As part of its commitment to support the Edo State government’s youth unemployment drive, the After School Graduate Programme recently organised a youth summit with focus on photography, solar power installation, and make-up. Ugo Aliogo reports

Aishat Ikhelowa is an unassuming young prodigy. The graduate of University of Abuja was one of the youths who participated in the Edo Youth Summit/Training organised by the After School Graduate Programme (AGDC), in collaboration with Edo State Government. Having heard about her from the Executive Director of AGDC, Mrs. Funmi Adeyemi, it proved to be an assignment to unravel the enigma that was Ikhelowa. The little information from Adeyemi was intentional. The onus was now on this reporter to discover who Ikhelowa was and what she stood for as an individual.

Upon closer examination, it was discovered that Ikhelowa was one of the beneficiaries of the AGDC solar installation training/workshop. Before attending the training and the summit, she was engaged in data analysis on freelance basis for private organisations and government agencies, a skill she learnt from an online platform.

Self-development

Ikhelowa believes strongly that self-developmental efforts through training seminars on youth development and skills acquisitions is a catalyst for driving economic prosperity and staying competitive in a technological-driven world. Her objective was to use these seminars and trainings to access micro-credit facilities such as loans in order to setup businesses. Therefore, when AGDC came calling with the summit and training, she saw it as one of those similar opportunities. But this was not to be as AGDC came with a different blueprint.

The idea behind the AGDC summit was to redirect the mind-sets of many young people the organisation could find in the state, to start thinking of successful entrepreneurial activities they could embark on to change the economic landscape of the country.

According to Ikhelowa, the training provided the opportunity for the participants to be taught advanced physics in a simplified way, which she described as amazing. She explained that the training provided her first; the opportunity to access a single digit interest loan, develop her skill-set in an area of her passion and transform her mind-set into an achiever’s mind-set, which she added was true for most participants.

Plus for Communities

Equipped with the practical training received, Ikhelowa and her team known as Green Fusion, are planning to electrify off-grid communities with clean and renewable (solar) energy, efficiently distribute it, and have it smartly consumed.

Therefore the project will focus on adopting a smart Agrivoltaic Mini-grid co-developing the same area of land for both solar photovoltaic power as well as for conventional agriculture shade loving crops such as groundnut, cucumber, melon, and others capable of generating and distributing 150KW to electrify Ogiudo Community, located at Edo North, Edo state.

She stated that the project design is intended to supply 200 homes (100 during peak hours while the other 100 during off-peak hours) 140Wh for seven hours during peak period (when the sun is shining) and eight hours off-peak period (when the sun is invisible) by using an array (300units) 500W ground-mounted single axis solar trackers, which would enable them optimally harness energy from the sun by eliminating the effect of shadow.

To provide electricity during the off-peak hours, they intend to store current in Vanadium Batteries (due to its efficiency, lifecycle and depth of discharge) through a matching charge controller.

“Electricity would be distributed from the solar park to houses in the community through conduit (underground) cables and consumption would be monitored over digital meters with integrated power management software and anti-temper sensor (to avoid energy theft),” she noted.

According to her, “After the successful exhibition of our prototype at the summit we decided to build a business out of our newly acquired skill-set and to further actively explore the world of solar energy through intensive research.

“Also, we intend to develop and design innovative products which integrate solar energy with available technologies: smart toys for homes and cars, lamps, fans, laptops and phones power bank as well as train others.

“At the training, we were taught on the need to change our mind-set. We were meant to understand that you are where you are because of your mind-set, as a result you cannot move forward and you intend to look at life from one perspective, instead of different perspectives. We were advised to change our mind-set to a positive one, and then we can achieve more in life.”

AGDC Summit

Speaking on the objectives of the summit, Adeyemi noted that when youths are exposed to others who have become successful in different endeavours; they are able to come up with ideas on what they can do to stand out among their peers and how to go about it.

