Boosting the Economy through YouWin Made-in-Nigeria Project

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When the YouWIN programme was launched in 2012 by former President Goodluck Jonathan, the focus was to create jobs and build a legacy that will serve the public good. Today, the initiative has veered off its original focus, writes Sunday Okobi

At the first YouWin Made in Nigeria trade exhibition, where various locally made products, including solar-powered car, machineries, consumables, where displayed, the Project Team Leader of YouWin, Yemin Bello, told THISDAY that the programme which is meant to promote locally made goods and services, is also to pull the Nigerian economy out of it present state as well as effectively encourage local entrepreneurship in the country. He noted that the beneficiaries of the programme have been provided with grants, mentorship as well as technical support by the government as a way to further to grow the economy.

Bello, who noted that the programme started in 2011, said: “We want to find a way of giving the local producers access to the market. This programme is an opportunity for the beneficiaries of the YouWin project to connect not only with their customers, but also with other businesses. This will help them to scale their businesses. Another thing we have tried to do is to bring on board as many of our partners as possible, so we are working with banks such as Guaranty Trust Bank, Access Bank, Zenith Bank and Stanbic IBTC, so that they can tell beneficiaries what products are tailored towards Small Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs). The programme which is being supported by the Federal Ministry of Finance and the World Bank to alleviate poverty and boost the acceptability of our locally manufactured products is a huge success.”

It was learnt that a lot of planning had gone into make the programme a success, even though some of the exhibitors, who came from different parts of the country decried the low patronage mostly from the host state, Lagos, the project coordinator noted that “The financial grant for the third edition of the YouWin programme came from the current administration. This shows their commitment to supporting and boosting made-in-Nigeria goods and SMEs businesses, not only now but in the future. Recently, the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, also promised to provide support to small scale businesses nationwide and make it the bedrock of Nigeria economic recovery.”

He assured Nigerians that the federal government is committed to making locally made products means to diversify the economy, adding that Nigerians are very innovative, “therefore, we are not surprised that many YouWin beneficiaries have received international awards based on their high quality products which are displayed here.
“The product we have here are 100 per cent made in Nigeria. I will continue to encourage young Nigerian budding entrepreneurs to live out their dreams and look for opportunities within the country. There are so many Nigerians who are educated and innovative, they just require the right platforms and YouWin, for example is a platform, and the recently unveiled N Power programme which is another platform.”

Despite the said commitment of the government, some of the participants who spoke to THISDAY, expressed disappointment at the organisation of the programme. According to them, the awareness on the exhibition was below par, saying that really discouraged many of them from attending subsequent exhibitions in Lagos.

For instance, the Chief Executive Officer of Rashad Entreprises, Edu Razak Olayinka, who displayed some of his company’s work-furniture, crafts and paintings-said the exhibition was poorly organised “as we are disappointed by the government officials who we expected to participate in the programme. It is obvious that this government seems not ready to assist the youths in their endeavours. We are expecting government officials from different related ministries to be present here and give us the needed motivation, but unfortunately, none of them is here.”

“For instance, in China, the youths are playing a key role in developing the economy, so the government, if serious in pulling the country out of this recession, should focus on SMEs. The YouWin 4 is coming up soon, so government should please put aside political sentiments and help those interested in developing the economy through locally made goods. The patronage for the two-day event has been very poor maybe because of our expectation that the YouWin exhibition should be one of the best exhibitions in Nigeria. The challenges I faced in producing these products are enormous even though I was born into it.”

A representative of a car manufacturing firm in Nigeria, Emmanuel Eyibo, said they came all the way from Akwa Ibom State to exhibit smart solar-driven-first-of-its-kind fueless vehicle. According to him, “We started production of this vehicle on May 9, 2016, and it took us five months to get to this level. We get the tricycle and see what we can extract from it, and in the end, we have been able to recycle a tricycle into a solar driven car.
“We started the project in partnership with the Akwa Ibom State Government; it was the state governor who funded our transportation to Lagos. We partnered them through the Ministry of Science and Technology because we did not have the facilities to carry out those things, but with our partnership with them, we were able to use their workshop to do some of the cuttings and processing.”

Eyibo, who was elated to build the first solar-driven car in Nigeria, said: “With sun (at day), it takes up to 15 hours to drive, without sun, it takes up to eight hours. I attribute the success of this project to former President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, who initiated the YouWin project. I want also thank President Buhari for not discarding the YouWin programme in order to empower the youths through it.

However, the current administration should do more to empower the youths, and public officer holders should patronise made-in-Nigeria goods, as this effort will help reduce unemployment in Nigeria.”

Meanwhile, the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), which also had a stand at the exhibition ground, expressed gratitude to the government and the exhibitors for participating in the programme. Highlighting its reason for participating, a representative of the director-general of SON, Mrs. Nene Obianwu, said: “We are here to advise these young budding entrepreneurs and make them know the importance of standards as well as help them key into the activities of SON in their production. In my engagement with these entrepreneurs, I discovered that most of them are just getting to know about SON while some have known it and understood what is required of them. In production, the input affects the output. You start getting it right from the input.”

“To be able to compete favourably with other products outside, they have to adhere to the requirement of the standards for each particular product. It will help them and enhance trade. It will also prohibit the issue of rejection of their products across borders. If they follow the specifications of the standards, they will not have problems.”

She said from her findings, she realised that some don’t work with the specified standards in their production.
“They are not aware, so they have to be put through regarding why we are trying to get their database.After the interaction we had with them, we are hoping to use the data we have gathered to contact them,” she added.
Obianwu stressed the issue of thorough conformity to international standard in production before export.

“I also want them to know that for export, it is important they get their products certified by Mandatory Conformity Assessment (MANCAM) programme under SON. This certification will help them export their products because a certificate will be issued to them after series of test and inspection must have been carried out on their products before export. MANCAM is required for a products going out of the country, so it is important these energetic manufacturers have it. We want here to partner and collaborate with them. We are here to encourage businesses; we are not here to give them bills to pay,” the SON official said.

Gabriel Gambomadu from Kaduna, who exhibited popcorn and other confectionaries, responded that some of the exhibitors, including himself, made sure their products strictly follow the standard in production especially those specified by SON, NAFDAC among other regulatory bodies.

On the challenges faced by local producers, which he said was finance, Gambomadu lauded YouWin for taking care of that.

“However, when we started, we targeted high quality standard products sellable all over the world, and still be useful locally, today we thank God all that has been settled,” he noted.
To further boost the economy with locally made products and as part of efforts to boost SMEs in Nigeria, the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, will on January 2, 2017, launch the ‘Made-in-Nigeria Challenge.’

Saraki, in a statement signed by his Special Assistant on New Media, Bamikole Omisore, stated that the initiative will afford entrepreneurs in the country opportunity to connect manufacturers that produce alternatives to imported products.

The move, the Senate president stated, would not only assist upcoming entrepreneurs but open door of opportunities for established local manufacturers to compete in international markets.
“On 2nd of January 2017, my office will launch #MadeInNigeria challenge to connect investors to manufacturers that produce alternatives to imported products. Since inception of the eighth Senate, we have championed and encouraged the patronage of Made-in-Nigeria goods in order to jump start the economy, and we have also amended the Public Procurement Act to support this agenda.

“In 2017, we intend to take #MadeInNigeria initiative further by using legislation to discourage importation of goods that can be produced locally, take the advocacy directly to Nigerians, work with government agencies to create enabling environment and encourage Nigerians who have eyes for local production i.e. goods that are ready substitute to imported ones,” Saraki stated.