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STILL ON THE LAGOS STATE EMPLOYMENT TRUST FUND

Rasak Musbau

In 2016, Lagos State government walk the talk regarding the promise of making youths and unemployed have access to adequate finance for entrepreneurial ventures by establishing Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (“LSETF” or “the Fund”). The fund was institutionalized to provide financial support to residents of Lagos State, for wealth creation and to tackle unemployment.

As a State destined and ready to shape Nigeria’s future, Lagos came up with the idea of the audacious ₦25BillionFund to halt the dangerous trend of unemployment which appears to be shooting up the sky in Nigeria as a whole and which may persist as many Nigerian youths now graduate from schools without skills and competencies that would enable them function in today’s emerging society.

Unemployment crisis surfaced in the country since the oil boom era of 1970s, when Nigeria abandoned skills acquisition and utilization through diversified entrepreneurship practices that have the capacity to boost both individuals and the country’s economic ego. Also, the time we had so many skilled technicians such as carpenters, painters, auto-mechanics, fashion designers, hair dressers, among others is now in the history. Emphasis completely shifted from entrepreneurial practices to paper qualification and quest for white collar job. Industrialization plan and good governance were also replaced with corruption and nepotism. For decades,government failed to provide stable power supply and security that are central to employment generation and general development of the country.

In Lagos State, the LSTEF is now using various interventions to address the monster allowed by the country to fester during past decades of decadence. In line with the mandate of the Fund, it is now been used to help Lagos residents grow and scale up their Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (“MSMEs”) or acquire skills to get better jobs.

The current administration considered Lagos population a valuable asset which can be harnessed for growth rather than being a burden. This explains why the huge chunk of its available resources is being used as instrument to inspire the creative and innovative energies of all Lagos residents and reduce unemployment across the State.

The unfortunate history of short lived and failed programme of similar intent in the past especially at the federal level might have evoked cynicism from the public, however, LSETF is a well conceive project unlike the National Directorate of Employment that was rendered impotent through bureaucratic bottle neck, low funds and tribalism. The doggedness and passion of Akinwunmi Ambode for advancing the progress of Lagos has spurred his administration to allocate relevant human and monetary resources to tackle such problems ab initio.

As a broad-based employment strategy, the LSETF launched three key programmes to achieve it mandate: The Loan Scheme, Employability Programme and Lagos Innovate. The Loan scheme provide access to quick and affordable loans for MSMEs to startup, build, expand, and create wealth and employment for Lagos residents.  So far, the LSETF, under its MSME loan programme has approved N4.9 billion for disbursement to 6,548 small business owners and has successfully disbursed N4.1 billion loans to over 4,762 beneficiaries (43% recipients are women). Everyone may not yet know that the loan application process was much smoother, but that is the fact. In fact, a lot less was required than a bank would ask people to provide.

The second scheme is the Employability Programme. In addition to the loan scheme, LSETF’s Employability Programme is currently equipping thousands of unemployed youths with the skills that would makes them globally competitive and employable. LSETF’s target is to train 10,000 unemployed youths in the next 18 months through vocational trainings that would prepare them for employments in the construction, manufacturing, healthcare, entertainment, hospitality and tourism industries. The Fund will, thereafter, help the trainees to secure job placements opportunities within the identified industries.

 

The United Nations Development Fund (UNDP) has thrown its weight behind this programme through the Lagos State Employability Support Project, which plans to increase the pool of skilled manpower to alleviate the acute shortages of employable labour in Lagos State.

 

The third scheme is the Lagos Innovate – A series of programs designed for the benefit of technology- and innovation-driven startups in Lagos State. By providing access to high quality infrastructure, learning, capital and networks, Lagos Innovates hopes to cement Lagos’ position as the leading destination for startups in Africa. With Lagos Innovate, Lagos-resident founders and operators of co-working spaces and innovation hubs will be able to apply for one of its first three programmes: Workspace Vouchers, Hub Loans and Events Sponsorship, through open, merit-based, online applications processes.

In the first half of 2018, additional programs are expected to follow, including a scale-up accelerator programme, a co-investment scheme and a second, learning-focused, voucher scheme.

 

No wonder, LSETF has been described as revolutionary. It is moreover, of note to observe that come 2019 when the framework of LSETF would be due for revision, the target would be to have disbursed loans to at least a 100,000 businesses with the overall target of creating at least one million jobs within same period.

Added to the above is the fact that the State has a broad-based economic strategy to achieve its development agenda. The institutionalization of state’s economic policies as we have here is what investors have been urging Nigeria to do for a lot time because when policies are institutionalized, they are not personalized. It therefore makes continuity seamless.

Other strategic plan of creating wealth and employment in the State are those that involved highly improved business and investment climate the state has achieved over the years. Here, Ambode’s administration is creating a healthy ecosystem surrounding enterprises, which starts with the enterprises’ customers. One would even be correct to cite building and renewal of infrastructure in the State as the most effective ways of creating jobs by the government.

In addition, the State government has continued to engage the informal sector by organizing a forum to stimulate greater interaction with stakeholders for the government to identify problems bedeviling the sector. About 250 trade associations have been identified in the State to date, with over 80 trade associations registered.

It is expected that with stable electricity, improved security, regular power supply, good roads and other infrastructure, coupled with its huge population, the full economic potential of Lagos would be unleashed to the benefit of not only Nigeria but the African continent, particularly neighbouring states. Businesses and industries would flourish even more because their cost of operation would have been drastically reduced.

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