She also stated that the facilitators brought to train the youths at the summit used their life experiences and stories to get the youths inspired and change their mind-set to think positively, adding that the training focused on three areas; photography, make-up and solar installation which she noted was aimed at ensuring they are able to learn quickly.

Adeyemi explained that the make-up master class went beyond the routine practice of making people up to focusing more on the beauty business, adding that the training encompassed make-up business, selling of make-up accessories, training them on the act, personal branding, prospecting for clients, book keeping and accounts management.

The training on solar installation focused on installation solar panels. The trainees were shared into groups and given assignment on what they could do to address the power issues in their environment. Some groups came up with brilliant ideas. A group came up with the idea on how to produce power in cluster, due to the ingenuity of this idea; Adeyemi noted that they were given a space at the Micro Small Scale Enterprises (MSME) fair when the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, visited the state.

Photography was the third training they received. The trainees were exposed to the various aspects of photography and what they required to do in order to improve on the job. Aside from the regular five days of the training, two days were used to train them on how to write a business plan, market their product, customer service, identify potential client, and other areas.

Panacea to Illegal Migration

Before AGDC organised the training in Edo State, one of the deepest concerns of the governor, Godwin Obaseki, was how to tackle the continuous illegal migration of Edo youths to Europe through Libya. According to the governor, the state has lost over 20,000 youths in one year due to such illegal travel, adding that although the issue has remained a deep concern, just worrying about it was not the panacea. He needed a way out of this challenge.

At a recent gathering, opportunity presented itself for Obaseki to get answers to the problems facing the state. He met with the Chairman of AGDC, Mrs. Ibunkun Awosika, a believer in youth entrepreneurship development. He shared the challenges facing the youths in the state, with a focus to partner with organisations committed in youth entrepreneurship development initiatives.

AGDC accepted the proposal to assist the state in addressing the challenge. But they realised that funding would impede their work, therefore they approached Act Foundation with their proposal to seek financial grant to enable them carry out the initiative successfully. The proposal was approved. It is also noteworthy to state here that AGDC had worked in the state twice on youth cantered initiative in the past, which is their main area of focus.

BOI Intervention

The first stage of the summit/training was to teach the participants entrepreneurial skills for two days and five days was focused on teaching them technical skills in the three areas selected. The summit was the final stage which involved putting at least 5,000 people in a room and basically to inspire them to start something on their own.

Adeyemi explained that at the third phase of the training, all participants trained and those that were able to come up with brilliant ideas would apply for the Youth Ignite Fund from Bank Of Industry (BOI) which she noted is a fund setup to assist young entrepreneurs to start business. She added that at the end of the training, House of Tara gave out small start-up kits to those in the cosmetology class.

She further noted that the idea is that the loan from BOI is what would get them to start up properly, adding that they would facilitate the process of application of getting them funds from BOI till they get the money, “it would take a few weeks to get the funds depending on how fast the youths respond.”

According to Adeyemi, “Act foundation supported us financially, as well as individual members invested their capital into the project. We had to augment it and do some things that the funding was not able to do. On a personal level, what I take out is that there is a lot of satisfaction that we have because we have touched some lives. When we were doing the training, there was a lot of the youth response. They wanted to connect with everything. They kept asking questions and wanting to know more.

“The quality of ideas presented was very good. The Nigeria youths are very brilliant and hardworking and purpose driven. We will empower those who show seriousness. The BOI money is not a grant, it is a loan. There is a reason behind making it loan so that people can develop the discipline of paying back. The youth ignite fund is one of the smallest in the BOI family.

“If these trainees get the loan, utilise it as expected and then pay back as at when, this will allow them to move to the next level which is JEF and there is YES-P. So they start with the Youth ignite that is between N200 and one million, then move YES-P that is at N2.5 million. Then to JEF which is up to N5 million. But the individual must build a track record. They are supposed to then develop a habit of paying back and develop a track record so that as their businesses grow and they need to get more funding, it is easily available.

“Once you have a good track record, you can always have a loan. This is the practice of all banks. The disbursement of the money is going to be done through a micro-finance bank which BOI has appointed there. They will be the one to do the money trade. From our own end we have setup a group.”

EdoJob Partnership

Another organisation, which supported AGDC in driving this initiative, is EdoJobs. The organisation is a programme setup by the state government to improve skills and job opportunities available in the state. They partnered with AGDC to spread the word about the upcoming the training and summit to the over 200,000 people registered on the EdoJobs portal. They also worked with their team on logistics, adding that the partnership with AGDC covered various areas such as how to apply and access funding, solar Power installation, make up and photography.

On this Adeyemi said, “There was a strong desire to learn. We worked in partnership with EdoJob which is an initiative of the state government. They supported us a lot in the training and summit. They had sent message that the event will begin by 8a.m, but a lot of the youths arrived at 7am.

“There is a yearning amongst the youths to do things, therefore getting the opportunities and the support they would definitely do a lot. We need a lot of these types of initiatives because there are those who are committed in learning and become better.”

Also speaking, the Senior Special Adviser on Skills Development and Job Creation, Mrs. Ukinebo Dare, stated that they have also co-organised a youth summit where young people interacted with successful business owners and were able to share ideas and get guidance on how to be successful in career and business.

She added that judging from the feedbacks they have received, the partnership would empower young people to start their businesses, access funds and be gainfully engaged in such a way that would prevent them from participating in illegal migration.

Collaborative Effort

There is no gainsaying that this venture wouldn’t have worked without the collaborative effort of its partners. For the Chief Executive Officer, Aspire Coronation Trust (ACT) Foundation, Mrs. Osayi Alile, said AGDC is one of the 25 grantees they have partnered with for the 2018 ACT Foundation grant cycle, stating that as a partner their role goes beyond funding, “but also covers capacity development, training, to the management of the organisation, monitoring and evaluation during the duration of the project.”

Alile explained that AGDC has always employed existing best practices in training and engaging their beneficiaries, noting that the exercise was a practical hands-on training for youths to acquire skills in the areas of solar power installation, cosmetology/makeup artistry and photography which she noted that they can use to start businesses of their own.

Alile further noted that the programme focused on contemporary corporate culture, and relevant skills required in the workplace, adding that the intervention has been a big success in many ways, from the passion and excitement displayed by the project participants during and after the training.

She added, “The quality of the content and areas of discussion was very rich, the breakout sessions was very engaging and it had an equal participation from everyone, the training was orderly and well organized, the workshop was very practical and interactive. First, I must commend these entrepreneurs for taking up the challenge to go through the training and coming out successful. As they make plans to launch into the market I will advise that they focus on some key points.

“Need for business development trainings. Though through our funding we provided business training workshops they need to continue this search to knowledge and improve and sharpen their business skills. Though funding is usually a challenge for budding entrepreneurs, the Bank of Industry (BOI) has provided soft loans for graduates of this training. And I urge them to seize the opportunity.

“Mentoring is very important because not only does it provide a guide, it also helps in accountability. I urge these entrepreneurs to keep in touch with their facilitators and the great bunch at ACT Foundation who are constantly interested in their success. There is also room for continuous improvement and training to improve their skills and I urge them to keep abreast with innovations and technology which will make them outstanding in their various fields.”

On her part, Chief Executive Officer, House of Tara, Mrs. Tara Durotoye, said during the training, they exposed the participants to the concept of a personal brand and values, stating it is remarkable to note that each participant had an idea which distinguished them.

She also stated that each person felt stronger and sought ways to make their business stand out from the crowd by adding elements of personal value, adding that all the staff involved in the project reported a positive feeling especially from the angle of adding practical value to the participants.

The House of Tara, Retail Manager, Happy Eboka, said the attitude and response of participants inspired her to remain a positive role model and it was heartening to see the positive impact. “House of Tara has trained over 20,000 make-up artists in the past 20years through our professional courses and Masterclass which are available nationwide. This course is particularly empowering as it offers an all-round approach to give participants a best chance to succeed immediately on graduation,” she noted.