Alhaji Bature Umar Masari, the Director General of the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) has harped on the need to build vibrant young entrepreneurs who can brave the stormy business environment through hard work, vision, drive and innovative ideas that will stand the test of time.
Masari stated this in Abuja at the inauguration of Network of African Student Entrepreneurs (NASE) and the University Entrepreneurship Development Programme (UNEDEP).
The programme which is an initiative of both the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment and Federal Ministry of Education would be implemented by SMEDAN and the National Universities Commission (NUC).
While noting that Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) subsector was key to sustainable economic development in Nigeria he said the subsector was in dire need of vibrant youth that could explore the opportunities in it.
The director general said the only way to get the youth involve in entrepreneurship ``is to catch them young”.
Masari noted that the youth entrepreneurship initiative was coming at the time when the nation is facing serious unemployment and youth restiveness.
He said the launching was an occasion for the participating universities to look through the window of business opportunities and take advantage of the various programmes that will emerge thereafter.
``It is an opportunity for the various institutions to boost the entrepreneurial knowledge and education of their faculties and student.
``The business plan competition is particularly of interest as this will bring out the capabilities of our students as well as the latent potentials of the universities communities,” he stated.
The director general said the involvement of the agency in this worthy course was one of many strategies towards establishing an efficient MSME sector that will enhance sustainable economic development of Nigeria.
Masari said the scheme was aimed at aimed at catching young entrepreneurs and moulding them into future captains of industry who would establish companies, create jobs, develop communities through social entrepreneurship and enhance the value of many lives.
He said the agency was leveraging on best international practices which have impacted positively on the MNSMEs subsector in related economies like our own.
Masari explained that the launch of NEDEP initiative was an attempt to adequately capture youth issues in governmental decisions especially as it relates to the present administration’s transformation agenda.
He was optimistic that the conference would ignite the fire of entrepreneurial drive and determination among the students.
The DG said the agency was also working with the National Universities Commission (NUC) to provide training of trainers to lecture in the enterprise development centres of universities that will ensure that graduates of our tertiary institutions come out with bankable plans to be able to face the challenge of life
He also hinted that SMEDAN was supporting entrepreneurship clubs in secondary schools through the Students for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship (SAGE) and international entrepreneurship club focusing on secondary schools.
``Already we have designated officers in our Zonal offices in the six geo-political Zones playing advocacy roles for the establishment of these clubs in as many as secondary schools as possible.
He said the agency with SAGE Nigeria and other relevant stakeholders will host the 2013 SAGE world cup competition in August in Abuja, as a demonstration of its commitment to the development of entrepreneurship in schools.
Masari commended the universities and their representatives for being part of an effort aimed at catching young entrepreneurs and moulding them into future captains of industry who would establish companies, create jobs, develop communities through social entrepreneurship and enhance the value of many lives.
Earlier the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment Olusegun Aganga stated that the programme will give students the opportunity for practical hands on experience to enable them to successfully manage their own businesses.
He said UNEDEP’s mission is to Catch Them Young; it focuses on entrepreneurship development and aims to create future entrepreneurs, adding we will achieve this by using the existing Network for African Entrepreneurs club structure and deriving a standard schedule of activities for all members across all universities.
Aganga noted that part of the ministry’s strategy was to assess existing scalable student businesses to determine ways to enhance these and then creating a platform for mentoring by successful entrepreneurs, he said proposed activities include Zonal and national business plan competitions whereby Zonal winners will embark on the task of operating their businesses for a given period.
‘We have seen this model work achieve success in other countries and even in Nigeria through the Student for Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship (SAGE) and Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE).UNEDEP he said will give the opportunity for practical hands on experience whilst receiving the necessary business development service training and assistance from SMEDAN and other BDS providers.
Minister of Education Prof. Ruqayyatu Rufai said there was a need for the country to promote the culture of entrepreneurship among students. She said all over the world entrepreneurship has been identified as the major driver of economic growth and development. Adding the success of many economies can be traced to entrepreneurs who stated small and then grew to become multinationals