SEPLAT: Empowering Youths for Self-Reliance, National Devt

Seplat Energy and Conversation for Change recently graduated 22 youths who participated in the C4C-Seplat Global Entrepreneurship Fellowship Programme, aimed at empowering youths to create jobs and become change agents. Uchechukwu Nnaike reports

The rising number of unemployed/unemployable graduates in the country has prompted well-meaning individuals and organisation like Seplat Energy Plc to come up with series of youth empowerment initiatives.
For Seplat Energy Plc, listed on the Nigerian Exchange and the London Stock Exchange, the need to harness the potential of Nigerian youth and make them agents of change in their families and the country cannot be overemphasised.
Seplat Energy thus collaborated with Conversation for Change (C4C), an NGO to launch, and has sustained the C4C-Seplat Global Entrepreneurship Fellowship Programme.
Friday, December 16, 2022 was the culmination of this effort for 22 young people who graduated from the Seplat Energy and Conversations 4 Change Youth Entrepreneurship Programme, the ignited dreams of youths lit up the venue.
There are still ways to go, and grounds to cover, but they had hit a major milestone in their individual ideations of their future. Their dreams had been pronounced valid and they were rearing to go.
According to ‘Worldometer’, a reference website that provides counters and real-time statistics for diverse topics, as of August 25, 2022 Nigeria’s population stood at 217,079,601. Of this number, youths account for 70 per cent -151 million. And 42 per cent of the 70 per cent are under the age of 15. Therefore, Nigeria is full of youths burning with ambitions to make something of themselves and of their time here. Unfortunately, the terrain is a tough one and they are in dire need of adults who can ensure they walk guided.
Seplat Energy long saw the need to harness the potential of Nigerian youths. So, aside the many other things it does to advance this, the Seplat/C4C initiative boils down to brass tacks.
Young Nigerians need to be financially independent, driving their own lives, based on the big dreams they’ve been incubating for entrepreneurial success.  The gap for guidance and a systems orientation was what Seplat saw and decided to jump in alongside C4C to make adequate provisions that meet those needs.

The 22 young and ambitious Nigerians who had successfully scaled the daunting process of the business plans presentation of the 2022 C4C Global Entrepreneurship Fellowship Programme, were given their marching orders, and with provisions fully made, (based on their proposals) to ensure that the burgeoning dreams they had had for some time would come alive with the right amount of support, and be guided via financial and mentorship leverage to success.
The day they presented their business plans, Dr. Chioma Nwachuku, the Director External Affairs and Sustainability, Seplat Energy, thanked the young entrepreneurs and C4C. She said the programme aligned with one of the five pillars of Seplat CSR.
According to Nwachuku, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 1 (poverty eradication); in addition to the SDG 2 (zero hunger), SDG 3 (good health and well being), SDG 4 (quality education), and SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth) make up the company’s five CSR pillars.
The empowered entrepreneurs and their area of businesses are: Oluyemi Oyinleye (café business); Pauline Musa (catering); Maryam Musa (spices); Mary Oteikwu (fish drying); Justin Agbo (fashion); Joseph Agu (fashion); Chizoba Okolo (fashion/fabric sales); Adebola Olamide Greatness (fashion); Regina Etuka (fashion); Blessing Gabriel (bag making); Princess Esther Samuel (shoe making); and Emmanuel Ogwuche (footwear).

Others are: Nancy Otokina (confectionaries); Adeola Samuel (confectionaries); Gladys Emuh; (agro processing); Patience Sunday (palm oil production); Brume Aina (gerbal skincare); Bright Bello (salon and spa); Ogechi Iwuanyanwu (plants and flowers); Olufunbi Akinyemi (gift curator); Benedict Gabriel (photography); and Stephen Ahor (laundry services).

The beneficiaries from the programmes, who received funds ranging from N750,000 to N5 million, were equipped to begin their business empires, which are expected to grow and flourish as well as provide support to not just them and their families, but also for communities, countries and the world.

Speaking to the entrepreneurs at the ceremony held in Abuja, Nwachuku, said: “You are indeed equipped for your next phase in your various enterprises. Thanks to C4C and to Seplat Energy for enriching you with the knowledge and competencies you need to grow your business. The greater appreciation and kudos, however, goes to you, for having the capacity to establish your striving enterprise.

“Congratulations dear C4C-Seplat Global Entrepreneurship Fellowship Program 2022 Graduates!

“We are happy at Seplat Energy to play a big role in changing the narrative of the Nigerian Youth. You are no longer the leaders of tomorrow rather, with the empowerment you have received over the year, you are the change agent of your generation. We are quite elated with the level of creativity and passion you all exhibited and truly, the sky will not be your limit.”

