An entrepreneurial revolution hits Nigeria?
In Nigeria it’s probably easier to find someone who isn’t an entrepreneur than someone who is. Entrepreneurship is an integral part of the country’s fabric, with everyone from civil servants to corpers engaging in some sort of business.
According to the former Director General of Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria [SMEDAN], Baturi Masari, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises [MSMEs] contribute an impressive 47% to GDP in 2010.
“A typical Nigerian is a born entrepreneur,” said Summy Francis, president of Africa’s Young Entrepreneurs [AYE]. “Entrepreneurship in Nigeria in a nutshell is [about] job creation… [it] should be used as a solution, not just for [entrepreneurs] themselves but for others.. I think it’s one thing Nigerians should really grab and put to use.”
AYE is an initiative that seeks to empower and support young entrepreneurs on the continent. AYEEN [Africa’s Young Entrepreneurs Empowerment Nigeria], launched in 2014, brings the aims of AYE to Nigeria, giving entrepreneurial Nigerians the opportunity to pitch for funding, receive advise from seasoned business professionals and network with like minds.
“[In the] 2014 episode we had about 6,000 entrepreneurs involved in the program and we funded about 53 of them,” Francis continued. “Last year we had close to 8,000 and we funded about 150 young entrepreneurs in Nigeria.”The scheme has had very positive feedback from participants with AYEEN recording a ‘92% success rate’ for businesses they have supported. Through their BPS [Business Progress System]the initiative assigns monitoring officials who check in on the businesses they have funded to see how participants have utilized the money.
“90-95% are doing really well, he said. “None of them have shut down or been liquidated and everybody has a record of profit. Apart from the funding one of the positive and most effective parts of program is the fact that entrepreneurs could survive…”
“There’s a fact that young entrepreneurs businesses in Africa die between the first to second year but we’ve noticed particularly some participants from the 2014 episode the kind of support structure we’ve been able to create for them, mentorship and business coaching platform has helped these young entrepreneurs survive this critical stage in business.”
For the 2016 edition Francis has bigger and bolder plans.“This year is quite different,” he said. “We’ve decided to cover the 6 geo political regions in Nigeria…all the business experts are of international standard. We have about 6 major panelists…very fine entrepreneurs. People who have a high level of business experience. The ‘least’ person [on the panel] has about 25 years’ experience in terms of business knowledge and entrepreneurship development. ”
But that’s not all. Following in the footsteps of popular TV shows like The Apprentice and Dragons Den, this year’s entrepreneurship revolution will be televised.
“There’s a lot of emotion that comes with it,” Francis continued. “Last year you’d see someone coming out of a business audition crying or so sad and you wonder why, or you’d see someone coming out just happy and excited. So we just thought let’s put it out as a reality show this year so young entrepreneurs outside Nigeria and outside Africa can watch and learn from the process.”
Auditions for AYEEN started last week, hitting Kaduna, Abuja, Delta and Calabar. This week, auditions come to Lagos and Enugu. The show will be aired on major TV networks across Africa over thirteen episodes, which will be aired in October, November and December this year.
Francis stresses that AYEEN is for ‘any business minded person’ and will appeal to a broad range of people, from budding entrepreneurs who are at the ideas stage to those currently running start ups.
“This is a program that will be funding and supporting about 1,000 entrepreneurs from any level,” he said. “You’re going to see people like plumbers and mechanics and people in oil and gas coming and pitching their ideas. It covers every aspect of business in Nigeria.”
There are many entrepreneurship programs and schemes out there, but Francis is convinced that his is different. “AYE [the umbrella organization] is very practical,” he said. “This organization was born out of business frustration. It’s a bunch of entrepreneurs that have gone through these business challenges and said ‘let’s set this up so other entrepreneurs coming behind us don’t have to go through the same thing’. It’s not like a government body or a corporate organization just launching something. These are people that have experienced what these guys are going through so we know the right measures to apply and when to apply these measures.”