta Young Professionals (NDYP), is working to provide opportunities for young people engaging in productive ventures to thrive. “We want our young people who are entrepreneurs to understand that the future is theirs, and that the future is entrepreneurship. The world today is diverting from hydrocarbon. We are talking about Energy Transition, Climate Change. These are where the world interests are driving to, so we must conform to modern realities. This is why we are doing this to reshape the entrepreneurial culture in the region.”
The Convener stressed on the need for state governments across the Niger Delta to partner and support the initiative. He recalled that in the past editions of the Summit held in Delta and Rivers states, as well Saturday’s edition in Akwa Ibom, governments of the region did not show support for an initiative that is deliberately thought out to positively impact the lives of young Niger Deltans.
He cautioned young people to consider exploring the Social Media to promote their brands and businesses, rather than jumping on it as a tool to abuse political office holders.
Similarly, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), harped on the need for youths to key into the initiative, adding that it already has the database of youths in the region, with which it is working to create enormous opportunities to improve their lives.
Dr. Samuel Ogbuku, Managing Director of the NDDC who was represented by Obayelu Patrick, Commercial and Industrial Development Directorate (CID), NDDC, expressed passion for the initiative and assured of the Commission’s continuous support.
In his goodwill message, Major General Barry Ndiomu (rtd), the Interim Administrator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), urged youths to “rise above the entitlement mentality”.
He charged the youths to take advantage of the global food crisis to key into the agricultural sector, with a deliberate plan to address the shortfall.
Represented by Musa Wilfred, PAP’s Head of Reintegration, Ndiomu advised the youths to be innovative and begin to think out of the box and explore the enormous opportunities before them.
Earlier, Guest Speaker, Ebimoboere Enyiekpemi, the CEO of Afritropic Farming and Agro Services Ltd, while sharing her story, said the key to success in agribusiness is consistency. She urged youths in the region to consider venturing into agriculture and tap from the benefits.
At the Panel Sessions held, speakers jointly highlighted access to fund, mistrust, last of passion and consistency as major factors limiting potential entrepreneurs.
Highpoints of the Summit organized by the NDYP, was the presentation of N500,000 grant each to several entrepreneurs to support their businesses. The NDYP has trained over 2,300 business owners across the region, given grants to over 200 business owners, and has created 4,920 direct and indirect jobs.
With support from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) and the NDDC, the NDYP has been able to support 1,620 businesses with loans and grants.
The inaugural edition of the Summit was held in 2021 in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, and a sequel last year in Asaba, Delta State.