Against the backdrop of the entrepreneurs being the prime driver of economic development in every nation, consistent decline in technical apprenticeship practice and artisanal products and services in Nigerian cities and suburbs constitutes a bad omen for socio-economic development.
Our artisans are ageing with their skills becoming obsolete, while younger people are not taking their places. More devastating is that basic infrastructure that could boost entrepreneurship rather than job hunting is still unattainable. This situation has been a big factor in Nigeria’s weak economy.
It is in order to creatively tackle this situation that the Lagos State government has been investing on programmes capable of pushing out the boundaries for new and small ventures. This is being done through building the capacity of youths in the area of soft skills and attitude that will make them become wealth creators over time.
The State has anchored its wealth creation and employment initiatives more on the conviction that skill is very important in the life of every human being. Skill acquisition is the ability to be trained on a particular task or function and becoming an expert in it. Many technicians earn more than some graduates because they acquire more practical skills than theories.
One of the initiatives used to demystify challenges militating against small businesses and encourage sustainable entrepreneurial development is the Lagos Sustainable Enterprise Development Programme through which several youths have gotten their training in the art of fashion design and garment making, with government as big promoter of their products. Beneficiaries of the programme cut across the 20 Local Government Areas & 37 Local Government Development Areas of the state.
The state government also partnered with Automedics to raise graduate technicians to meet the challenges of modern car repairs. This is to raise the skill level of technicians to match the needs of the auto industry based on high technology, requiring world class skills.
In terms of the Tradesmen and Artisans Capacity Building Scheme, thousands of Artisans have been re-trained in collaboration with the Lagos State Technical and Vocational Education Board (LASTVEB). The Capacity Building Scheme was to equip participants with technical and entrepreneurial skills, with a view to enhancing their efficiency, competitiveness and productivity. It was held for eight weekends across the State in 5 centres viz Ado-soba, Agidingbi, Epe, Ikotun and Ikorodu. In addition, 40 members of Lagos State House Painter Association were trained and engaged by KANSAIPLASCON Nigeria a paint manufacturer.
Precisely in April 2018, the State Government sponsored 15 Lagos-based techpreneurs and start-ups to an ICT summit in Washington, DC, USA, under the Yaba ICT Hub programme. The objective was to project Yaba ICT hub and introduce the State’s contingents to the international tech space. Besides networking with their American counterparts, reputable global tech organization such as Microsoft, General Electric, Covington etc were also on ground to organize and facilitate workshops to bridge identified skilled gaps. Grants and international speaking engagements received by some of the contingents were part of the outcome of the journey.
These are institutionalized programmes meant to vigorously improve the local economy by creating a skilled and experienced workforce. To cement the State desire for an entrepreneurial spirit in the citizens of Lagos State, thereby solving the lingering crisis of unemployment and constraint to wealth creation in the state, government is also collaborating with West Africa Vocational Education Academy (WAVE) to train unemployed youths on employable skills and job opportunities. The training is designed to equip the unemployed with soft skills and prepare them for entry-level jobs within the hospitality, wholesale and retail sectors.
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.
Mindset Re-Orientation, Leadership and Employability Skills Programme are also being used to improve the capacity of the younger ones for wealth creation. Through the Mindset Re-Orientation programme, many youths have been trained to properly channel their passion and energy towards self reliant skills outside white collar jobs. This has greatly helped to enhance the leadership and employability skills of the youths.
The State, having identified that Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise (MSME) is faced with challenges in the area of access to market, inadequate or lack of finance and access to capacity development, collaborated with some prominent organizations with a view to proffering solution through the development of an online Portal which serves as an online Market place for Artisans and Labour users on Registration, Recruitment and Training Backward Support, Compliance and Verification, Payment and Tax collection.
Equally, the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund, LSETF, has been revolutionary, breaking a barrier that a lot of Small and Medium-Scale businesses encounter when starting, by providing the funds to enable them to be able to actualize a dream and create jobs for our unemployed youths in the process. Ordinarily, loan seekers have to approach a bank and must be ready to provide required collateral, which sadly most SMEs operators might not have.
Many of the beneficiaries have testified openly to this. The experience of one Nike Majekodunmi, one of the first beneficiaries of the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund was all over the media. Nike runs NUTS ABOUT Cakes; a bakery located in Lekki Phase One. According to her, two weeks after interview, she received a confirmation via SMS that her batch had been approved for the loan sought. In her case, the funds helped her to open a new branch at Agungi, Lekki Expressway and to recruit more hands for the business.
Also, Innovation-Driven Enterprise Program tagged “Lagos Innovates” was launched in December 2017. The programme is 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 is cementing Lagos’ position as the leading destination for startups in Africa. So far, government has awarded first set of workspace vouchers to 23 beneficiaries, and first hub loan of N40million to Leadspace, a shared infrastructure solution company that provides office amenities to entrepreneurs, founders, freelancers, startups, SMEs and content creators in Yaba and Ojodu. Leadpace will use the funds to open an additional workspace facility in Tejuosho, Yaba with a capacity of 474 work desks and 26 outdoor seats.
With the level of jobs created so far and number of Lagosians being added into the tax net, the idea of embarking on human capital development as being spearheaded by the Lagos state government, is, no doubt, a strategic and innovative one. Introducing free skills training and retraining as well as provision of soft loans to enable youths establish their own businesses is , indeed, a worthy cause.
Musbau is of Features Unit, Lagos State Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja.