By Nduka Uzuakpundu
There is a pressing need as Nigeria, under the Buhari administration, grapples with the ugly effects of a rather deep recession and attempts to diversity the country’s economic base, to link the incubation centres in the country with her tertiary institutions – including polytechnics and Colleges of Education. The intent of what is potentially an effective network and bridge of information on the latest research findings is to encourage the rise of a new crop of enterpreneurs, who, armed with such findings would become new drivers or skippers of industries and employers of labour. They are expected to be an army of new and enterprising investors in the Nigerian economy, whose views on policies – especially financial and monetary policies, as they affect their access to bank loans, interest rates and repayment terms and conditions, such that, with friendly economic policies, they would be empowered as active and quite visible partners with government in sculpting a new, progressive economic climate, where growth at, say, five per cent per annum, is sustained for a minimum of two decades. Within that distance, it’s almost certain that the new crop of entrepreneurs, who are most likely products or beneficiaries of the spirit of enterprise being preached, somewhat stubbornly and aggressively, by the skippers of the Institute of Entrepreneurs (IOE), Ogba-Lagos, would have eaten, appreciably, into the fortunes of employment, attained the status of regular and reliable tax-source for the government and regular players in the activities of the Nigerian Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS), with special reference to curbing financial fraud, sinking the roots of government policy on a cashless economy and, so, the emergence of a new banking, business culture and entrepreneurial behaviour.
The starting point, said the Executive Secretary of IOE, Dr. Rotimi Oladele, is to expose, henceforward, members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and third and final year students in tertiary institutions to the activities and findings of well over thirty incubation centres in the country, especially their findings that could be helpful to them in founding a new generation of enterprises: agriculture and cluster or allied services; catering; information and communication technology (ICT); leather and foot-wear outfits; estate development and management – alongside allied enterprises; interior and design ventures; senior citizens’ care services; beauty and fashion design ventures; cabinet-making; distributive trade and logistics; down-streamcluster ventures or enterpreises affiliated to the crude oil industry; this time with an conscious effort to act in manner that is appreciably friendly to the environment; security agency; civil aviation and adjunct services, say.
The liaison between incubation centres and tertiary institutions had become quite pressing, in that during a recent outing at the Enugu State University of Technology (ESUT), it was discovered – much to the surprise of an Oladele-led team – that, almost as an approximation of much of may well pas for a national index, the skippers of ESUT knew less of the findings of core, east-based incubation centres. And their numerous findings could be of use to students taking courses in entrepreneurship programme in universities or those of them who have graduated. Such a link and exposure are sure to arm the students and NYSC operatives with skills and behaviour for self-employment. It’s also quite likely that for the ambition amongst third and final year students in tertiary institution, that having such entrepreneurial skills and information from any of the incubations centres, they could start running their own enterprises, well before they graduated and leave for the NYSC orientation camp in readiness for national service.
The narrative of such budding entrepreneurs, who have come to realise that there are no more white-collar jobs, could be more readable than that of a third-year student, who some years back, in a university in Lagos, bought a Passat car from a mini-enterprise of designing and printing Valentine Day cards, greeting and ecclesiastical cards, and taking them to as far as Okigwe, deep inside the east of the country, for sale each time there were church programmes.
It’s quite obvious that the Nigerian economy of today is more forward-looking, than it was in the ’90s, and because of the imperatives of diversification, there’s now what Oladele referred as a culture aimed at “changing the mind-set of our youths to build sustainable oasis of entrepreneurial growth and development”, in a manner that aided the astronomical growth, in the late ’80s of the Asian Tigers – South Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Taiwan, etc.
Oladele figured that in sculpting new entrepreneurs from NYSC operatives, the Federal Ministry of Education, National University Commission (NUC) and the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology should direct incubation centres – the likes of Federal Institute for Industrial Research, Oshodi (FIIRO), Lagos, Nigerian Stored Products Research Institute (NSPRI), Lagos, Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN), Ibadan, Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria (FRIN), Ibadan, Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research (NIFOR), Benin, Project Development Agency (PRODA), Enugu, National Cereals Research Institute, Badeggi, Niger State, National Crops Research Institute (NCRI), Bida, Niger State, National Animal Production Research Institute (NAPRI), Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State, National Centre for Agricultural Mechanization (NCAM), Idofia, Kwara State, National Institute for Fresh water Fisheries Research (NIFFR), New Bussa, Niger State, etc. – to make their findings known to tertiary institutions.
The experience, so far is that less than 45 per cent of the activities and findings of the incubations centres – nationwide – are available to the institutions where entrepreneurial programmes or courses, skills and behaviour are being taught. What that translates to is that research and incubations centres need to be carry out some aggressiveness marketing and advertisement of their entrepreneurship-related activities and products to big industries, small- and medium- scale enterprises, budding entrepreneurs in NYSC camps.
It’s an entrepreneurial exercise from which the incubation centres could broaden their clientele base and establish what promises to be a sustainable and thriving incubation centre-industry- entrepreneur-consumer relationship; a much-desired chain of goods-and-services-delivery culture as a top player in ongoing effort to diversity of the Nigerian economic base.
Out of such anti-recession and pro-diversification entrepreneurs, a Lagos-based business and entrepreneurship consultant, Mr. Kayode Akinyoola, figured, ought to emerge individuals who would be good citizens known for paying tax regularly. He said at an IOE-sponsored conference on “Standardizing and Incorporating Financial Solution to SMEs and Start-up Challenges as key elements”, held in Lagos, that there was a need for budding entrepreneurs and long-established ones to understand the dynamics of risks that are inherent in their endeavours – the possibility, say, of a snap in the line of raw material supply and the user, who’s a manufacturer, the fall in consumers demand of their goods or services or unexpected hostile effect of government’s monetary or financial policy, that may raise – ambitiously – the cost of borrowing money from fiduciary institutions – and how such risks could be mitigated. An entrepreneur who could foresee these and many more – and, so, design his/her entire business praxis and behaviour – could be in the bracket of whom Oladele called “an individual who is managing vision.”
While for any enterprise, keeping updated business records for productivity, profitability and operational efficiency is almost a given, Akinyoola – alongside, an ICT specialist and financial consultant with NIBSS, Mr. Kayode Kalejaiye – nodded that if the experience and attendant lessons of today’s deep recession were any guide, the Federal Government, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), primary mortgage institutions (PMIs), older banks and the Federal Ministry of Finance, should, in taking and pressing recovery-from- recession policies, lure old, and budding entrepreneurs – like NYSC operatives – with loan facilities that would egg them on and, so, be, genuinely, self-employed. Truth is that it takes some form of calculatedly ambitious spending – if the lessons of classical economics and American experience, since the Great Depression of the early ‘30s, are any guide – to defang recession. But, where all that is not quite appealing; where prospective entrepreneurs are discouraged from borrowing from banks, because of astronomical interest rates, the head of the Department of Administration and Human Resources at the IOE, Dr. ’Folu Olagunju, offered that, in principle, they should tap into the rich treasures of crowd finding. The snag, presently, though, is that the apex bank has banned its use – for what it said were reasons of the legal challenges against its alleged abuse in the past.