Reawakening Entrepreneurial Spirit in Ekiti

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In what looked like a practical demonstration of Dr. Kayode Fayemi’s campaign theme ‘Reclaiming Our Land, Restoring Our Values’, young and old entrepreneurs in Ekiti State have been given a new lease of life through the maiden edition of the state entrepreneurship week, Raheem Akingbolu reports

Beyond their quest for knowledge and feat attained in education, Ekiti people have raw talents that should be harnessed. This was discovered last week by visitors who attended the maiden edition of the Ekiti State Entrepreneurship Week. Particularly, experts and career mentors in fashion, photography and entrepreneurship, who served as resource persons at the three-day event were awed by the vastness of the people in various areas of human endeavour. The event was chaired by the First Lady, Erelu Bisi Fayemi and powered by the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry.

Among other activities, participants at the event had the opportunity of taking part in a master class, job fair, fashion runway, financial empowerment session and talent hunt. There were also various exhibition stands, where men and women showcased their locally made products. Aside individuals, the entrepreneurial unit of the Ekiti State University, Afe Babalola University, the College of Education, Ikere also identified with the initiative as they displayed various products ranging from Agriculture, fabrics and art works. Also, on parade were natural resources like kaolin, raw gold, local rice, local fabrics, art and craft materials and local farm products identified with various local governments in the state.

Speaking on the importance of the initiative to Ekiti economy, heads of the community development department of various local governments, commended the governor and his team but observed that the publicity for this year’s edition was not enough. While acknowledging the fact that it would go a long way in showing to the world the abundant resources available in Ekiti, they urged the youths to leverage on the platform to become self-reliant.

One of the exhibitors, Mofebisola Oyebade-Omopeloye, a princess of Ogotun Ekiti and Chief Creative Director of Extera Concept, a mat weaving startup company, said she decided to go into the business to reawaken the mat weaving industry associated with the Ogotun Ekiti women. “What we do is to create contemporary items with mats because the ages of sleeping mat is almost gone, that was why I decided to be producing what people can use every day with mats”.

Oyebade-Omopeolye, a master’s degree holder in Mass Communication from Pan Atlantic University, shared her decision to embrace the mat-weaving industry started after completing the National Youth Service Corps scheme in 2015. She said: “I came home after the national service and realised that mat weaving was no more popular the way it was when we were growing up and I thought of reviving it. Few years after, I must confess that I have not regretted it as we have been able to produced many contemporary items from mat that can fit into any society and go with any dress.”

For the duo of Dr. Olujoke Akinrujomu and Mrs. Oladipupo Folakemi, Heads of Department of Fine & Applied Arts and Home Economics Department of Ekiti State College of Education respectively, the initiative was first of its kind in Ekiti.

In separate interviews, the two lecturers admitted that with the entrepreneurial week, the state government has not only given exposure to Ekiti business owners but have given many of them their meal tickets.

Perhaps the most exciting part of the event was the Fashion Runway, which brought to fore the beauties of Ekiti fabrics and the creative ingenuity of fashion designers scattered across the state. Aside the fact that the dresses were locally designed, beautiful young men and ladies, who catwalks to showcase the clothes were also drawn from various communities and institutions in Ekiti.

Speaking to reporters on the uniqueness of the fashion parade, the President, Fashion Designer Association of Nigeria, (FADAN), Funmi Ajila-Ladipo, said she was stunned by what came out from Ekiti Fashion designers and the dexterity of the hair stylists and makeup artists from the state, who worked on the models with little or no supervision.

Asked if Ekiti Fashion industry can stand shoulder to shoulder with those of other places, Ajila-Ladipo didn’t only answer in the affirmative but admitted that Ekiti parades raw talents that need to be tapped and exported.

“With what I have seen in the last three days, I’m confident that Ekiti has what it takes to take fashion to the greatest height. It will shock you to know that all the attires were made by local designers and the hairdo of the models were handled by a young man in Ado Ekiti. We only told them what we wanted and they gave us the best,” she said.

Corroborating Ajila-Ladipo’s position, Ronke Ademiluyi of African Fashion Week, London, Nigeria, Dubai and Brazil and Toyosi Bamisile of Orante, both expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the fashion show.

Capturing the mood of Ekiti people on the event, a Supervising Counsellor in the Ekiti West Local Government, Hon Isaac Ogunniyi said Governor Fayemi and Erelu Bisi Fayemi have again demonstrated that they are leaders with foresight.

He said: “In the last three days, Dr. Fayemi and Erelu Bisi Fayemi have redefined governance and proved that they are really determined to reclaim our lands. You will agree with me that Ekiti youths are hardworking but they don’t have the required platform to showcase their abilities. This entrepreneurial week has indeed reawakened us and I’m not in doubt that our people have benefitted very well.”

Speaking at the opening session of the event, Ekiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, identified the development of entrepreneurship as a major solution to unemployment and various challenges facing the country in the health, housing, agriculture and security and other sectors of the economy.

