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Umuahia agog as over 1000 youths partake in wealth creation summit

By Lawrence Njoku, Southeast Bureau Chief
13 November 2021   |   2:40 am
No fewer than 1000 youths drawn from various local councils in Abia state are expected to participate at the 2021 Abia Youth Wealth Creation Summit/Business Fair taking place today in Umuahia.

No fewer than 1000 youths drawn from various local councils in Abia state are expected to participate at the 2021 Abia Youth Wealth Creation Summit/Business Fair taking place today in Umuahia.

Omemandu


The maiden summit with the theme: Good Thinking, Good Products, taking place at the International Conference Centre, Umuahia, is being put together by a Lagos based Street Code Academy in partnership with the Abia State government. It is aimed at empowering young people to explore ideas that they have to be able to create products and services that will enable them to create wealth and contribute to the economy of their community, the state and nation at large.

The Isikwuato –Abia State-born Convener of the one-day summit, Paul Omemandu, told The Guardian in an interview that the summit was borne out of the desire to create employment in the state for the youths as well as place Abia youths on the world map using their creative skills.

“With this, we hope we will empower young people to explore the ideas that they have to be able to create products and services that will enable them to create wealth and also contribute to the economy. This is what we are trying to achieve with this summit.

“We want to see a situation where in the next few years, those who attended this summit will start their businesses and grow them. It will help business operations when they understand how they will separate their personal money from their business money. We believe that those who will attend this summit will create more employment for the state so that as they are coming out of school, they are not thinking of where to be employed but how to create jobs to employ people,” he stated.

Omemandu stated that a cursory study of the situation of Abia state youths revealed that they are “discouraged because they go to school, come out and don’t find employment”, adding that “the majority of them are idle, doing little or nothing and driving tricycle even with so many of them having ideas but don’t know how to go about it.”

“We brought this programme to help them discover their skill and that no matter how bad the economy may be, they can still achieve their dreams. All they need is to have knowledge and understanding. What we are trying to bring to the youths of Abia is for them to tap from the experiences of successful businessmen and entrepreneurs who will be speaking to them at the event. These speakers should be able to tell them how they started, the principles they applied that enabled them to grow in their career and business and they are coming from various facets of the economy,” he disclosed.

The programme would have been held before now, but it suffered several postponements following the insecurity created by the weekly sit at home. Nonetheless, Omemandu is confident that it would achieve the desired objectives by the interests shown by the number of participants who have registered online, those who would be registering at the venue as well as the guest speakers.

“The youths have registered on the portal of the summit. We have gotten over 1000 people who have registered and some are encouraged to come to the venue for those who may not have internet access. We have also reached out to several high institutions like Abia State University; Abia Polytechnic and Micheal Okpara University Umudike. So, the response is quite encouraging.”

He continued: “As you can see from our flier, we have the Executive governor of Abia state, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu; he is our guest of honour. He will give us some words of encouragement. We also have the Minister of State, Mines and Steel Development, Dr Uche Ogar, who is from the state; Minister of Youths and Sports, Sunday Dare. We have successful entrepreneurs and those from the Movie and Music industries.  We have people like Paul Obazele – the actor/ Movie Producer; Zack Orji, a Movie Producer and Actor; Dr Nkem Chima of the School of Communication, Pan African University; a very successful entrepreneur in Abia State, Dr Nnamdi Ezigbo who is the founder of Slot Systems ltd.

“We have a lady Dr Mrs Precious Uche, a Creative Director of Tonatel Natural Skincare Science. She is into cosmetics and would share with the young people who want to go into that business her experiences. We have the Special Adviser to the Abia state governor on Social Investment and Job Creation, Mr Chinenye Nwaogu, who will be talking to the young people about how they would go about their business. It promises to be a rewarding time that will change the mindset for the good of our state.”

He said the organisation decided to partner with the state government in this maiden edition, because “the government provides the platform and that is in the area of security, we are bringing the expertise and experience to help them. Government also cannot create all the jobs that are needed and we will help them to ensure that youths of Abia are gainfully employed and do not indulge in things that will bring harm to the society. When we end this summit, we will also seek the audience of the governor and brief him on how it went.

