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‘How entrepreneurship scheme will boost food production’

By Femi Ibirogba, Head, Agro-Economy
25 November 2021   |   4:10 am
The Tertiary Institutions Entrepreneurship Scheme (TIES), an initiative of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) targeted at empowering graduates of Nigerian polytechnics and universities with entrepreneurial skills...

Cassava roots

• 25,000 gradpreneur-led innovative start-ups expected yearly
The Tertiary Institutions Entrepreneurship Scheme (TIES), an initiative of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) targeted at empowering graduates of Nigerian polytechnics and universities with entrepreneurial skills, has been described as capable of drastically reducing unemployment and boosting food production.

Some stakeholders expressed optimism while speaking with The Guardian on the scheme put in place by the Federal Government.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), as part of effort to boost economic growth and reduce unemployment among graduates, recently introduced the TIES.

The scheme, according to the apex bank, is designed to create a paradigm shift among undergraduates and graduates from the pursuit of white collar jobs to a culture of entrepreneurship geared towards job creation, economic growth and sustainable development.

The CBN, therefore, developed the TIES in partnership with the academia to unleash the potential of the Nigeria graduate entrepreneurs (gradpreneurs) by providing re-orientation, training and an innovative financing model that would enhance the entrepreneurial ecosystem with transformational impact on the economy.

Specific benchmarks include 25,000 gradpreneur-led innovative start-ups and businesses yearly; creation of 75,000 jobs yearly and no fewer than 50 per cent of female-gradpreneurs would be financed as a percentage of total projects.

Eligible businesses to be covered under the scheme include innovative start-ups and budding businesses owned by graduates of Nigerian polytechnics and universities in the areas of agribusiness (production, processing, storage and logistics); information technology (application/software development, business process outsourcing, robotics, data management); creative industry (entertainment, artwork, publishing, culinary/event management, fashion, photography, beauty/cosmetics) and science and technology (medical innovation, robotics and ticketing, among others).

It said the scheme would be implemented through three components of term loans; equity investment and developmental component.

“This shall be in the form of soft business loans. Only graduates of Nigerian polytechnics and universities that have undergone entrepreneurship training shall be eligible to participate under this component.

“Interest and principal repayment shall be made monthly on installment basis by the obligor to the PFIs according to the approved repayment schedule,” a statement from the bank said.

The developmental component would be disbursed in the form of grants, the apex bank said, adding: “The grant shall be accessible by Nigerian polytechnics and universities through a biennial national entrepreneurship competition aimed at raising awareness and visibility of high-impact start-up ideas among undergraduates, promote entrepreneurial talent hunts in Nigerian polytechnics and universities and encourage innovations that are commercially viable and with transformational impact.”

It explained in the document that the top five Nigerian institutions with the best entrepreneurial ideas would be awarded first place, N250 million; second place, N150 million; third place, N100 million; fourth place, N75 million and fifth place, N50 million” for onward delivery to graduates and undergraduates with winning proposals.

The equity investment component “shall be in the form of injection of fresh capital for start-ups, expansion of established businesses or reviving of ailing entrepreneurial businesses.”

Here, the bank said investment period would be for 10 years (not exceeding December 31, 2031).

The third unit of the scheme, the bank said, is one in which graduates of Nigerian polytechnics and universities shall be eligible to participate under the term loan component, in which an applicant shall apply as a business entity registered with the CAC, with a BVN, first degree certificate or its equivalent, not more than seven years post-NYSC, with a NYSC certificate, certificate of participation issued by polytechnics and universities with a tenor of five years and interest rate of five per cent.

Participating Financial Institutions (PFIs) under this scheme would be deposit money banks (DMBs) and other financial institutions as may be approved by the CBN.

While making comments on the scheme, industry stakeholders believed that the scheme is good and capable of creating multiple jobs, boosting food productivity and contributing to economic growth and development in diverse sectors if transparently implemented with adequate resources.

The Executive Director of the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN), Ibadan, Dr Patrick Adebola, lauded the initiative, and advised graduates of agriculture to take advantage of it to practicalise what they have been trained to do.

He, however, said such a scheme should not be limited to graduates of polytechnics and universities, but should include graduates from agricultural colleges (mono-technics), colleges of forestry and agricultural research institutes.

He added: “The TIES for undergraduates and graduates with good proposal in agriculture, tech businesses and creative industry is a welcome development. It will definitely reduce the high rate of unemployment if the funds are disbursed to the right individuals.

“The CBN should also carry along the agricultural research institutes and colleges of agriculture for management of the funds for agriculture. They will provide the necessary technical support to ensure the funds are properly utilised.”

Similarly, the Director, Research Innovation and Training, Kwara State University, Malete, Prof Olawale Mashood Aliyu, also commended the move as a right step, and advised the proper monitoring and evaluation process should be incorporated into it.

He said: “This is a very good initiative if well managed and host tertiary institutions have wherewithal to deliver on its effective management. A form of partnership with successful private outfits will go a long way to drive the entrepreneurial components of the scheme.

“The scheme should be structured in such a way that it will be insulated from incessant strikes. Strict monitoring and evaluation policies must be put in place for the success of this important initiative.”

A graduate, Abioye Akanji, who expressed faith in the scheme, said any sincere scheme that would take youths off the street and stress of unemployment is welcome, more so from the CBN. He too advised that such should be managed transparently.