The governor said his administration had started implementing policies that will not just support education for the sake of holding certificates but equip holders of certificates to be capable of applying the knowledge gained to proffer solutions to numerous problems confronting the state and Nigeria in general.

The governor also noted that the nation’s academic framework had for long produced job seekers without any conscious attention to producing those who will create jobs. He said rather than follow the trend, his administration would encourage an education system which promotes harmonious relationship between the school system and the

industries.

No fewer than 2,000 young entrepreneurs, drawn from different fields and vocations, would be supported during and after the three-day programme, aimed at re-igniting entrepreneurship spirit among Ekiti people.

Governor Fayemi, in his keynote address to the participants emphasised that the Ekiti economy and future prosperity depend on the ability of entrepreneurs to develop ideas into business initiatives. This, he said, informed the decision of the state government to pursue a knowledge economy.

The governor said: “It is in realisation of this universally embraced panacea to the rising global unemployment that the concept of hosting Entrepreneurship Week on annual basis was conceived. We have seen that many corporate leaders and global technology giants learned more outside the walls of the classroom just because of their innate curiosity to solve certain problems or challenges facing the society or the global community.

“As we gather for this three-day programme incorporating training, capacity building and talent hunt, I am hopeful that through this programme we will be able to note the core areas that need the attention of policy makers and practitioners in promoting and developing entrepreneurship in Ekiti State.”

While restating the importance of entrepreneurship to the restoration agenda of his government, the governor said his administration has an unrelenting quest at getting the private sector to take the driving seat in the economic development of the state in order to have a diversified economy, decrease dependence on “insufficient allocations from the federation account, increase IGR and move towards a knowledge based economy.

The governor urged stakeholders to continue to support youth empowerment programmes that will enhance the potential of “our teeming youth and equally flood our society with more job creators and less job seekers”.

In her remarks, the chairperson of the Steering Committee of the Entrepreneurship Week, Erelu Bisi Fayemi, said the planning committee was keen to explore ways in which the unique skills and talents of Ekiti people could be highlighted, not just for showcasing but to attract concrete support and investments.

The Ekiti State First Lady disclosed that a number of the participants of the programme would get various forms of empowerment and employment opportunities from institutions such as the Bank of Industry, AGMEIS and Longrich, while there will be revolving loans for local creative artisans in the pottery, mat weaving and aso oke sectors.

She expressed optimism that the programme would be a permanent feature in the state since “Ekiti people cherish hardwork, dedication and commitment to excellence”.

Earlier in his welcome address, the Commissioner for Investment, Trade and Industries, Mr Olusoga David had urged the participants to make good use of all they would learn from the programme; saying that the programme is aimed at raising entrepreneurs in the state.

The take-home from the three-day event was however the promise by the government to provide needed support for young entrepreneurs who are willing to expand their scope of business, in line with the government’s vision of igniting entrepreneurship spirit among its citizens.

Erelu Fayemi, disclosed this at the closing session of the event. The support according to her, includes providing them more opportunities to showcase their talents, assisting them with funds for expansion and linking them with mentors.

The First Lady, who presented awards to some participants with very outstanding and innovative business ideas and projects, said she was delighted at the enthusiasm of the participants, adding that government’s plan to enhance the capacity of young entrepreneurs and make them providers of employment is being realised.

She expressed her satisfaction at the dexterity of many of the designers that showcased their designs made from locally sourced materials during the runway.

She noted that the initiative would boost the state’s economic development if well explored strategically and help the fashion artists to develop themselves.

She said: “We are doing this entrepreneurship week to showcase Ekiti locally made fabrics and tailoring. We have seen that Ekiti people are amazing, we have all these materials produced here in Ekiti. The Aso-oke was made by the local Association of Aso-Oke Weavers and the adire material was made by students of the Ekiti State University (EKSU).

“We want to thank Dr John Kayode Fayemi for investing in Ekiti and supporting the women folk, we are showcasing to the world what we can do. Ekiti people are not lazy, they are hard working and industrious”.

Erelu Fayemi further disclosed that a number of the participants at the programme would be invited to both Fashion Week in Lagos, Nigeria in December, and the African Fashion Week London in 2020.

She expressed her optimism that the programme would be a permanent feature in the state since “Ekiti people cherish hard work, dedication and commitment to excellence. I am proud of them and give kudos to Dr Kayode Fayemi for believing and showcasing the talented sons and daughters of Ekiti”.

The Secretary of the planning committee, Mr SeyiAiyeleso, who urged the participants to make good use of the opportunity given to them from the programme added that it was designed as a platform for raising and showcasing talents, which according to him abound in the state.

Also, Erelu Fayemi was presented with the Fashion Designers Association of Nigeria (FADAN) Lifetime Achievement Award at the event by the National President of FADAN, Mrs Funmi Ajila-Ladipo.

Mrs Ajila-Ladipo expressed her gratitude to God and the committee in charge of the program and Dr Kayode Fayemi for impacting Ekiti sons and daughters through fashion entrepreneurship.