Empowerment is one of the strong pillars on which Seplat Energy is addressing social challenges in Nigeria particularly that of Sustainable Development Goals’ 1, 2 and 8 on no poverty, zero hunger and decent work and economic growth. We believe that as soon as these critical SDGs are addressed, other things will follow, Dr. Nwachuku explained.

She added: “In this regard, we felicitate also with Conversations for Change, our visionary partners on this journey for a great job well done. Dear 2022 graduates, we have a great confidence in your ability to further excel. Congratulations, and we pray to your continued success.”

Responding, the President/founder, C4C, Dr. Kechi Ogbuagu, thanked Seplat Energy for the invaluable support over the years whilst pledging C4C’s resolve to empowerment of the youth population to drive national economic prosperity.

Dr. Ogbuagu explained: “C4C is a non-profit organisation with a major objective of empowering young people to participate more effectively in all relevant areas of development.

“Efforts are focused on young people aged 18-40, in the belief that they are ready to embark on being valuable and creative members of their society and therefore are most in need of the inspiration, empowerment, guidance and support to do so.”

The entrepreneurs thanked Seplat Energy and C4C for the huge investment in their future and wished both organisations the best of success in all their endeavour.  Two presentations of interest were from Blessing Gabriel who used various materials, including waste to make bags; and Ogechi Iwuanyanwu who presented plants and flowers for different uses.

As is immediately evident, these are not rocket science businesses. Just services sought after by many and therefore with a guaranteed customer base if well managed. Don’t forget that the business plan segment involved trainings and mentorship programmes that extend well beyond the life of the physical programme. The candidates draw on a deep well of knowledge from individuals who have pledged to be by them if they hit those bumps that are inevitable for anyone navigating entrepreneurship.

Dr. Nwachuku had succinctly clarified at the 2021 graduation ceremony that “the vision of this initiative is to create a world where young people/minds are inspired, motivated and empowered to find their niche in society and use their skills and talents in improving their societies/countries and indeed their world. In doing this, day-to-day items and wastes are converted to wealth, thus promoting a sustainable world.”

At that same event, the CEO Seplat Energy Plc, Mr. Roger Brown had described the C4C-Seplat Global Entrepreneurship Fellowship Programme as “a long-term effort to invest in the next generation of leaders, through creating a vibrant platform for continuing information provision, dialogue, and discussions”. He had also added that “through these and other strategies, the initiative would inspire, encourage and support young people to become active partners in the development and leadership of their communities, societies, nations and indeed the world.”

That is a point well known in development circles and in the general arena of wisdom and wise sayings. Give a man fish and you feed him for a day. But teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Everybody knows that. And yes, there is a time to feed people so they can just survive and be able to live another day, but that is not, in the long run, sustainable. Sustainability comes from marketable expertise that can keep putting food on the table day after day, an expertise or knowledge that is transferrable to future generations.

When a corporate organisation decides on empowerment as a way of expressing its corporate social responsibility ethos, its immediate and wider communities derive greater value from the very act of goodwill dispensed and thereafter from the output of the individuals being put to work under guidance for greater results.

At the heart of all of this is the idea of sustainability, of devolution of development, one which says it is not up to government alone, but rather one for organisations with proven capacity for adding value to communities. It’s also about devolution of development in the sense that those who are today empowered will in turn empower others with the knowledge and resources that their own empowerment avails them.

Seplat Energy and its partner Conversations for Change (C4C) are doing for the young people of Nigeria what they have yearned and longed for all these many years. One has no doubt that competition is keen for slots in the programme. Opportunities like this are limited despite the abundance of ideas and the drive required to push those ideas. The two critical things usually lacking are the financial enablement to get the dream off the ground and tested knowledge which if applied is capable of keeping businesses running and profitable.

A good number of young Nigerians take the plunge anyhow with a good dose of faith and hope, (and sometimes hype), believing that they have the innate resilience to pull through the inevitable headwinds entrepreneurs usually run into. This is, sadly, hardly ever the case. The mortality rate for MSMEs is massive. It is estimated that 96 per cent of businesses fail after 10 years in Nigeria. But with entrepreneurship programmes such as Seplat’s, there is a greater certainty that businesses and managers can improve and gain operational efficiencies which enable their business longevity.

While congratulating the latest graduands of the C4C-Seplat Energy Global Entrepreneurship Fellowship Programme, it is hoped that their endeavours will benefit maximally and sustainably from the initiative. That would be the only way to repay the favour done them by the company.

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