From European Union, lifelines for young African entrepreneurs

The European Union (EU) recently hosted the high-level launch of the Team Europe Initiative’s Investing in Young Businesses in Africa (TEI IYBA) in Nigeria.
Cross section of the panelists at the launch of the Team Europe Initiative’s ‘Investing in Young Businesses in Africa’ (TEI IYBA) in Nigeria…recently PHOTO: CHIJIOKE IREMEKA

Cross section of the panelists at the launch of the Team Europe Initiative’s ‘Investing in Young Businesses in Africa’ (TEI IYBA) in Nigeria…recently PHOTO: CHIJIOKE IREMEKA

Launches Investing In Young Businesses In Africa Initiative

The European Union (EU) recently hosted the high-level launch of the Team Europe Initiative’s Investing in Young Businesses in Africa (TEI IYBA) in Nigeria. The launch, which held in Lagos, featured a conversation on Supporting Young Entrepreneurs: Nigeria and Team Europe Working For The Future, by a four-man panel moderated by an entrepreneur of the Women Entrepreneurship for Africa (WE4A), Ms. Lalita Purbhoo-Junggee.
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The occasion, which drew men and women from all walks of life, also witnessed two plenary – the official launch of the initiative and an afternoon session where successful women entrepreneurs from across the Sub-Saharan Africa pitched their business cases to soon-to-be investors.

This session held within the framework of the WE4A programme, a constituent of the TEI IYBA, sought to facilitate the conditions where early-stage businesses and entrepreneurs in Sub-Saharan Africa could thrive, especially women and young people.

Aimed at extending financial and technical support at the early stages of those businesses’ development, the programme hopes to strengthen the ecosystem of organisations that support them, the incubators and accelerators.

According to the organisers, WE4A programme strengthens African women entrepreneurs’ business skills; improve their access to formal financial services and markets, and help to narrow the gender gaps that exist in labour markets.

One example of such programme is a new €15 million agenda to improve the digital innovation ecosystem in Nigeria. While the EU and Germany are financing it, the project will be implemented by GIZ, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH.

This project also supports policy-makers and institutions such as the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) in promoting digital transformation and strengthening business support organisations by enabling more women and young people to develop their digital and entrepreneurial skills.

Speaking at the event, the Executive Secretary of Lagos State Employment Trust Fund, Teju Abisoye, acknowledged that a major challenge being faced by businesses run by young people in Lagos is paucity of information, saying that documentation and documents management are often overlooked by a number of businesses including startups in the tech space.

She said before one finds a business that is good with its documentation, such business would have gotten the necessary training at one point or the other, insisting that documentation is pivotal, especially when a business owner wants to grow his or her business.
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She said, “You need to document every little thing, especially when you want to grow your business. To also speak to investors, you need to have proper documentation. What we also find lacking is structure. Most times, businesses start out of the need to solve a problem, but you do not actually think through the structure of what it’s going to be like.

“When you look at the micro small and medium businesses in Nigeria for example, most them started from the bedrooms and living rooms. Most times, they start as family businesses before they eventually grow. And due to lack of structure, and not being able to distinguish one’s child and employee, creates a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation on how the businesses should be run.

“Interestingly for tech, there are no much women going into tech businesses. I guess they’re not ready to take that risk. There’s that fear. And that brings me to some of the challenges we also face in terms of acceleration, which is really ambitious. Most women are not ambitious enough. And cultural elements exist in Nigeria.

“So, when you start a business to solve a problem and it’s always a small problem, you never really think big. And when they come to the organisations like others and ours that are incubators or accelerators, you discover that there’s no way such a business can grow. But when they start something like beauty business and go into tech, they can actually grow their business; you can actually scale. So, there’s always a cultural element that affects things with ambition and that’s what I mean by cultural elements.

“Again, most female entrepreneurs are risk averse; they want to play safe and it’s a challenge. So, as much as there is the funding, as much as there is this challenge of access to funding, you find out that there are not enough female entrepreneurs that are actually saying, ‘I want to take this business to a much larger scale.’ And then when you do find those women who think otherwise, they actually go far and beyond. These are women who have said, ‘this is what I’m doing and this is how I’m able to scale that business.’ I’m happy that we have initiatives like this where we can replicate this for more female entrepreneurs.”

In his keynote speech, the Minster of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, said the EU-Nigeria Partnership has been a productive and energetic one, thanking the EU on behalf of the Nigerian government, for its contributions and supports in the country’s other critical areas of development.

He said, “The youth business is everybody’s business, I insist. This launch couldn’t have come at a better time as the youth sector continues to amplify the voices of over 33 million youth entrepreneurs in Nigeria who no longer need empowerment but are in need of investment.”

According to him, the Fate Institute’s report, ‘State of Entrepreneurship in Nigeria 2021,’ 43 and 67 per cent of entrepreneurs in the country are women and youth whose age brackets fall within 18 and 35 years respectively.

He said the report examined three thematic areas: the entrepreneurial index in Nigeria, women and youth-led businesses and the impact of technology on businesses.
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The report, he said, revealed that the state of entrepreneurship development in Nigeria continues to wax stronger, but access to finance, inadequate infrastructure and insecurity are major obstacles to the desired entrepreneurial growth.

“Most businesses in Nigeria are less than 10 years old and 49 per cent of them are also led by young people. Following the impact of COVID-19 on Nigeria’s entrepreneurial community, we as a government have understood that working with the private and civil sectors, we need to establish a well-functioning entrepreneurial ecosystem that supports innovation and business growth.

“In Nigeria, SMEs contribute 48 per cent of national GDP, account for 96 per cent of businesses and 84 per cent of employment. It’s no longer business as usual. When asked, 22 per cent of young people aged 15 to 22 want to be traders or business owners when they reach the age of 30.”

Head of Unit, European Commission, Ms. Cecile Billaux, who spoke on behalf of the Ambassador of the EU to Nigeria, Samuela Isopi, said, the EU would like to support Africa, not only Nigeria.

“I’m really happy to be part of it and try to develop this Europe’s initiative invest in young businesses in Africa. It’s not only the EU, but also the EU and EU member states together. We are 11, we’re part of this initiative, and we want all to work better and together to scale up our support for young businesses.

“Nigeria is the second country where we launched this initiative. We launched it in Senegal earlier this year in February, and now it’s Nigeria. Of course, Nigeria in terms of numbers, and in terms of dynamism of the young population, which is a must in Africa.

“If we look at the United Nations’ (UN) estimates, we see that by 2050, Nigeria’s population is set to surpass that of the United States. The median average, I’ve learned, age of Nigeria population is 17 years old. So, it’s very impressive. And it’s going to be really something that we would be keen to support also, and bring growth and jobs to these young people.
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“And to do that, Nigeria is working to create a more attractive investment climate. It’s very important for the private sector to thrive and invest as well as develop business activity. And here, we have young people who have opportunity. We need to take part in the development of the country.

“I’m sure the government is already making great efforts to do that. And we know that challenges are still numerous and that’s why this initiative is being shaped together. We see today that an entrepreneur has a good idea and has some good business model but still struggles with finance.

“This is a very important point because if you want to develop your business and to make it grow, of course, you need to have the finance but not only finances, you need the skills, the experience, the ability to develop your business model with digital means and innovation. It’s very important to ensure that your very small company at the end can go into a more successful one and take some scale on the African continent.”
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Also speaking, Consul-General of the Federal Republic of Germany in Lagos, Mr. Gerald Wolf, said, “It’s been impressed with the spirit of free enterprise and the business pointedness of people in this very dynamic city. I’m very happy that this is coming to Nigeria at last and a great sense to invest in entrepreneurs because they are the ones that are actually driving the economic transition, development, and economic progress.

“They are the ones who find solutions for the challenges of daily life and they are creating the jobs. I think about 70% of such jobs are created by micro, small and medium enterprises. These actually, are really the future we want to support. And they don’t just increase the GDP; they also contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“So, they are not only after economic success, but also after the development of their country. They’re very important for that. And it also makes sense to concentrate or focus on young entrepreneurs because they’re more likely to embrace innovation.

“It also makes sense to focus on women because they are more likely to employ other women and so you improve the economic integration of women.”
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