“We want to make it a yearly event and possibly cite the Street Code Business School somewhere in Abia State. We have been operating from Lagos and we want to bring it down to the southeast to help the people of the region to maximise the technology to enable them build businesses that can compete internationally. The theme for this summit is “Good Thinking, Good Product”. Anywhere in the world that people find good products, they will buy. E-commerce is thriving and young people in Abia State should be part of it. The state government has been pushing the Made In Aba product. If we encourage the young people to build quality products the world will come to Abia state and patronise us. That is what we want to encourage.”

Speaking to the Guardian, Governor Ikpeazu’s Special Adviser on Social Investment and Job Creation, Chineney Nwaogu, explained that the summit was one of the many platforms the incumbent administration created to promote entrepreneurs and empower youths of Abia state.

Nwaogu said that Ikpeazu since assumption of office in 2015 made youth empowerment the epicenter of his administration based on his conviction that their skill must be cultivated to grow the state.

“We have created a lot of platforms that have empowered the young people. The governor started by launching a programme known as education for employment; that is based on his belief that what our youths actually need is skill. If we are able to give them the necessary skills, they will no longer run around the streets, they should be able to become their own entrepreneurs and employ other people. We have trained thousands of young people in different skill areas. The promotion of Made in Aba products is also one of the avenues that we mainstreamed in our growth trajectory to be able to support the ingenuity and enterprising skills of our young entrepreneurs in the ecosystem. We believe that if they are supported as we have been doing, they will be able to expand their market and businesses and other opportunities. This has happened today in Aba. Many young people are expanding their businesses even beyond the shores of Abia and that has given rise to employment opportunities within our state here. So the percentage is huge. It has generated a whole lot of direct employment because we have demonstrated that we can use that as a strategy to bridge some gaps. We have been able to use young people to fill up some gaps we noticed.

“Our major focus is on youth development. In 2018, the Abia State government sent 30 young people to China, because we believe that we are the leather production hub of Nigeria and we need to explore the leather ecosystem. The 30 young people we sent to China were sent to learn how to produce shoes in an automated factory. The Senate President came to Abia State on Thursday to commission a wholly automated shoe factory in Nigeria. We started having that enterprise with those 30 young people who returned from China.

“Few days, somebody from that cluster got global funding to the tune of 950,000 US dollars, because he invested resources in supporting the techhub. We are able to encourage young people to go into leveraging the massive investment in the ecosystem. We are very strategic in leveraging every platform and opportunity available to be able to make young people self-reliant. Our motto since 2015 has been to make Abia state youths socially responsible and we have tried to leverage every platform to push that goal forward,” he said

Nwaogu continued: “There are already lined up programmes to support young people with skills. Part of the strategy led to the establishment of Abia state micro finance bank. The reason for the setting up of the bank was to create avenues for funding. One of the things we did when we came on board was to do a deep study of the ecosystem and we identified some gaps. We identified access to finance as a major challenge and as a means of solving it, we created a fully functional micro finance bank. This is because the opportunity we have in the Bank of Industry, Bank of Agriculture, EXIM bank and others could not give us what we were looking for. The idea has paid off.

“In the next three weeks, the bank is launching micro-credit schemes which are targeted at supporting the SMEs with finance and may be those who can come out of this summit. At every point in time in the state, we have one financial enhancement programme or the other and that is because Abia is the hub of SMEs. So, we don’t joke about creating opportunities.”

He said that creating opportunities for the youths have helped the state as according to him, “Our youth are peaceful. Our youths are engaged. They are very focused and leverage opportunities that come their way. They don’t have so much time to spend on frivolities. So, we don’t have so much history of these troubles in our state. We have been able to achieve this by the style of the governor, Okezie Ikpeazu. A lot of our youths are receiving programmes that the government has initiated and these have made them productive members of the society. They are very happy with the programmes we are running.”

He, however, advised the youths participating in the wealth creation summit to “use the opportunity to improve yourself,’ stressing that, “The world is becoming competitive and we cannot be left behind. This is the era of digital revolution and all over the world something is happening. The young people must seize the opportunity. They must be able to put every effort that they have to make a living. The array of personalities in this summit means that it is an opportunity for them to learn from their experience in the entrepreneurship ecosystem.”